Are Picture Books a Dying Breed?

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Picture BooksPicture Books

On Thursday the New York Times ran an article stating “Picture Books No Longer a Staple for Children.” One major reason for the decline, a decline confirmed by many publishers and booksellers, is that parents are pushing their kids to move on to chapter books and more advanced reading earlier and earlier. There’s a sense that picture books are only good until you learn to read, and then they should be abandoned.

Say it ain’t so!

My wife and I love picture books. We started collecting them long before we had kids — long before we got married, even. She once bought me Dave Wiesner’s Tuesday for Christmas while we were in college, and processing new picture books that arrive at the library is still one of my favorite parts of working there. That photo up there is just a very small selection of favorites from my bookshelf at home. Meg Hunt of the Picture Book Report is also rooting for picture books — she and her band of artists create new picture-book art, some for books that are decidedly not for kids.

Sure, I love that my older daughter loves to read and is able to read above her grade level. As a bibliophile, I want her to develop that love of good books and the ability to handle hefty, picture-free books because there’s a lot of great literature out there. On the other hand, I’m happy to revisit old picture books — and discover new ones — with her. In the New York Times article there’s a mom who says of her six-year-old son: “He would still read picture books now if we let him, because he doesn’t want to work to read.” She and her husband force him to read chapter books even though he’s a “reluctant reader.” Do you think that’s going to inspire a love of books? I feel sorry for this mom.

No, I take that back. I feel sorry for their son, who will miss out on some of the world’s best artwork, some of which you can’t truly appreciate until you’re older. I bet they won’t go for comic books, either. It’s like making the mistaken assumption that because Pixar movies are cartoons, they’re only for little kids.

How long has it been since you picked up a picture book? Do you know what you and your kids are missing?

Take some time out today and flip through some picture books. This list of Caldecott Winners is a good place to start, but nothing beats heading to the library or bookstore and physically browsing through the shelves. Trust me: your (inner) child will thank you!

What are some of your favorite picture books? Tell us in the comments section!

October 8, 2010, 8pm: It was brought to my attention by a commenter that the bit about the mom with the “reluctant reader” has been disputed by the mom in question, so I’ve struck that portion out. Here’s the mom’s explanation, on her own blog. My sincere apologies for repeating what was (according to the mom) a joke taken out of context. Within the mom’s explanation is a small hint, though, that kids are being pushed to read chapter books—if not by their parents, then by the schools. What do you do with a kid who would rather read picture books, is supposed to read for 30 minutes, but whose reading level should be higher than picture books? And even if the reporter dug around for some quotes, I think it’s fair to say that picture book sales are declining, and it’s definitely true that I love picture books, regardless of the market.

Update: For more on this topic, visit GeekMom.

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