Saturday afternoon, I took part in a fun and lively discussion entitled “The Living Picture Book: Have Reports of Its Death been Greatly Exaggerated?” at New York Public Library’s main branch. Miriam Lang Budin, head of Children’s Services at the Chappaqua Library, led the conversation between Deborah Pope, executive director of the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation; Lisa Von Drasek, of Bank Street College of Education; author and illustrator, Pat Cummings; and myself. Insightful comments were also made by our audience of librarians, teachers and book industry professionals.
Is the picture book business in decline? I certainly took a lot away from the conversation that explored the challenges of maintaining diversity in both the subjects and makers of picture books in tight economic times, to the value of picture books in teaching visual literacy and relevance of picture books for children even after they are proficient readers. Well, it does seem that fewer picture books have been published in the last few years, though perhaps, it was suggested, the market had been a bit over-saturated. Everyone in the room was reminded of the importance of communicating the value of picture books to others and the value of social media to help introduce readers to good books. E-books and apps were also discussed as new opportunities to get books into the hands of readers and additional to the ways to share stories with children.
It seems that the picture book business just changing with changing times. Meanwhile, check out the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation. It is a terrific organization dedicated to bringing quality picture books to the front and center. http://www.ezra-jack-keats.org/