In Praise of Picture Books

You may have seen the article on the front page of the October 8th New York Times: “Picture Books No Longer a Staple for Children.” Based on information from booksellers and publishers, the article reports that the sale and use of picture books are declining. It paints a grim picture for the future of picture books.

We disagree. The picture book is alive and well at the Maplewood Library. Over 25,000 picture books have been checked out since January. Picture book nonfiction is also in high demand, with over 13,000 items circulated this year. Patrons carry out arm loads of these illustrated treasures every day. Our New Picture Book section is one of the hot spots in the library. Parents complain if we don’t maintain a good supply and variety of picture books.

Library Storytimes – where picture books are prominently featured – are at maximum capacity. We see kids snuggling with a parent to read a picture book, rather than using the computer. Older children, as well, respond with interest and excitement to picture books. Stories rule! And illustrated stories are in big demand for all ages.

The Times article credits the decline to the economy, the high cost of children’s hardcover books, and parental pressure for children to read above their age level. We do see these trends, but the public library has become the antidote to escalating book costs and a strained economy, as well as a place to escape from TV.

Public libraries are the community voice for the future of books and reading. We embrace the idea of universal reading via e-Books and interactive stories for children. We subscribe to TumbleBooks Online stories so that kids can enjoy their beloved picture books in new and exciting ways. But, despite all the wonderful new technologies, there still is no substitute for the sit-on-your-lap-and-read-with-a-parent picture book. We think picture books have a long and vibrant future. And the community of readers that calls itself Maplewood seems to agree.

Maplewood Memorial Library Children’s Librarians

To read the original article in the Oct 8th, 2010 NYT, click on http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/08/us/08picture.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&sq=picture%20books&st=cse&scp=1

To read some of the letters in response to the article, click on http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/14/opinion/l14picture.html?ref=todayspaper

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