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NY Times Says Picture Books Are in Trouble

The New York Times recently ran an article declaring, “Picture Books No Longer a Staple For Children [2].” The author claims that picture books have fallen out of favor with parents because they are pressuring their kindergarteners and first graders to move onto chapter books earlier (“I shouldn’t let my child have this picture book because she won’t get into Harvard.”). The article also quotes publishers and booksellers who say sales of picture books have declined in recent years.

This story has been met with quite a bit of skepticism from librarians. It’s a hot topic on one librarian listserv I subscribe to, and they are not buying it for a second. Picture books are still very popular in libraries and circulate regularly. It’s not uncommon for parents to check out 10-20 picture books at a time.

One thing the librarians on my email list pointed out is that picture books are expensive—especially considering how quickly children can burn through them. Perhaps parents are buying less and borrowing more? I haven’t seen any numbers to back this up, but it does seem likely.

Or maybe they are buying paperbacks rather than hardcovers. The article says that “at Scholastic, 5 percent to 10 percent fewer hardcover picture books have been published over the last three years,” but it doesn’t mention sales of softcover books. With a hardcover picture book running around $18, it makes sense that sales favor softcover books which cost between $3-7.

Book bloggers aren’t too happy with the Times article either. Amanda Gignac of The Zen Leaf [3] says that her quote in the article was taken completely out of context and that she has never taken away picture books from her children. There is also an interesting post on MotherReader [4] about how the NY Times isn’t always the most relevant source (I agree, remember their article on these newfangled things called blogs [5]?). She also suggests that maybe in this economy parents are buying less of everything that their children will quickly outgrow.

So do you think pushy parents are no longer interested in picture books? Or do you think this is much ado about nothing?

Follow me on Twitter @kristendaemons [6]