Picture books, long a staple of children’s literature, are in decline due to parents pushing children to read chapter books instead of picture books!
Scholastic says they have published 5 to 10 percent few hardcover picture books over the last three years. Simon & Schuster picture books are down 35 percent from a few years ago, according to The New York Times.
And while the economic downturn is partially to blame, parents are pushing their kindergartners and first graders to move on to text-heavy chapter books and leave their picture books for the babies.
“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….”
“Literacy experts are quick to say that picture books are not for dummies. Publishers praise the picture book for the particular way it can develop a child’s critical thinking skills….”
“Many parents overlook the fact that chapter books, even though they have more text, full paragraphs and fewer pictures, are not necessarily more complex.”
“ ‘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. ‘The words themselves, and the concepts, can be very sophisticated in a picture book.’ ”
This trend really aggravates me because there are stages to learning to read and write and one of the stages is looking at the pictures and children interpreting them for themselves!
Kids love to study the drawings for details. They like to figure out what is going on. Observe the action. Create their own story about what they are seeing.
Pictures help them figure out order of action. They help develop a narrative. They help them learn to include details in their own stories.
Some of our favorite books have little to no words.
Tomie dePaola’s “Pancakes for Breakfast” is a family favorite about an old woman who has to gather the milk, eggs and churn butter just to make her pancakes. The kids love telling the story of what all the woman has to do and how she is feeling and how her pets feel when they eat all her batter.
“Eloise Takes a Bawth” is another book the kids will still study for hours. They follow the trails of water leaking through the Plaza hotels floors from Eloise’s tub. They study Eloise’s toys in the bathtub. They thoroughly examine all the guests’ costumes at the big Venetian ball at the end of the story.
I have owned Richard Scarry’s “Cars and Trucks and Things that Go” since I was a child. The poor book is so tired from two generations of children flipping through it searching for Golden Bug. We talk about all the different cars (the banana car, the pickle car), all the animals, and the locations. (I love the big car wreck at the end with ketchup and oranges everywhere.)
We love to talk about what we see on each page. What is happening in the scene. How the people look. How are they feeling. That is very worthwhile time to spend with your kids.
Parents need to know that at a lot of schools kindergartners, first graders and even second graders are limited in the books they can check out at the school library. Often at the beginning of the year, they aren’t allowed to check out chapter books because the schools know there is something for children to learn by looking at books.
I was told when I was the News for Kids editor at the AJC that it is important for children to read some books on level, some above and some below. So even if your child is ready for chapter books, picture books are not going to hurt them and it may help them enjoy books so they want to read more.
There is plenty of time for children to read chapter books. Let their imaginations run wild with picture books!