Here’s a pre-Halloween scare: Children’s books – picture books, specifically – are losing their place in bookstores and in little children’s lives. The reason’s scary, too: some parents seem to think picture books won’t make their little ones sufficiently high-achieving.
In a New York Times online article of October 7, 2010, “Picture Books No Longer a Staple for Children,” bookstore owners across the country tell of parents discouraging their 4, 5 and 6-year-olds from reading picture books, and of books sitting on the shelves, unsold. Even though children still gravitate toward the picture books, the parents are pushing the tykes to read chapter books instead, to get a jump on the competitive academic world.
It’s well documented that young children in the U.S. who are exposed to books start school better prepared, and if their families own books, they go farther in school. But as the Times article points out, little children get benefits from picture books that they can’t get from text-heavy novels. Picture books stimulate the imagination in a different way and may even have a more complicated vocabulary or concepts. They allow an entirely different, more interactive, communication between parent and child (especially if the parent has literacy challenges, as an estimated 20 to 25% of Oakland’s English-speaking population does). And while The Phantom Tollbooth (which the Times says one parent recommended online to another for a 5-year-old) is a fabulous book, how is a young child going to play with it the way he’d play with Good Night, Gorilla?
At the East Bay Children’s Book Project, we give free picture books to teachers whose budgets don’t let them buy libraries for their classrooms or their schools. We donate picture books to stock the shelves of social service organizations, clinics, recreation centers, and other nonprofit youth organizations serving families that may not own any children’s books. And we’re going to continue doing just that. We don’t believe that young children need to compete with some imaginary genius out there to succeed – we believe that “Every Child Needs a Book.”
You can help: Donate books for children, make a financial donation, or contact us. And share picture books with the young children in your life!