Is the picture book becoming obsolete?

October 8, 2010

A front page New York Times article states: Picture Books No Longer a Staple for Children.  It puts forth that Picture books languish on the shelves of book stores.

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 Times states that the economic downturn is “certainly a major factor” but that many in the book industry believe that:

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.

The article also brings up a discussion on a parent Web site about recommendations for chapter books to read to a 5-year-old and found that the suggestions were for books like Phantom Tollbooth and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, stating: “books generally considered more appropriate for children 9 to 11.”    I don’t believe that this is even to the point.  Books read aloud to children are not the same as books they read themselves.  Children can understand language read aloud to them much more easily than if they attempt to read the book themselves.  This is how language and vocabulary are enhanced.

The article is incredibly limited in scope: it only looks at book stores and publishing trends which rely on book sales.  Nothing is mentioned about the place of libraries in book choice for children.  It seems realistic to see that it is the economy and not interest that is keeping book sales down.

Picture books are not dying out in Sno-Isle Libraries.  Our Picture book or Easy Book collection (as we call it) is allotted 32% of the overall Juvenile Book budget and circulation figures show that 777,489 (updated) Picture books checked out in the first nine months of 2010.

I have difficulty believing that this format is becoming obsolete.

via PW Morning Report

posting by Lorraine

3 Responses to “Is the picture book becoming obsolete?”

  1. Thank you for sharing this article and the circulation figures for us. I wonder if focusing on perennial “classics” and favorites will need to become a more important strategy for us? I do notice people still want a variety of new pictures books and take them if you put them out.

  2. Lisa Abdallah Says:

    Interesting article. I am convinced that it is the economic downturn coupled with the unreasonable rise in the prices of picture books that is causing the slump in sales. I went looking for books to buy for my niece and came away discouraged. You can’t buy very many and stay within a decent budget.

  3. Kelli Says:

    I’ve experienced what Lisa did, looking for books for my grand-nieces…but after reading the article, I do have to wonder what the toll will be on children by, in my opinion, forcing them into text-heacy chapter books. If it’s tedious when they’re starting out, instead of reveling in the “fun-ness” of books like Fancy Nancy or the beautiful simplicty of (my favorite book as a kid) Harold and the Purple Crayon, aren’t we just creating a generation of non-readers?

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