Sunday, October 10, 2010

It’s a Picturebook, Not a Choice

This week, the New York Times published an article about the decline of the picturebook….REALLY, people?! This news was also shared through several other literary e-newsletters. Basically, what should be the staple in every young child’s literary development is seeing a downhill slide. What does this say for our culture? Parents push kids to read more text heavy books because they feel pressured to get their child up to par for state tests. Yikes! This shouldn’t be happening! Parents should feel free to let their child be a child and read what s/he wants. This is the point where any of my readers can feel free to say, “Opinionated, much?”

I don’t want to completely believe this article (I'm in denial)—I mean, maybe libraries have seen an increase in picturebooks being loaned out. I can’t even blame e-books for this one yet ;). Yes, the article still points out that perennial favorites, like Sendak, Carle, and Seuss still sell well, but there are so many great picturebooks that have come out within the past ten years alone.

The picturebook is in a class of its own—it is a great challenge to write and illustrate—time needs to be taken to pick just the right words (words can even be more difficult than a chapter book at times) because there is typically a limit to the words per page depending on the age the book is geared towards. Illustrations become part of the story and many times readers need to pick up on context clues provided in the illustrations to fill in what is not said with the text (higher order thinking).

Even publishers within the past several years increased the amount of picturebooks they produced for older readers because it helps kids that are reluctant, striving, or visual. Many picturebooks offer a greater challenge than a chapter book; in fact, many are on the same reading level as their chapter book counterparts. I will admit cost was another issue factoring into this decline as well. Maybe it’s time to encourage publishers to have certain picturebooks go straight to paperback—first time authors get published in paperback and if their first title sells like “gangbusters,” then the publisher has justification to bring out his/her next book in hardcover (just an idea).

Many studies have been conducted as to the benefits of picturebooks for young children. Children are visual learners first, than they pick up on text. That’s why there are the transitional stages of books. I’m not saying that a parent shouldn’t read aloud Junie B. (LOVE Junie B.!) or Stuart Little (Classic!) to his/her five year old, but there needs to be a balance—throw in Bats at the Library by Brian Lies, The Friend by Sarah Stewart, or John Philip Duck by Patricia Polacco.

I will now step down from my soap box. Thank you for reading ;)

Bosman, J. (2010, October 7). Picture Books Languish As Parents Push 'Big-Kid Books'. Retrieved October 10, 2010, from New York Times:

Lies, B. (2008). Bats at the library. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.

Polacco, P. (2004). John philip duck. New York, NY: Philomel Books.

Stewart, S. (2004). The Friend. New York, NY: Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux.

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