BACKGROUND & UPDATE TO THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE: The following article was originally posted at www.LindaEveDiamond.com to introduce National Picture Book Week (NPBW) and Beauty of Picture Books Blog. Little Bear and I developed NPBW as a week-long celebration of picture books and The Beauty of Picture Books Blog as a way to continue that celebration year-round. Since then, the same energy that led us to create a week-long celebration has inspired other authors to create a month-long celebration! So, we moved our blog to its own Website and no longer saw the need to leave our initial NPBW posts. However, this is where we began so it's only fitting that The Beauty of Picture Books Blog begin here, October 9, 2010...
LET'S CELEBRATE NATIONAL PICTURE BOOK WEEK!
By Linda Eve Diamond
October 9, 2010
National Picture Book Week, May 1-7, is being organized in response to recent news about the trend away from picture books. When I read the New York Times article, Picture Book No Longer a Staple for Children, I wondered whether parents are seeing the larger picture when they look at picture books.
The article quotes Dara La Porte, of the Politics and Prose bookstore in Washington, who has been watching this trend result in declining picture book sales and publications: “I see children pick up picture books, and then the parents say, ‘You can do better than this, you can do more than this.’ It’s a terrible pressure parents are feeling — that somehow, I shouldn’t let my child have this picture book because she won’t get into Harvard.”
Parents worry. It’s part of the job. Sometimes, though, overprotective measures may cause more harm than good. In this case, they want their children to have a head start on reading out of concern for education and achievement test scores. Well-meaning parents are telling their kindergartners that they’ve outgrown picture books and are providing them exclusively with text-only chapter books. However, picture books are not the cause of the country’s literacy problems, and they can even be part of the solution.
The problem with literacy never had anything to do with picture books—and taking these books out of the picture is not the solution. Picture books inspire a love of books from an early age. The linking together of words and pictures sparks imaginations and may even help to develop critical thinking skills. Picture books often use words and concepts that are beyond a child’s reading level because the pictures help the child grasp the overall story and learn new words without even realizing it. Language play and poetry are common in picture books, and rhythm, rhyme and word patterns also help early language development.
One of the greatest benefits of picture books is that they’re fun—and what better way to inspire a love of reading? The Times article also quotes book blogger Amanda Gignac, who said that her youngest son started reading chapter books when he was four years old. “ She does say that he is drawn to picture books, but she and her husband still will not allow it even though she goes on to say that now “Laurence is 6 ½, and while he regularly tackles 80-page books, he is still a reluctant reader.” Maybe a lack of pictures illustrates the problem. A love of books is more likely to be drawn from early reading experiences that are fun and playful.
Please join me in celebrating children’s picture books by organizing and promoting events for the start of NATIONAL PICTURE BOOK WEEK from May 1-May 7 and making this week-long celebration an annual event!
Read more about NPBW here.