A few weeks ago an article appeared in the New York Times describing a disheartening trend in the world of children’s picture books. Demand for picture books seems to be diminishing, and as a result booksellers are shrinking their picture book sections and publishing houses are releasing fewer titles, in some cases fifteen percent fewer picture books than just a few years ago. The poor economy is an understandable contributing factor – if the average cost of a picture book is about $16, the frugal thing to do is to head to your local library every couple of weeks, where you can borrow an armload of enchanting books for free. But another (more alarming) explanation for the decrease in demand is identified in the article. Author Julie Bosman writes,
“The economic downturn is certainly a major factor, but many in the industry see an additional reason for the slump. Parents have begun pressing their kindergartners and first graders to leave picture books behind and move on to more text-heavy chapter books.”
Gah! Why on earth would we do this to our already overly-stressed-out kids? How awful, to rob them of the particular joy of a good story enriched by gorgeous illustrations! A good picture book is a beautifully balanced duet between the author and the illustrator, between the words and the pictures, and in the best of them the reader is encouraged to consider the deeper story by contemplating the pictures and imagining what’s left unsaid. How depressing to think that children are being hurried away from this experience.
Now, the good news – as parents and consumers we can say, nuh-uh! We can stand up and, with our wallets and our social-networking savvy, show that we value children’s picture books and want to see more of them, not less, in our local bookstores and in our children’s lives. Take The Picture Book Pledge with us – promise to buy a picture book for a child in your life this holiday season – for your children, your grandchildren, your nieces and nephews – or donate a picture book to your local Giving Tree or a local elementary school classroom (we have over 50 in Bristol and Warren!). Then, share the link to this post on your Facebook page or on Twitter, and spread the word – the more people who “like” this idea and take The Picture Book Pledge, the more likely we can have a positive effect on the wrong-headed notion that children don’t need picture books anymore. (Not convinced? Consider some of the other ways we spend our money on our kids, like Lisa Von Drasek does on this post at EarlyWord, and see if a picture book somehow doesn’t feel as expensive anymore.)
Here’s a list of some of our favorite arts-themed children’s picture books, to inspire you:
- Art & Max by David Wiesner (pictured above)
- Brontorina written by James Howe, illustrated by Randy Cecil
- The Dot by Peter Reynolds (and Ish, too)
- Max’s Words written by Kate Banks, illustrated by Boris Kulikov
- Olivia by Ian Falconer
- The Yellow Tutu written by Kirsten Bramsen, illustrated by Carin Bramsen
- How Rocket Learned to Read by Tad Hills
- Snow Day by written Lynn Plourde, illustrated by Hideko Takahashi
- Dogku written by Andrew Clements, illustrated by Tim Bowers
- Frederick by Leo Lionni
So, take The Picture Book Pledge with us, and then head to your local bookstore! A Novel Idea Booksellers in Bristol is located at 54 State Street. They open every day at 10am; closing times vary (call the store for details 401-396-9360).