Week of February 27—One Writer’s View of the State of Picture Books Monday, February 28—How to Save an Endangered Species
Picture books are said to be on the endangered species list. As a child of the 60s I grew up hearing about endangered species. In fact, the Endangered Species Act was passed in 1967. The efforts of endangered species activists have saved many species and some species have even been removed from the endangered list. Yes, of course, some species have been lost, but far fewer than would have been lost without action.
But picture books endangered? Say it isn’t so. Evidently, the economy coupled with children moving into chapter books at earlier and earlier ages are to blame. Of course, lack of sales of picture books is the bottom line threatening the species.
Some of the same actions taken to protect endangered animal species could also be used to protect the endangered picture book.
1. Nurture them.
Talk about picture books. Use picture books in lessons, lectures, and sermons. Cherish and value them. Laugh with them. Cry with them. Be amazed at them. Tell others about them.
2. Protect their habitat
Picture books live with families and in schools, classrooms, and libraries.
You can help protect these habitats by:
· Giving picture books as gifts.
· Donating picture books to a school media center or public library.
· Sharing book lists (such as Caldecott or Golden Kite award-winning books) with parents, teachers, school media specialists, and public librarians.
· Become a volunteer in a media center and offer to read picture books to children.
· Develop lesson plans based on or using picture books. Share the lesson plans on a database, web site, or in other ways.
Another habitat for picture books is book stores—independent and the big-chain ones. Often the children’s buyer or the manager of a store would be open to a volunteer coming in to read picture books to children, setting up seasonal picture book displays, and conducting author visits and signings.
3. Remember—only the strongest and fittest will survive
Not every picture book can be saved. Just as in the wild, only the strong will survive. For picture books that means the best crafted and most unique books and the ones that resonant with the audience. By strongest and fittest I don’t mean rhyme over non-rhyme or fiction over non-fiction. I do mean quality over quantity.
4. Intervene to help newborns
Become the champion of new, talented picture book authors. Mentor those authors and refer them to others who can help launch and grow their careers. When you find a picture book that is exceptional, extraordinary, and a cut above the rest, spread the news. Write a column for your local newspaper, tell teachers and librarians, blog about them, feature them on your website, and visit your local book stores to encourage book sellers to stock the books.
5. Join with others of like mind and let your voice be heard
Endangered animal species were rescued by the actions of many. The same could be true for picture books. When those of us who know the value of these colorful, carefully-crafted wonders unite to talk about them and when we encourage others to read and value them, we may be ensuring that this endangered species never becomes extinct.