Friday, October 8, 2010

The Decline of Picture Books?

Julie Bosman reported in The New York Times yesterday (October 7, 2010) that sales of picture books have been steadily declining. Bosman cites at least two possible causes: the economic downturn and parental pressure for children to excel.

When many families are finding it difficult to afford the essentials right now, it’s hard to justify spending money on a new picture book. Consequently, bookstores are putting new pictures books on the shelf only to find them sitting there until the bookstore finally sends them back to the publishing house.

In addition, parents are ever-mindful of the rigors of standardized testing and an expectation that children need to do whatever they can to stay ahead of the curve. This includes pressure from parents for their children to read above their level. Picture books are considered too babyish, and children are encouraged to read chapter books instead.

Obviously, from a writer’s perspective this is disconcerting. {sigh} However, putting a writer’s wallet aside, what is this doing to our children?

Picture books introduce children to deductive reasoning and critical thinking skills. When we force them into chapter books, we skip this essential step and deprive them of an opportunity to use visual cues along with text in order to understand and comprehend complex concepts. It’s like asking a child to listen to a broadcast of their favorite movie without the picture. Not only is it not as fun, but it forces children to make bigger leaps in their cognitive processing—leaps they may not yet be ready to make.

I love chapter books as much as the next person, but please don’t deprive your children of all that picture books have to offer—a world of color, and fun, and whimsy, and wonder. It’s about making connections that may be hard for them to process by words alone.

Do you have a favorite picture book? One that someone read to you (over and over) as a child until you could read it yourself? Leave a comment and tell me about it . . .

Visit The New York Times to read Bosman’s article.

1 comment:

  1. I totally agree! We stifle the imagination and creativity that is the cornerstone of childhood. Oh that we could capture that place where the mind can wander and explore and create out of our very being!