Picture Books: Fading or Flourishing?

By Maryann Yin Comment

The New York Times generated hundreds of comments last week, reporting that picture books don’t sell very well anymore.

The article offered a few explanations, including the increasing pressures of school-issued standardized testing and parents transitioning their children from picture books to chapter books at an earlier age. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers publisher Justin Chanda explained: “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.”

Teacher Monica Edinger offered a rebuttal in the Huffington Post. She saw an increase of chapter book presence in her fourth grade classroom after Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire came out. At the same time, she encouraged her students to read whatever it is they desired; some clung to J.K. Rowling’s boy wizard, while others reverted back to their beloved picture books.

Edinger wrote: “So, yeah, I think there is a trend for kids to read longer books younger, at least in the sort of community I teach in. But I don’t get the sense that this causes them to abandon picture books earlier. Rather, they read both…So while kids seem to be reading chapter books younger they are also enjoying picture books when they are older. Good news, I’d say.”

Edinger’s conclusion fits the theory offered by Books of Wonder independent children’s bookstore owner, Peter Glassman. When asked about the big surge in YA book sales in recent years, he commented: “Adults aren’t afraid anymore of being seen reading kids’ books. It’s okay for a grown-up to enjoy children’s literature.”

When Simon & Schuster’s Chanda was a guest speaker at NYU’s Summer Publishing Institute, he further explained that picture books mostly impact those ages 3-5, Harry Potter has become the staple for ages 5-11, and the Twilight Saga hits at 12 and on.

Roger Priddy, the children’s publisher behind Priddy Books gives this opinion on picture books: “Books are best when kids handle them. When a book is beat up, it’s had a good life.” (Via Huffington Post)