NYT: parents exchange picture books for middle grade

Parents have begun pressing their kindergartners and first graders stop reading picture books in favor of more text-heavy chapter books, according to an article in today’s New York Times.

“They (children) are 4 years old, and their parents are getting them ‘Stuart Little,’” One bookstore owner told the reporter. “I see children pick up picture books, and then the parents say, ‘You can do better than this, you can do more than this.’”

Publishers’ numbers show this isn’t just a phase, either. In the past year, Simon & Schuster has published has published 35 percent fewer picture books, the article quotes. In the past three years, Scholastic has decreased the number of hardcover children’s picture books it prints by 5 to 10 percent.

Now, I don’t think children’s picture books are going to go anywhere in hurry. If anything, they’ll definitely outlast the print newspaper industry. However, it makes me think about the implications for the middle grade novel.

More kindergartners are reading Charlotte’s Web than The Hungry Caterpillar? That means by the time they’re in third grade, which is the level I’m writing my book for, then they’re going not only want, but also need more advanced books than what’s published now.

The biggest criticism I hear about my manuscript is that it’s too advanced for elementary students. This article definitely makes me reconsider that feedback and gives more credence to my gut.