105 Ways to Give a Book

Bedbugs Ground Planes

...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.


Melody said...

Great point! I think that that article is similar to all of the media coverage of "the death of print"--trying to rouse an audience about a publishing problem that may or may not exist in order to sell copies.

The1stdaughter said...

You make such a good point about this article. I was dumbfounded and could hardly believe they would publish something with so little "actual" research. But, then again it is the New York Times, and I'm not entirely a fan. Not too long ago they wrote a piece about "terrible picture books". It sounds like Julie Bosman has a chip on her shoulder when it comes to children's books, but who am I to say so for sure.

Kate @Midnight Book Girl said...

Perhaps bedbugs are the real reason for the decline in picture book sales? :)

Although, I think your point on the extreme price of picture books being a more likely culprit than a new generation of parents bent on having their kids read Moby Dick by the age of 5. Personally, no kid of mine would start that book until age 7 at least!

Sherrie Petersen said...

Well your headline certainly got my attention! And I think that's what the NYT has done with their story. They've gotten people's attention. Now hopefully people will prove that article wrong by buying more picture books.

Three Turtles and Their Pet Librarian said...

We heart this:) And when we clicked on "snarky", we meant it in the nicest possible way!