Picture Books Languish as Parents Push

Picture Books Languish as Parents Push ‘Big-Kid Books’ – NYTimes.com.

Being in Portland, I had to stop into Powel’s Book Store. A local institution and bought a picture book. Then I saw this article and it made me very sad. While I’m a huge advocate of limited use of technology in the classroom, a picture book can never be replaced by an ipad. It may be, but it won’t be the same. That’s what I anticipated the article to be about, but the real reason made me even sadder. Parents are pushing picture books to even four year olds and trying to abandon picture books.  This, mostly because of the pressure parents feel due to test scores.

I believe that picture books are great even for middle-schoolers. I have no problems with capable readers reading big thick chapter books, but at the expense of abandoning picture books is too high a price.

Ironically, the book I bought: Lane Smith’s – It’s A BookThanks SJ for he recommendation.


3 thoughts on “Picture Books Languish as Parents Push

  1. I think early readers (and their parents) want to abandon the picture books for chapter books ASAP because it means that they are “advancing.” There are so many really cool picture books that can challenge and engage all ages. I agree that even older children should keep some picture books in the rotation as long as possible! Of course David Wiesner’s books are amazing for all ages. My 7th grader loves a book called “Meanwhile” by Shiga. It is a fun, choose-your-own-adventure type of book where you follow the pipes forward and backward after making the simple choice of vanilla vs. chocolate ice cream. It takes concentration and good eyes! I also recently stumbled upon a graphic novel “Tom Sawyer” at EB Books. Super cool. “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” is good for stronger readers, but I’ll set “Olivia” up against any other book anytime.

  2. Anthony, I just saw this post and had to comment. The children’s literature community is rather up in arms about the NYT piece. Picture Books are an amazing and varied format. Olivia, for example, isn’t a classic narrative. It’s more episodic. Other books, though, have a classic structure–even a hero’s journey (Where the Wild Things Are, for example).

    The wonderful part about these in the classroom is that you can see the whole structure at once and use it to talk to kids about how stories work. This is very difficult to do with a novel, even if your students are grownups. And then there are the wordless books, David Wiesner’s for sure, and others, like Shaun Tan’s “The Arrival.” The challenge here for students is to infer the story from the images–what an incredible way to engage their minds in art.

    This doesn’t even get into the subject matter. Some of them–Patricia Polacco’s “Thanks, Mr. Falker” and Eve Bunting’s “Terrible Things” help you talk with kids about disabilities, cruelty, compassion, death–even the holocaust.

    In the children’s writing community, picture books are generally considered the most difficult form to master. You have to do so much with such a small amount of space. The words and images need to interact and build on each other–but if you’re a writer, you might never talk to the illustrator, so you need to anticipate the images as you create the story.

    What’s more, some of the world’s finest illustrators are working in this form. Adam Rex, John Rocco, Wiesner… it’s beautiful, beautiful stuff.

    All of this is a long way of saying that these books give pleasure, build minds, and have much to offer readers of all ages. The notion that “harder” books are better shows a very limited understanding of what’s actually out there.

  3. Julie and Martha,
    Thanks for your comments. I couldn’t agree with you more. You both mention some of my favorite authors/books. Weisner, Polacco, and Olivia. I love wordless books like Wave and the Red Book along with Weisner’s amazing set of books – Flotsam and the Three Pigs are two of my favorites.

    You give a good example with Bunting. As we discussed with my class that a community is a place where people live, work, and solve problems, her book Fly Away Home is a great one to introduce children to homelessness.

    Another thing about picture books is that they last a very long time – and as such should be seen as a capital expense in schools rather than an annual one.

    Graphic novels are another format that often gets a bad reputation. I read one this summer called American Born Chinese and found its themes deep (racism, assimilation, self-loathing/rejection because of societal stereotypes just to name a few), its plot literary, and illustrations very powerful.

    You can make any picture book ‘harder’ by asking kids to grapple with difficult questions.

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