Picture Books No Longer a Staple for Children?!

Are Picture Books Still Popular?

Is this a sign of the recessionary times or a shift in reading?  I hope it’s just the recession because I LOVE picture books and this article from Julie Bosman at The New York Times just makes me and my Dad Friend sad!

I will do my part.  I just bought Jon Scieszka‘s Math Curse.  Now I think I will buy Robot Zot next.  Even if you are not buying picture books, please read them to your children!  Get them from the school library, the public library, a yard sale, or do book trades with mom friends.  Picture books are for any age; they are a complete story with a beginning, middle and end.  The illustrations help to tell the story.  Picture books often have rich and vivid language making it a more interesting experience than some repetitive, mindless, easy chapter books (Rainbow Fairies come to mind here but you fill in the blank with your pet peeve series).

Picture Books Languishing, Robot Zot, Jon Scieszka, http://PragmaticMom.com, PragmaticMom, Pragmatic Mom

If you want some ideas for great picture books, here’s a link to some of my personal favorites, Favorite Picture Books You’ve Never Heard Of.

Here are some excerpts from the article and here’s the link to the entire article.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • “Some of the vocabulary in a picture book is much more challenging than in a chapter book,” said Kris Vreeland, a book buyer for Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena, Calif., where sales of picture books have been down.
  • Still, many publishers have gradually reduced the number of picture books they produce for a market that had seen a glut of them, and in an age when very young children, like everyone else, have more options, a lot of them digital, to fill their entertainment hours.
  • “Young adult fiction has been universally the growing genre,” said Ms. Lotz of Candlewick, “and so as retailers adapt to what customers are buying, they are giving more space to that and less space to picture books.”

If you want more picture book suggestions, I have an entire section on them here.


Though I did not use the quote from Agignac above, she feels that her quotes were taken out of context (surprise, surprise!), and would like to weigh in on what she actually said.  Please click here to see her point of view.  Her bone of contention with The New York Times article is that:

  • It makes me sad that I need to come write this here, but I’ve apparently become the source of some kerfuffle over at the New York Times over a quote of mine that has been taken completely out of context and I want to clear up any misconceptions for those people who have been bouncing off my page ever since.
  • Laurence, my youngest, and the child who was spoken about in the article, asked to be taught to read when he was 3.5 years old. At the time, both my husband and I expressed our doubts and worries about this, but he was insistent, so we showed him how to sound out words. The rest he pretty much did on his own, and by the time he was 4.5 years old, he was very excited to start his first Magic Tree House book. He was always a reluctant reader – not in the sense that he would prefer picture books to chapter books (he was always reluctant to read picture books, too), but in the sense that he would rather be outside running around than to ever have to sit down to write, read, or even watch TV. He likes to be active and only wants to read on his own time, which is, for the most part, perfectly okay. Is reading a “chore” for him, as some people have said? Yes, it is, but the school he attends requires him to read 30 mins each day, and to read on his age level, which THEY say is above picture book level (tailored to the individual child), and so every day, we have that 30 mins set aside for reading time (this is when it’s notokay for him to run around and play instead). Note: for all the commenters saying I should complain to the school, Laurence does not want to read picture books. I said that above, but that seems to be missed here. It doesn’t matter if the school wants him to or not, he is not interested in them.
  • The article in question quoted a joke I made, out of context. I was very specific with the reporter I spoke with that my husband and I have NOT pushed our children into reading and never took picture books away from any of them. Unfortunately, that’s not what this story is about, so it was easier to take my quote out of context to bend what I said to fit the article. I should have known something like that would happen – I should have refused to answer questions in the first place – but I was apparently too naive to realize it.

Please check out her excellent blog and commend her on the fact that she got all three of her boys reading and loving books.  Just because one or all have chosen to skip a particular genre is not cause for alarm or judgement — hey, we all have our favorite types of books.  I have been reading first dinosaur books for one year, and now Pokemon and Bakugan books to my 5-year-old boy!  I think that it’s wonderful that she follows the lead of her children thus getting them to love to read!  And I’m sorry that her quote was taken out of context.  That totally sucks!

By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom

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