Sunday, October 10, 2010

Just Shoot Me

I think my love of all things Barnsy is pretty well established at this point, don't you?  I don't know how many times Mr. Mimi has joined me in my beloved Barnsy, gotten separated from me and found me spread out on the floor with a pile of new picture book titles and a gleam in my eye that says, "I'm gearing up to spend heinous amounts of money on these bad boys" as my debit card begins to vibrate with anticipation.

I also think that I speak openly of my addiction to picture books in general, no?  I mean, we're talking about a woman who, in her third trimester, waddled around several public libraries tracking down 100 different titles just so that she could blog about them.  And fantasize about reading them out loud to Mini Mimi who is one lucky little cookie because, let's face it, Mommy does a mean read aloud. 

I think picture books are amazing.  A.  MAZ.  ING. 

What would I do without Birdie's Shoes? or The Paperbag Princess or The Other Side or Oink?! or The Dot or Strega Nona or....

Do I really need to go on? 

So you can understand how this article in the New York Times felt like a slap in my Barnsy loving face.

Basically, the article talks about how picture books are collecting dust on the shelves of bookstores as more and more parents push their children to read picture books at an earlier and earlier age.  Presumably because they are crazed by test scores and some sort of psychotic need to outdo the neighbors kids. Or whatever.

I will now attempt to restrain myself from running to Barnsey and violently shaking any parent of a child who is incapable of doing little more than word call the words on the page of their look-at-what-my-kid-can-do chapter book. Perhaps for their next trick, said child could jump through a flaming hoop...

Okay. (deep breath) It sounds like I'm hating on chapter books, which I'm totally not. Mrs. Mimi loves her some Pinky and Rex, some Junie B. Jones, some Judy Moody...I know I kind of let my review of children's novels fall by the wayside but that really had more to do with the insatiable need of a new mom to read all things breast feeding and sleep scheduling.

What really has my proverbial panties in a knot is that abandoning picture books in favor of chapter books before your child is ready is LUDACRIS! First of all, I'm not totally convinced that all those small fries out there toting around huge awe-inspiring sized volumes can do more than simply say the words on the page. Meaning, helloooooooo, comprehension? Ever heard of it? It's relatively important to, oh I don't know, reading and all, but whatever.

Second of all, shame on everyone who overlooks the beauty of a picture book. Many of the themes handled in these little gems are very sophisticated, lending themselves to interesting book talk and challenging thoughts. Just because a book has chapters, doesn't necessarily mean that it is more difficult in content or in text than a picture book. Ironically, that sort of limited thinking is called "judging a book by it's cover.".

Third, there is nothing quite like the image of a classroom full of children sitting on the rug, staring open mouthed at their teacher as she reads from an enchanting, wonderful, irreplaceable picture book. Nothing! I think that image is more powerful than a ScanTron sheet full of correctly bubbled bubbles. So for the love of all things literate, stop thinking about those freaking tests for just one second, one picture book lengthed second.

In a nutshell, let children be children and let those children love books, no matter how thick or thin they are.

19 comments:

Lisa said...

This article had me steaming, and then I started reading the comments. One was from a librarian who's noticed an increase in picture book circulation over the past couple of years. She mentioned price as a possible culprit. (as did others) Hopefully, this is a sensationalistic piece. Either way, I will heart pic books forever. AND I will pit Pink and Say against any novel...seems to me some parents just aren't reading the right picture books.

Kathryn from Schoolmarm Style said...

Luckily, teachers still get it. And thanks to six traits even older students get to share in picture books again. I use them with my seventh graders who all still love a good read aloud.

Oh, and The Paperbag Princess is one of my absolute favorites, right behind Click, Clack, Moo.

Teresa said...

I agree with you WHOLEHEARTEDLY!!! I have students in my language arts class from 1st grade through 6th who all "read" at about the same level. Comprehension is a whole 'nother story. Some read BEAUTIFULLY but have no idea what they read, how it connects to them, to the world, to anything else.

That said, even the big badass 5th and 6th graders in my language arts class are ENTHRALLED when I am reading a picture book to illustrate a reading (or writing) skill. Picture books are FABULOUS for so many things! *I* even get excited about them and I'm a thirty-something-year-old woman!

It saddens me that parents aren't letting their kids be KIDS for as long as possible. I've heard parents say to their second graders, "No, you can't read that--that's a baby book. You need to find a chapter book to read." It's a BOOK! Who cares if once in a while a kid reads a true kid book for fun! As a grown up, I read lots of grown up, proper teacher books, but I love me some Sophie Kinsella mindless drivel that is far below my "reading level." During reader's workshop, for the most part, my kids get to read whatever they want to.

I have kids reading graphic novels, Junie B, Judy Moody, Nancy Drew, Amulet, Inkspell, Harry Potter, and a ton of other things--because I want them to love to READ and not be bound by this stupid idea that a certain age (or ability) has to read a certain "level" of book all the time.

Mrs. is my first name said...

As a fifth grade teacher, I still incorporate picture books in my lessons whenever I can. There is just something so powerful about the combination of words and pictures to those kiddos. My husband and I don't have any children yet, but I've already started my future child's library with my faves like No David, The Monster at the End of This Book, and Where the Wild Things Are just to name a few. Sometimes parents need to take a timeout from rushing around and pushing their child to be a seven year old Einstein and just enjoy a picturebook with their child.

Diandra Mae said...

Those of us in the kidlit circles were fuming for a few days but then realized something:
1) the NY Times has a habit of publishing articles that are incomplete and poorly researched. (http://www.motherreader.com/2010/10/picture-books-arent-in-trouble-just.html)
2) the quote used was taken out of context: (http://zenleaf.amandagignac.com/2010/10/when-quotes-are-taken-out-of-context.html)

The worst part of this is when you consider the fact that many readers won't know any better and will take the article to be truth and perhaps feel like they too should be pushign early readers. I wish there was a way to let them know that the NYT doesn't know what they're talking about.

MarieMent said...

As always, right on the money. I love looking out at my kiddos as I read to them... it's the one time in the day where I actually feel like I have every single kiddo with me in full.

Helen's Book Blog said...

So glad Diandra commented because she said something I was going to say: Amanda at Zen Leaf is furious for having her quotes misrepresented and taken out of context.

But, I LOVE picture books too. Some of our favorites are the Paperbag Princess and the Jamie Lee Curtis books

Stu said...

Here's more information. My son is a children's librarian in a large midwestern city (and he's also on the Newbery committee for 2011!!). Here's what he said:

"This was a pretty one-sided article... kind of surprised that the Times would run this. No quotes from children's librarians?! Anyway, picture books have changed over the years, and the traditional picture book format may not be as popular anymore, but it certainly is doing okay overall. This makes it sound like a sinister plot brought on by schools and test mania. My verdict: don't believe the hype."

Furthermore, his wife is the Assistant Manager of an independent children's bookstore. She added,

" I do think publishers are publishing less picture books. But a huge reason for that is because of the economy. With the economy, I think the publishers are being more selective about what they publish....and with good reason. A lot of times, in the past, publishers were cranking out way too may picture books, many of which were not quality books. Now they publish higher quality books. And yes, picture books are quite different in terms of illustrations, creativity, etc. But the old classics sell like hotcakes."

So maybe it's not as bad as all that...

Sunny said...

I'm with the others that still read and share picture books with the bigger kids (5th graders). I even have them move up and gather on the carpet with me. Rarely do I ever see teachers beyond 2nd or 3rd grade around here do that...but I do it and the kiddos don't think anything of it. It is just something we do. Last year my 4th graders would clap every time I finished reading any book (picture book or not). I love picture books and sharing those are actually the ones that fly off my classroom library shelves the fastest.

Teacher Not Teaching said...

Yes! Amen to Picture Books! My 5 young children love them, and they are all great readers! Reading shouldn't become work too early. Shhh, don't tell anyone, but I've been known to read picture books to my...12th graders...for fun (Grinch @ Christmas) or to introduce a concept (practice writing summary by starting with summarizing a picture book). There are endless ways to incorporate the early childhood joy of picture books throughout school and into adulthood.

Patty said...

Every adolescent girl NEEDS to read The Paperbag Princess. It should be required middle and high school reading!

The Teacher Geek said...

UGH. Why do I have a feeling that I'm going to end up doing damage control in my classroom from parents who will insist upon forcing chapter books upon the young-'uns, and then ask me why I'm not doing it in the classroom?

Gina and the Gang said...

I don't know if I can read your article, for fear of being an irate kindergarten teacher! I do start to read chapter books to my students about halfway through the year, but I NEVER get rid of picture books. Hello? How well do most of Jan Brett's illustrations get them thinking?

Mrs. Kindergarten said...

As a kindergarten teacher I cannot think of what I would do without read alouds. My students love the Black Lagoon books and you cannot forget about Diane de Groat books. We practice retelling the beginning, middle, and end with every read aloud. As a teacher you can get them hooked on a series by just reading it in class.

htriebsch said...

Funny, but sad story...One parent at our school brought his kindergrartner into the library and pointed out the picture books and told her that she was not allowed to check them out. She could only check out chapter books. Our awesome librarian tried to tell him about the sophisticated themes, high-level vocabulary, and the fact that comprehension development was important and pictures were the key. But he didn't listen. So every time she came into the library, she checked out chapter books. At the beginning of 1st grade, she started with the picture books. Come to find out, she really couldn't read as well as her parents thought!

Stu said...

There's lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and LOTS of talk about this article in the kidlitosphere this last week... here are two very different posts that each have some salient points. Both tend to put my mind at ease about the non-decline of picture books.

http://www.philnel.com/2010/10/08/picture-book-is-dead/

http://www.earlyword.com/2010/10/12/the-importance-of-picture-books/

eshyde said...

I also have hope when I walk into a bookstore and see so many families sprawled out on the floor reading picture books to their kids. Maybe they don't buy them cuz of the economy right now, but I see reading!

My school has a homework policy in grades PK-2 where children take home a picture book a night from our classroom and have to have someone else read it to them. In your face pushy test-driven people!

Mrs. Reality said...

Oh my goodness, picture books are my drugs, and half.com is the dealer ;-)

My 2nd graders usually don't have the sustained attention for longer books, so we rely on beautiful, meaningful picture books for the first half of the year! Without restraint, half my school year budget would go to picture books. My kids currently LOVE Fly Guy and Black Lagoon books!

Ashley O'Connor said...

Picture books have a certain amount of necessity in our culture. I think that it is important for children to have books long before they are able to read, it’s the thought of that reading seed that we need to plant. I have no bias against what type of book it is, picture or chapter, if the student is reading a book, that’s a good thing. Books help students to cultivate imagination and learn the basics of reading. A primary staple in any elementary classroom should be reading, as it can spark interesting ideas and also can be used as great introductions to lesson plans. Parents and teachers need to remember what is important about education and stop getting wrapped up in test scores. What an injustice we are doing to our children if we withhold precious childhood opportunities of loving picture books for a test score.

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