There was an article in the New York Times called, Picture Books No Longer a Staple for Children, on October 7th. The article detailed how picture books are selling less and many are being sent back to the publisher since they are merely taking up space.
“So many of them just die a sad little death, and we never see them again,” said Terri Schmitz, the owner of Children’s Book Shop in Brookline, Mass.
I was quite saddened to read this article. As a fan of picture books and children’s literature, I wondered how such a thing could happen. I vividly remember picture books from my childhood and hoped my children would have fond memories of picture books as well. Images of Corduroy, Winnie the Pooh, Goodnight Moon, Dr. Suess, and many others flooded my mind with delight. When I stroll through a bookstore I can hardly pass up books I remember as a child to purchase for my own children. Could this wonderful craft be coming to an end?
As I read the article further I was more saddened by the reason these books are becoming increasingly unpopular. Parents are trading in Goodnight Moon for the Wizard of Oz. Sounds harmless, right? However it may surprise you to learn that they are trading in picture books for chapter books for their Kindergarten children. Five year olds are expected to read chapter books instead of explore the world of Corduroy or Harold and the Purple Crayon. Bookstore employees report that when children walk up to a picture book they are directed away by a parent saying, “You can do better than that.”
Another reason stated for the downturn in picture book sales is the economy. Picture books are much more expensive then chapter books. While it is reported that the classics like Goodnight Moon and Dr. Suess are still selling, picture books in general are being passed by. I will have to agree that picture books are quite expensive and I rarely purchase one unless it is out of sentimental value. I am certain many other parents feel the same since the books which are selling were most likely beloved by the parents.
Picture books open up a world that inspires creativity, imagination and wonder. Picture books can set the stage for satire, fantasy, and a way to encourage creative and critical thinking in little ones. Let’s not see these wonderful books see an early grave. The creativity presented in such works of art and literature is what makes us unique. While I understand cost concerns, let’s consider giving these books as gifts which last a lifetime rather than a plastic toy that will end up in a landfill or worse is recalled due to lead paint.
As far as pushing little ones to read on a level that surpasses their ability, that will hinder the reading process and not encourage it. A five year old is not able to appreciate chapter books. Remember that the ability to read a book does not mean a child is mature enough to read it or appreciate it. What’s next trading in crayons for Italian manufactured Fountain pens?