October 9, 2010

"He would still read picture books now if we let him, because he doesn’t want to work to read."

In a story about how "picture books" don't sell anymore, Amanda Gignac, "a stay-at-home mother in San Antonio who writes The Zen Leaf, a book blog," is quoted saying that about her  6 ½-year-old son, Laurence, who "started reading chapter books when he was 4... regularly tackles 80-page chapter books, [but] is still a 'reluctant reader.'"

***

Remember when progressives fought against child labor?

23 comments:

Synova said...

I think that the "child labor" thing is pretty close to right on target.

Also, it's snobbery. Snobbery against comic books and cartoons and anything else that is seen as "kid stuff". Anything fun and anything entertaining.

The best part about entertaining "picture books" is also the best part about animated film... when you're a "mom" you get to enjoy those things without having to explain yourself.

But the lady quoted should be happy... no one *likes* reading what is *good for them*, so her kid is right on track.

Meade said...

I feel for poor little 6 ½-year-old Laurence.

Even at 56 ½-years-old, even I am sometimes a “reluctant reader" who tries to just go back to looking at pictures.

(By the way, my guess is that 6 ½-year-old Laurence will grow up to prefer reading/seeing/hearing his name as anything but "Laurence.")

Chip Ahoy said...

Speaking of fun comic books, DC Superheores The ultimate pop-up book by Matthew Reinhart came in the mail a few days ago. It's the most awesome pop-up book in history. The words are okay too. It was on pre-order for months.

Here's the thing about pre-order on Amazon that I did not know but compels me recommend it. I paid $20.00 back then, and now it's magically selling for $27.00, and still it is totally worth the cost, but I must admit, it sure is nice to get it so inexpensively.

Oh, and that woman is bad for forcing her son to read. When I was six, I kept thinking, "Man oh man, this reading is like decoding." Books were no fun without lots of pictures. They helped me get it.

Wendy Kloiber said...

Don't you think it's a bit political to suggest that this woman represents progressives?

I consider myself progressive, and I felt sorry for her kid.

I wish there were more picture books for adults. Audrey Nieffenegger's Three Incestuous Sisters is wonderful. Graphic novels are great, but different. In any case, no one ever needs to give them up.

Irene said...

I am so glad that I grew up during a time when it was okay to spend the afternoon marking up Mary Poppins coloring books while watching The Three Stooges. Sweet freedom.

Synova said...

She might be progressive, but I've known conservative homeschoolers with similar attitudes.

Wendy Kloiber said...

Synova: Exactly. Anyone can be a misguided format snob.

TerriW said...

She might be progressive, but I've known conservative homeschoolers with similar attitudes.

The Charlotte Mason school (pardon the pun) of homeschool thought -- of which I know both lefties and righties alike to be drawn to -- is particularly disdainful of the picture books/comic books/etc that kids are often drawn to. In that realm, they are called "twaddle."

Because, you know, it's not enough that you don't let your kids watch TV (because you "don't even own one!", of course) and read only books. They have to be the right kind of books.

I don't buy into that. My little boy wasn't too interested in books until he realized they made books about Batman. Dozens and dozens and dozens of books about Batman.

Now he has his own bookshelf in his room.

Wendy Kloiber said...

This has been bothering me, so I checked the mom's blog. She said the NYT reporter was looking for a pushy mom, and turned her joke into a straight statement to make the story work. Also, her kid just doesn't like picture books - prefers Magic Treehouse books during school reading time, but would rather play outside or watch TV than read.

She seems like a fine mom who deeply regrets talking to the NYT.

Bears some resemblance to the Nazi impersonator tale now.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Such a shame.

Part of the wonder of reading is to be able to form pictures in your mind: the characters, the surroundings, the mountains, the valleys,the furniture,clothing etc.

It takes some practice to be able to do that and one of the aides that get you to that point are picture books. Children can read the words and imagine based on the pictures that they have seen. This stimulates on many different levels.

I'm a very visual person and can still see in my mind's eye illustrations from books that I read (Childcraft, yes I'm old) at a very early age. I can also see in my mind's eye illustrations from books that I read to my daughter when she was very young. I'll bet that she see those images as well.

Palladian said...

I didn't like "picture books" that much as a child because I preferred to draw my own pictures. I did (and do) love books full of photographs of buildings, Egyptian objects, paintings, furniture, plants, animals, and so forth, but I also liked those books to have a lot of explanatory textual content as well. Do such things qualify as "picture books"?

Dust Bunny Queen said...

@ Palladian

Maybe I'm confused about the current definition of 'picture' books. I think they are very much like what you said.

They consist of text with interesting illustrations and photos. Like the original Alice in Wonderland or even for very young children Curious George. Text with illustrations.

As the child gets older, the illustrations are less important and less because the text becomes more engaging. To start a young child out in reading with nothing but text and no illustrations.....I can't imagine the pain and tedium.

Popville said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Popville said...

Great to see mention of pop up books. I recently purchased a nifty little pop up book named Popville for my grandkids (found when searching for a post I made on a music blog), but we loved it so much that we've not handed it over. Heh, they can view it when they visit.

New York said...

Sounds like another one of those "NYT readers live on another planet" type of articles.

My duaghter reads better than the average for her age, but there is no way that she would spend more than 3 minutes looking at a book without pictures.

Freeman Hunt said...

The story seems to indicate that the slump is only with new picture books. As a mother who spends a lot of money on picture books, I can tell this reporter the reason that modern picture books aren't selling well:

Too many of them suck.

Take a look at the picture books with modern copyrights. No, I am not going to buy your too cool, ironic sense of humor book. No, I am not going to buy your book about how the Earth is about to be destroyed by lack of recycling and/or land development. No, I am not going to buy your book that was written by a semi-literate and illustrated in one afternoon by a temp at a computer. No, I am not going to buy your book that is a rehash of an older, better book that I can buy instead. No, I am not going to buy your wordy, spiritual-ish pablum. No, I am not going to buy your book about farts, boogers, and poo.

I am buying books for a three year old. There are already a lot of good picture books out there. Compete with them if you want my business. The store display is not going to convince me to buy your latest printing of hack garbage.

And yes, there might also be some parents pushing chapter books too early, but I don't trust the NYT enough to think that they got that right.

former law student said...

Picture books are meant to be shared by parent and child -- the language is much more complex than a beginning reader would be able to tease out. Maybe parents don't have as much time to sit down with their kids any more.

Cost has always been a factor -- traditionally most kiddie books were bought by libraries, not parents.

TerriW said...

Of course, the worst problem with fewer people buying picture books from stores is that there will then be fewer picture books available at garage sales and used book stores.

(Yeah, I'm part of the problem.)

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prairie wind said...

Freeman Hunt: Yes, yes, yes.

Stability of Art in Unstable Times... said...

I get the sense that letting her son read only chapter books is like expecting a child to do math without paper. Since some children are visual, she could actuallly keep him from understanding what he is reading.

Personally, I wouldn't mind my children reading novels at 6 1/2, but I would still have some well illustrated picture books for them.
As a child I always prefered the picture books, not because I don't like reading, but because I would be able to place myself in those pictures. (The fact was that I loved reading so much that when I was punished for doing something wrong my mom would send me outside to play, no joke.)
Picture books gave me something tangible to work with my imagination whereas 'words only books' forced me to read first, reread and imagine later, because I had to make sure I understood what I was reading by actually reading. Sometimes reading was easier when there was a picture or two, especially if the picture was of an animal or object that I've never seen before.

It really comes down to the quality of the book. There are many extremely educational books that have lots of pictures in them, science books for example. What's better, child reading a pictured encyclopedia or a word only chapter book about Hannah Montan? The Jonas brothers autobigraphy or Astronomy: 365 Days?

I still feel that children need a book that combines both the words with some well done illustrations. That way they can use the illustrations as reinforcement to what they are reading. It may also help them to understand the stories better and for children who don't have as vivid of an imagination, help guide them to learn how to see things differently. Picture books can be just as educational as any other kind of book.



Btw, my sister is a liberal democrat who sees the world much like that woman, which makes me feel bad for my niece. I am a conservative and would love to homeschool my kids. I believe that a child needs time to be a child, because they wil grow up too fast and then have little time for needed play.
(Politics doesn't necesarilly have anything to do with the view of child raising. It's more about the environment of how a child grows up and how they perceived the world and the people in it, on top of individual, religious, cultural, and political views, with the addition of current educational environments, which gives them the perception of what's best for their progeny...
whether or not it's the accurate and best thing is debatable.) :P

Stability of Art in Unstable Times... said...

I get the sense that letting her son read only chapter books is like expecting a child to do math without paper. Since some children are visual, she could actuallly keep him from understanding what he is reading.

Personally, I wouldn't mind my children reading novels at 6 1/2, but I would still have some well illustrated picture books for them.
As a child I always prefered the picture books, not because I don't like reading, but because I would be able to place myself in those pictures. (The fact was that I loved reading so much that when I was punished for doing something wrong my mom would send me outside to play, no joke.)
Picture books gave me something tangible to work with my imagination whereas 'words only books' forced me to read first, reread and imagine later, because I had to make sure I understood what I was reading by actually reading. Sometimes reading was easier when there was a picture or two, especially if the picture was of an animal or object that I've never seen before.

It really comes down to the quality of the book. There are many extremely educational books that have lots of pictures in them, science books for example. What's better, child reading a pictured encyclopedia or a word only chapter book about Hannah Montan? The Jonas brothers autobigraphy or Astronomy: 365 Days?

I still feel that children need a book that combines both the words with some well done illustrations. That way they can use the illustrations as reinforcement to what they are reading. It may also help them to understand the stories better and for children who don't have as vivid of an imagination, help guide them to learn how to see things differently. Picture books can be just as educational as any other kind of book.



Btw, my sister is a liberal democrat who sees the world much like that woman, which makes me feel bad for my niece. I am a conservative and would love to homeschool my kids. I believe that a child needs time to be a child, because they wil grow up too fast and then have little time for needed play.
(Politics doesn't necesarilly have anything to do with the view of child raising. It's more about the environment of how a child grows up and how they perceived the world and the people in it, on top of individual, religious, cultural, and political views, with the addition of current educational environments, which gives them the perception of what's best for their progeny...
whether or not it's the accurate and best thing is debatable.) :P

CoffeeShopBloggers said...

Gagnac says her quote was taken out of context. I posted on the same article and I have her rebuttal here at http://www.pragmaticmom.com/?p=11607

Pragmatic Mom
http://PragmaticMom.com