There has been a lot of talk today in the kidlit industry about a recent article in the New York Times about parents and kids venturing away from picture books. I don't necessarily agree with the article. I buy a lot of picture books, both for my kids and myself. My boys are 10 and 8 and we still enjoy reading picture books as well as chapter books. You can click the link above if you want to check the article out for yourself.
Like I said, I don't agree with it. Many of my friends still buy picture books and age appropriate books for their children. However, I am skeptical to think this story originated out of thin air. Someone, somewhere had to have felt this way for them to publish this story. There was another article recently about a certain percentage of kids polled said they'd prefer to read books on electronic devices. So, with that in mind, I do believe there is some truth to the story. Some parents may be pushing their kids into books geared for older children or more advanced readers -- just as some other kids might prefer an e-book over a traditional one. It all comes down to personal preference and what's made available to them.
On another note -- I've been pretty vocal in the past about picture books costing so much. I know that's upset some of my writer and illustrator friends. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to make anyone mad. I'm just trying to look at it from both sides of the coin. As a writer, I totally believe an author/illustrator should be paid well for their hard work. There's no doubt about that. As a parent on a budget, I do have a hard time dishing out $25 for a picture book. I will, mind you, but it will have to be one we simply can't live without. I understand the business though and I know how much work and cost is involved in creating these books. I get it.
I read one comment today about the cost of a picture book is the same as going out to dinner or buying a new pair of jeans. Yeah, it is. Sadly, I can't remember the last pair of jeans I bought. That's my problem because I'm not rich. I can't afford to buy all the books I would like. I would love nothing more than to be able to afford every single of my writer/illustrator friend's books to support them and their efforts. I wish I could do that, but I'm not made of money. I know, how sad is that? Poor pitiful me -- boo hoo.
But seriously, I've found work-arounds. We go to the library and check out books. I search thriftstores and yardsales. I can usually find some good ones. And then there's Amazon. I just bought Frightful's Mountain by Jean Craighead George yesterday. A used copy cost me a penny, plus $3.99 for shipping. Believe me, I would love to buy every book brand new so all the profit went to the author and illustrator, but I can't do that. It's not because I'm a cheap, tightwad (which I am), but simply because we buy TOO MANY BOOKS as it is. So, to make up for that, I have to hunt for the bargains and I grab them when I can. Would I love for the cost of picture books to go down? Of course. Do I see that happening? No, and that's okay, too.
Back to the article -- if it's true that some parents push more advanced books on their kids, then I think that's not only a shame, but doing them a big disservice. Having taught 3 of my 4 children how to read, I understand the danger in pushing too much too early. All of my kids are avid readers. Nicole is reading the first Harry Potter book to my boys right now, but tells me she wants to wait awhile before reading the others to them. I haven't read them, so I trust her judgement. This just filters back to a week or so ago when I was upset that the world is making our children grow up too fast. I certainly don't have a problem with a child wanting to read a book for older kids, providing its age-appropriate for them. That's not to say they shouldn't still read -- and most importantly -- be ABLE to enjoy picture books. In order to do that, they have to be available to them. I mean, seriously, isn't reading anything better than reading nothing at all? Raise your hand if you read the back of cereal boxes when you were a kid -- I couldn't get enough of those.
On the other hand -- I can't also but help but wonder if maybe some of these parents are skipping the picture books and encouraging chapter books because of cost. Could it be that they feel PBs are too expensive if they're only read a few times? If they invest a lesser amount of money on a chapter book, are they getting more for their money, especially if the child might read it more than once? I don't know, but the thought did occur to me this morning when I read the article, which is why I brought up the whole cost issue. I'm not about to stop buying books, regardless of what type they are, especially when it comes to my kids. At the same time, I'm not about to push them into stories they aren't ready for or start exchanging all our beloved books for electronic versions. Just call me old-fashioned ...