Friday, October 08, 2010

Randomness for the day: Picture Books in Decline

Get ready....ahem...stepping up on soapbox now. Shelf Awareness published an article this morning discussing the decline of the traditional children's picture book. Oh, how this makes me sad! And makes me want to keep up the Picture Book Thursday post all the more! Also, makes more sense to me why Penguin has sent me picture book after picture book to review on here.

I can't even imagine a world without children's picture books. There are pictures books from my childhood etched into my brain forever, I remember them fondly and have shared many of those with my own children. I hope they will grasp onto a few books they love and share those with their children. How can parents go from board books to chapter books? Makes no sense! I know there's pressure for children to read at a younger age. But come on! Let children take the time to enjoy the wonderful illustrations and stories in picture books. Let them develop their reading skills by looking at the pictures and have them tell YOU the story. Just because kids CAN read chapter books, doesn't mean they SHOULD read them. We already schedule our children's activities to the hilt. They already learn things in kindergarten I didn't learn until first or even second grade. And now, we're pushing picture books out of the way. No wonder our children are blowing through childhood and growing up so much more quickly! I imagine if a child is destined to get into Harvard, it's probably going to happen regardless of what they are reading at age five. *stepping down from soapbox*

Here's the Shelf Awareness article:

Notes: Picture Books in Decline

Has the golden age of the picture book for children passed? The New York Times reported that the "picture book, a mainstay of children's literature with its lavish illustrations, cheerful colors and large print wrapped in a glossy jacket, has been fading.... publishers have scaled back the number of titles they have released in the last several years, and booksellers across the country say sales have been suffering."

"So many of them just die a sad little death, and we never see them again," said Terri Schmitz, owner of the Children's Book Shop, Brookline, Mass.

Justin Chanda, publisher of Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, observed: "Parents are saying, 'My kid doesn't need books with pictures anymore.' There's a real push with parents and schools to have kids start reading big-kid books earlier. We've accelerated the graduation rate out of picture books."

At Politics and Prose bookstore, Washington, D.C., children's department manager Dara La Porte said, "They're four years old, and their parents are getting them Stuart Little. I see children pick up picture books, and then the parents say, 'You can do better than this, you can do more than this.' It's a terrible pressure parents are feeling--that somehow, I shouldn't let my child have this picture book because she won't get into Harvard."

Picture books have earned their place in children's reading lives. Karen Lotz, publisher of Candlewick Press, suggested that, "To some degree, picture books force an analog way of thinking. From picture to picture, as the reader interacts with the book, their imagination is filling in the missing themes."

And Kris Vreeland, a book buyer at Vroman’s Bookstore, Pasadena, Calif., noted that "Some of the vocabulary in a picture book is much more challenging than in a chapter book. The words themselves, and the concepts, can be very sophisticated in a picture book."

The Times reported, however, that over the last three years, Scholastic has published 5% to 10% percent fewer hardcover picture books and Don Weisberg, the president of the Penguin Young Readers Group, "said that two and a half years ago, the company began publishing fewer titles but that it had devoted more attention to marketing and promoting the ones that remain. Of all the children's books published by Simon & Schuster, about 20% are picture books, down from 35% a few years ago."


Debbie's World of Books said...

Awww, I love picture books for my 3 year old. We buy a lot and borrow a lot from the library. The main deterrent for me is price. I wanted to buy Scaredy Cat for her but it was $18!

Holly said...

Debbie! The nice thing when they do start school is that you can buy books for cheaper through the Scholastic book clubs (They still have those!). You can get picture books in paperback for just a few dollars sometimes. But unfortunately, you have a couple years yet for that. But like you said, the library is always good! I always tell people to give my kids books for their birthday and Christmas too. :-)