...would be as irresponsible a headline as Picture Books No Longer a Staple for Children — and about as accurate.
Suppose I wanted to write an article about the decline of air travel in September. I could elaborate on what is meant by “decline” by looking at whether there were periods of higher air travel due to fare wars or other circumstances. I could write about the continuing poor economy affecting the number of flights. I could discuss cycles of travel where there is downturn after the summer months. I could even investigate travel in general, looking at statistics of train or automobile trips for comparison.
Or I could decide that bedbugs are a hot issue and look to link them with air travel declines. After all, there are people that think about germs on planes and from germs it’s a short leap to vermin on planes and after talking to someone for thirty minutes or so and maybe mentioning bedbugs specifically I could get a quote like, “I won’t be getting on a plane with bedbugs!” And if the rest of that person’s thought was along the lines of, “Boy, am I glad that’s not a problem,” well, so be it.
It is certainly possible and even likely that publication and purchasing for picture books is down. But first of all, down from what? Is this a market correction of what was a picture book boom? Is the poor economy in general making parents buy cheaper paperbacks? Are we in a market cycle where publishers are putting more investment into a hot YA market? Are people turning to other sources for picture books, including libraries and yard sales? Should we look at library circulation statistics? And if parents are pushing chapter books, is it a new trend? Is it quantifiable?
Or is it easier to cast this as a hot topic like pushy parenting and imply an end to picture books?
I haven’t done the in-depth research to answer the questions I’m posing. But then again, neither did The New York Times. The difference is that I don’t have the power to make people anxious about the literacy progression of our children or cause concern about the state of the picture book or affect the industry with my write-up.
Because that would be irresponsible.