Friday, October 08, 2010

Picture Books Languish as Parents Push ‘Big-Kid Books’

Parents who rush their children out of picture books are making a big, a very big, mistake.

Sitting with your children, reading and looking at pictures together, pointing out details of the illustration, pausing over pages to appreciate the combination of picture and text...these are among the best memories of childhood (and parenthood!) that can be formed.

On top of that, the activity of reading a picture book with your children provides a unique kind of education, an education of the imagination as well as of the intellect.

Well into their teenage years, our kids enjoyed ritual readings of books like "Melly's Menorah":

Mom Reads "Melly's Menorah"

and "Pigs at Christmas":

Pigs At Christmas - Cover

Here is what the New York Times has to say:

Picture books are so unpopular these days at the Children’s Book Shop in Brookline, Mass., that employees there are used to placing new copies on the shelves, watching them languish and then returning them to the publisher.

“So many of them just die a sad little death, and we never see them again,” said Terri Schmitz, the owner.

The shop has plenty of company. 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. It is not going away — perennials like the Sendaks and Seusses still sell well — but 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.

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 the picture book behind and move on to more text-heavy chapter books. Publishers cite pressures from parents who are mindful of increasingly rigorous standardized testing in schools.

“Parents are saying, ‘My kid doesn’t need books with pictures anymore,’ ” said Justin Chanda, the publisher of Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. “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.”

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