[See the update below about our change in plans when the wonderfully fitting, wide-reaching National Poetry Month began! But here's a little bit of history about National Picture Book Week, which became a special one-time celebration. For more about National Picture Book Month, other picture book celebrations and ways to some celebrate any day, click here!]


By Linda Eve Diamond


The first annual National Picture Book Week (NPBW) is scheduled for May 1-7, 2011. Beyond this weeklong celebration, the NPBW Website hosts a year-round “Beauty of Picture Books” blog, which shares the perspectives of guest contributors, each one illustrating the special value of picture books.

I first blogged about the creation of National Picture Book Week (NPBW) back in October, the same day the NPBW Website was established and the date was set for this first annual celebration week. Since then, I’ve heard from and spoken to educators, librarians, parents, authors, and illustrators who are excited about National Picture Book Week—and become even more excited when they hear about the context of NPBW in the larger picture. While National Picture Book Week is a time for fun, it’s also an ongoing reminder of the enduring value of picture books in a fast-paced culture that has many wanting very young children to leave picture books behind in favor of text-only books.



As far as I know, this is the first time since “Once upon a time…” began, that the value of picture books has been questioned by growing numbers of parents. I first became aware of this trend when it was reported in the NYT article: “Picture Books No Longer a Staple for Children,” by Julie Bosman, on October 7, 2010. The article discussed the fact that more and more parents are urging children away from picture books and toward text-only books at younger and younger ages.
Bosman quoted bookstore manager, Dara La Porte: “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.” The idea that it’s beneficial to long-term learning and success (let alone love of books) for a child to move from picture books to text-only books as young as possible is a new-success-driven myth. However, while picture books are still an important part of early learning of reading, language and critical thinking skills, text-only arguments can be (and have been) convincing to many concerned parents.
A Publishers Weekly response, “Don’t Write the Obit for Picture Books Yet,” while critical of the article’s overall perspective, also expressed concern about increasing numbers of parents turning the page from picture to text-only books for younger and younger children. The last section, “Spreading the Word,” urges people to spread the word about the value of picture books to counter this growing concern. PW quoted Karen MacPherson, a library children and youth services coordinator, who finds that more and more parents are asking about chapter books for three- and four-year-olds. MacPherson said to PW, "I just find the parents need more education about it because of all this pressure to push their children ahead."


Picture books are learning tools, works of art, and magical doorways to a lifetime love of books. NPBW’s goal is to foster and support nationwide awareness of the value of picture books within the larger picture of early education (and also joyful early memories of books) by inspiring special picture book readings, projects and fun events and continually sharing positive perspectives at the “Beauty of Picture Books” blog. National Picture Book Week is the first week-long celebration dedicated exclusively to picture books.



The NPBW “Beauty of Picture Books” blog is open for submissions and has been inviting guest contributors since October. Blog contributors include award-winning picture book authors and illustrators, Eloise Greenfield and Jan Spivey Gilchrist; McGraw-Hill Senior Editor and new mom, Donya Dickerson; a Senior VP at Bright Horizons Family Solutions, Susan Brenner; author and founder of The Listening Center, Kay Lindahl; illustrator and creator of “Uncommon Creatures and Beasts,” Doreen Kassel; and NPBW’s own creative director, poster model and video star, Little Bear.



Picture books, story times, and special events related to picture books can inspire a child’s love of books for life. National Picture Book Week invites parents, educators, authors, illustrators and booksellers to visit the Website for event ideas, posters and brochures. NPBW also invites anyone with a picture book related event or project planned during National Picture Book Week to take pictures and share them. There is no deadline for sending event and project photos through the Website's "Contact Us" link.  Emailed photos will be shared on the Website and Facebook page.

POSTSCRIPT: AN UPDATE AS OF 04/25/2011 19:21

Get ready for National Picture Book Month!!  :)

The preceding article was originally posted at www.LindaEveDiamond.com. At the time, we were getting ready for National Picture Book Week (NPBW), which we expected would be an annual event. After our first year celebration, National Picture Month was started! How wonderful that was to see! So, while we did not see the need to continue NPBW, but our blog will carry on it's ongoing celebration of  the beauty of picture books. For those interested in our initial motivation behind NPBW, you can also read my original article that announced the blog and givse more of the story of NPBW, and even (from our perspective) a glimpse into the impetus for National Picture Book Month.

Read more about NPBW here.