Last fall, when the New York Times declared picture books were “so unpopular these days,” I was surrounded by eager readers at the Oakland Parents Literacy Project’s Family Night where, after teachers and volunteers read aloud to different age-groups, each child received an age appropriate, NEW book. Yes there were chapter books and middle grade novels, but imagine dozens upon dozens of PICTURE BOOKS clutched tightly in the hands of young readers as if they were made of gold.
Fast forward to our local Santa Parade this December, where I got to be a BookMobile Elf. IMG_1765 @ (Yes, Virginia– a Bookmobile Elf) Thanks to our wonderful public LIBRARIES and the generous donation from Raley’s, we elves handed out NEW children’s books–one for each kid along the parade route–instead of candy! Imagine 1.5 miles of happy children with a new book in hand, hundreds of which were PICTURE BOOKS and BOARD BOOKS. Several young mothers exclaimed to their tiny newborns, “Ooh, look! It’s your very first book!”
The recent article by Karen Springen in Publisher’s Weekly, is a fabulous rebuttal to the NYTimes’ no-good-very-bad assertion, including picture book opinions of editors, book sellers, publishers, authors, and librarians. As Springen points out, todays’ parents grew up on PICTURE BOOKS and want to share that experience with their kids. And there is a place for PICTURE BOOKS in the lives of older readers too.
I would like to add that there is a place for PICTURE BOOKS in the classroom as well. Students who read below grade level must still read biographies and do state reports. Cross-age tutoring where upper grades read PICTURE BOOKS to the younger kids, not only improves reading but increases self-esteem and teaches cooperation and diversity. Can these experiences be just as successful with e-readers? Possibly–if your child attends one of those rare schools where teachers don’t already shell out their own money for boxes of tissues and school supplies no longer in the “budget.” And watch a teacher cringe just thinking about how they would monitor a class set of e-readers so nothing gets broken. I’d opt for PICTURE BOOKS any day.
No more PICTURE BOOKS? Bah Humbug! Ask the parent or grandparent who treasures each snuggle-up-and-read moment with their little ones. And yes, even the tiniest fingers love to play with your iPhone, but they can’t pocket call your friends with a PICTURE BOOK.
Consider this quote from another very famous 1897 newspaper article by Francis Pharcellus Church in the New York Sun, with just one or two changes: Yes, VIRGINIA, there will be PICTURE BOOKS. They exist as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no PICTURE BOOKS. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
Hopefully, some time in the next eight days, you will settle down with excited little ones, and you or a friend or family member will read aloud a holiday favorite, like ‘TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS or THE CHRISTMAS STORY, or perhaps something new like Kim Norman’s TEN ON THE SLED, or Anna Dewdney’s LLAMA LLAMA HOLIDAY DRAMA. And then you’ll know PICTURE BOOKS are here to stay.
Happy Holidays! May 2011 be filled with peace, good will, and books for all.