Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Reawaken your love for the picture book.

The children's picture book is not doing so well. People aren't buying it like they should. I don't have all the facts and numbers (I'm not that guy), but I know enough to tell you that. Maybe it's because of tough economic times. Maybe it's because of e-bookery or general gadget-y (short attention span) distractions. Maybe it's because parents aren't reading to their kids enough. Maybe it's because education is accelerating young readers at a newer, faster pace, and rushing them over the picture book form. Maybe it's because it's been forgotten how important, irreplaceable, and (when stars align) how spiritual the picture book experience is to both children and adults.

If you think enough about it, you'll see the importance of and need for picture books. For one thing... reading to your kids is going to make them better. Period. It's going to build some solid ground to a solid person. It's going to build up their vocabulary, and make them smarter and more fun and more interesting to be around. And you'll be all the more prouder (of yourself and of them). That's the common sense thing. But beneath the surface is the more subtle stuff. Reading to your kids is going to make you better. Shared reading is an experience no parent or child should do without. A special bond between Mom or Dad and baby girl or baby boy that will never, ever be forgotten. And of course there's art appreciation. Picture books are painstakingly composed by writers who really, really, REALLY love what they are doing. Manuscripts are written and re-written, and thrown out and re-written and revised and picked apart and picked apart again so that every line counts, every word counts. And they are visually realized by artists who really, really, REALLY love what they are doing, developing characters, and sketching and re-sketching and re-sketching, and testing drawing approaches, painting approaches, digital illustration options, creating color palettes, and newer better color palettes (and throwing those out and creating the best color palettes). And then they are designed and typeset and polished and shaped and assembled and proofed and press-checked and assembled by people who really, really, REALLY care about the finished visual dynamics of the thing. Writing, art, design, printing, binding, packaging... to make just one perfectly produced book ready to digest and enjoy. (This visual distinction and quality control of image and package from top to bottom is why picture books can never truly translate to e-books, if you think about it. But that's another rant.)

This is my challenge to you, dear readers. Go into a book store (not a website, but a store with a roof, walls, people, books you can hold and browse over) and spend some time in the children's book section. Find something incredible (it ain't hard). Then, when you're all filled up, buy just one picture book. And in a week's time, repeat. Buy one picture book a week for your kid(s), some other kid(s) you love, or for yourself or some other grown-up you love. I can identify that it's hard to get, at first, but adults can also enjoy reading picture books. And if you absolutely can't swallow that concept, you can't escape appreciating them for the amazing artwork alone. It's like buying amazing art that can sit on your coffee table (or wherever you keep your favorite books with your favorite images) for, like, 16 bucks or whatever. Someone you know needs more picture books in her/his/their life/lives. You need to experience, again, what you loved when you read picture books as a kid.

(Okay, okay.... if you absolutely, seriously, truthfully can't get to or find a brick and mortar book store, buy your books online. But try this first.)

If you can't do a pic book a week, make it a pic book a month.

And if you can't do that (understood, times are tight).... Go into your most excellent local library and check out 10 picture books a week. If you can't do it every week, do it once a month.

Challenge issued.

Is this more preaching to the choir? Maybe so. But I'm not sure there's enough preaching going on. The picture book should be preached. It should be testified. We have to do  more. We have to talk more. I can't do without it. And if you think about it, neither can you.

P.S. If you take this seriously, and I hope that you do, and you happen to be on Facebook, pledge to me, to yourself, and to everyone around you that you will do this by liking this Facebook page. Here. Now.

16 comments:

Andi Sibley said...

I can totally do this! Went to a bookstore with my kids this week and bought two. Went to the library and checked out 10 picture books or early readers. so fun!

Matthew Cordell said...

Thanks so much, Andi! A very fine example you're setting!

storyqueen said...

As a teacher, I can say that you are right about "rushing kids through picture books" just like they are rushed through all of the curriculum.

Kind of sad.

But your post gives me hope.

Shelley

Matthew Cordell said...

Thanks, Shelley, for stopping by here! It is unfortunate. But hopefully, schools will reconsider the importance of sharing picture books. And hopefully, no matter what, parents will continue, if not step up, sharing picture books with their kids at home.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm not in the minority after all...

Deb said...

I have taught kindergarten for 32 years....picture books are alive and well in my classroom!

Matthew Cordell said...

Thank you for the comment, Deb. I love to hear that.

Kylie said...

We always come back from our frequent trips to the library with more books than myself and two kiddlets can carry - and all for free! Libraries are the rescue place for mothers of children everywhere - books for the kids, cookbooks, novels and yoga DVDs for mums!

Our bookshelves at home are overflowing with picture books - it's a visual treat for me to buy beautifully designed books to share with my kids and to stimulate their minds and hearts.

Long live picture books and the artists who make them.

And can we have more for adults too? Like 'My Heart Wanders' by Pia Jane Bijkerk.

X

Carla said...

Thanks so much for your efforts; My daughter is 10, but our extensive picture book collection will never be tucked away; we both still love to read them. (And it's a good thing since I may have spent the equivalent of a college fund on books at our local indie store in the past 10 years...)

We also have a book art gallery of sorts -- a rotating assortment of picture books on shelves, tucked into windowsills and displayed on easels. At Christmas, we bring out our 30-plus books and they take over all of our book art spots. (We wrote about this on our mother-daughter kids' book blog awhile back: http://2girlslostinabook.wordpress.com/2011/06/12/books-as-art-2/)

We'll be writing about our favorite picture books on our blog this month, so drop in sometime!

Thanks again--
Carla

knorman said...

Fortunately my daughters are home educated so no rushing through picture books for them. Very sad to hear two different parents in the library this week telling their children they were too old for the books they wanted to look at. Whether in the library or bookshop my eight year old still checks out the picture books first. To celebrate Picture Book Month we are getting our favourite ones out and blogging about them at http://www.katherine.teknohippy.net/picture-books/

Matthew Cordell said...

Thanks, you guys, for stopping by and reading, and for your additional thoughts. And also for sharing the love of picture books on your own blogs!

Maria Simon said...

Another suggestion - challenge... Donate $ to your public library! We need help to buy and replace damaged picture books! Picture books are one of our highest circulating most popular areas. I love having a class visit my public library and observe the variety of picture books they choose. I tell them this is why we need the library. We can choose what we like. I see parents and grandparents shop at the library and buy at a store. Help libraries provide kids with choices and opportunities.

Nichole said...

You're definitely preaching to the choir here, but I love it!

I sell children's books at a small market in my town. It always bums me out when I hear a parent say to a child that they don't need any books or are too old for the book they picked up. It bugs me even more when I later see them carrying away cheap plastic junk from the arcade area.

Anne said...

Books are on our menu every day, there is no day without reading. I work as a preschool teacher for a local community center and I notice how much kids enjoy it when I read to them or when we just look at the pictures. It slows everything down and I find more learning takes place even if it's not so obvious initially. I make sure that there are quality books in my class room.

melanie said...

Love, love love childrens books :-) visiting bookstores and holding them is a favourite past time.
I just wrote and illustrated my first picture book, what a wonderful journey :-)))
I hope that it is well loved and leaves lots of space for children to interpret and understand the simple illustrations for themselves.
Love your blog and all your wisdom ,thanks for sharing.
Cheers Melanie

Matthew Cordell said...

Thanks, Melanie! Good luck with your picture book and thanks for spreading the love. (And I'm glad folks are still finding this blog post!)