Are parents pushing their kids to read so early that picture books are going the way of the dodo? If there is a decline in picture book sales, I seriously doubt this is the main factor. Yes, my first son read at 3, but it was BECAUSE of picture books that he was reading Stuart Little at 4, not despite them or because of me (except in that my genetic material is like the grey matter equivalent of water from the Holy Grail, yo). We essentially significantly limited TV time and the boy craved narrative; therefore, we got an early reader. It’s not that difficult to figure out what happened. And even now that he’s 7 and reading from the 9-12 wall at the store, we don’t eschew the picture books. When I left for work this morning, in fact, he was switching between a YA title, Silverwing, to a picture book by Jamie Lee Curtis (no shit). Yes, he’s read all of EB White and The Hobbit and the Ga-Hoole owls and Narnia and and and… but the picture book was his gateway there, not something we lept past. Booksellers, are you seeing similar trends at your stores? What do you think is the main factor, if so?
“So many of them [picture books] just die a sad little death, and we never see them again,” said Terri Schmitz, the owner.
The shop has plenty of company. The picture book, a mainstay of children’s literature with its lavish illustrations, cheerful colors and large print wrapped in a glossy jacket, has been fading. It is not going away — perennials like the Sendaks and Seusses still sell well — but publishers have scaled back the number of titles they have released in the last several years, and booksellers across the country say sales have been suffering.
The economic downturn is certainly a major factor, but many in the industry see an additional reason for the slump. Parents have begun pressing their kindergartners and first graders to leave the picture book behind and move on to more text-heavy chapter books. Publishers cite pressures from parents who are mindful of increasingly rigorous standardized testing in schools.
Why does anyone even bother quoting stats from Scholastic in a piece like this? If picture books are down there, it’s probably because they’re making room for more TV-tie-ins and video games and plastic shit to sell to kids.