A couple weeks ago, the New York Times published an article saying the picture book was fading. Sales are down, orders are down--and while the article cites the down economy, it suggests that some of the lag is due to parents rushing their kids into chapter books early to get them ahead. As the parent of a three-year-old, I was dismayed to learn that I was stunting my child's intellectual growth through Grumpy Bird, but have promptly cast it aside in favor of Anna Karenina. I've found it helps to pretend all the main characters are bunnies.
But now the author of the Early Word Kids column suggests I might want to reconsider trashing the Scieszka for Solzhenitsyn. Picture books, it turns out, are actually useful to children's development. She cites a number of reasons, including the relative sophistication of the verbal and visual content of picture books as opposed to early chapter books.
It's never fun to open up the newspaper and discover the thing you've devoted your life to is languishing. (I mean, this is how newspaper reporters feel every day.) But trends come and go in publishing. Get in your time machine and go look at the YA section of the bookstore six years ago. Go ahead, I'll wait. And, really, the economy can probably explain a lot--including, as the blog Mother Reader points out, an early entrance into chapter books. ("I can understand," she writes, "the mindset of an economizing parent who, when purchasing a book, wants to find one that will last a little bit longer. Hey, we do it with shoes and it works.")
The picture book will come back and it will be the dystopian novelists who are reading articles about the fading market and think the world is ending. So, get back to work.
And now, a word from our sponsors at Hamline's MFA in Writing for Children. The deadline for applications for the January term is Nov. 1. If you're curious about the program, you can try a mini-immersion--one residency and one semester. For more details, and for pictures of the handsome student body, please see the website. Please note that handsomeness is not a requirement for admission, and may in fact be an effect of the program.