Scholastic says kids don’t need pictures!

Yesterday Scholastic released their top 10 children’s trends from 2010. #6 bums me out. Here it is:

“The shift in picture books: Publishers are publishing about 25 to 30 percent fewer picture book titles than they used to as some parents want their kids to read more challenging books at younger ages. The new trend is leading to popular picture book characters such as Pinkalicious, Splat Cat and Brown Bear, Brown Bear showing up in Beginning Reader books.”

The NY Times and others have reported on this finding but I don’t think it’s been fully fleshed out.

There’s a real gap between picture books and chapter books and I think it’s sad that Scholastic’s response to this is to make more beginning reading books. Granted, we need more interesting beginning reading, that’s for sure. But there’s something missing here.  What about taking picture books ones step further, or you could view it as one step back.

Picture books used to be more sophisticated. Today they are basically half a step above board books. The characters are very simple and the storyline is minimal. There is a place for the current picture books but we need more books like the ones that were published 20 years ago.

My boys and I love Bill Peet’s books and I can’t find much out there like them. Peet, a wonderful author and illustrator who died in 2002, created fantastic books with terrific stories and amusing illustrations. Peet’s books took off where current day picture books stop.

And what about the “Billy and Blaze” series by Clarence William Andersen? Or Syd Hoff’s books. Or “Blueberries for Sal”? All of these books are much longer than current picture books but they have a successful ratio of text to illustrations. Not only do they keep my boys’ interest but I love them too. Whenever I finish any of those books it makes me long for more illustrations in adult books.

In the NY Times article, a Simon and Schuster publisher summarized parents feelings as “my kid doesn’t need books with pictures anymore.” WHAT?!?! They might not “need” pictures to decipher text but heck, it would be a sad world if kids didn’t have illustrations.

I think the big publishing houses are underestimating their readers and downplaying the importance of beautiful illustrations. Find the right ratio of text to illustrations, give the reader a little more plot and develop some characters and watch how many kids and parents will flock to those books!

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