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Saturday, August 24, 2019

The Evolution Of Children Reading Books

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Having grown up reading Dr. Seuss, Curious George, Golden Books, and other wonderfully illustrated and written children’s books, I just assumed it was always like this for kids.  But in truth, the phenomenon of great children’s books is a more recent invention, considering the nearly six-century literary tradition of book publishing in America.  To get a sense of the growth of children’s books, you may enjoy 100 Years of Children’s Book Week Posters: Celebrating Great Illustrators of American Children’s Books, by Leonard S. Marcus (sponsored by The Children’s Book Council and Every Child A Reader).

The book is more of a homage to how children’s book publishing -- and the encouragement of reading by kids has evolved over the last century.  

In 1919, Macmillan became the world’s first publisher to open an editorial department dedicated solely to the production of high-quality books for young readers.  That same year, from November 10-15, 1919, Children’s Book Week launched as a national event.

However, it wasn’t until 1973 that a half-dozen children’s bookstores existed in the U.S. A decade later, the number jumped to 200 and ten years later, the number doubled to 400. The total sales of children’s books in 1985 was $475 million but just six years later it more than doubled, crossing a billion dollars annually.  No doubt, the book industry knows how valuable children’s books are – for two reasons.  

First, they are virtually digital-proof and provide lots of print sales, which gets parents and caretakers into bookstores where they may buy books for themselves as well.  Second, if we don’t encourage the reading of books at an early age, we’ll find a generation of adults who don’t view books as something fun or necessary or useful.

But what should children’s books aim to do? 

Early on, publishers thought books needed to inculcate strong morals in our children.  Later, the shift in mindset was that books should help kids explore their imagination.  Now it might be both, with a  priority on making children literate and lovers of the book.

Marcus noted how “In 1906, the Brooklyn Public Library’s Clara Whitehill Hunt had spoken for many when she asserted that the chief aim in the education of the child…is the moral aim.  We claim the children’s library the possibility the duty of being a moral once in the community.”  Each book that a child read, Hunt argued, had the power to leave a lasting imprint for good or ill on the reader’s soul.  The stakes for both America’s young people and their gatekeepers could not be higher.  One generation later, librarians had come to a very different view, and thought less often about molding souls than they did about nurturing imaginations.”

The book features scores of posters that were put out each year to promote Children’s Book Week. The 100th anniversary will be celebrated November 4-10 this year.  For more information, check out https://everychildareader.net/.

When you study the posters featured in the book, you see some interesting slogans:

·         More books in the home!
·         After all – there is nothing like a good book!
·         Grow up with books: add a shelf for every year
·         Ride the book trail to knowledge and adventure.
·         Reading for Fun
·         Books to grow on
·         New books – new worlds
·         Reading:  The magic highway to adventure
·         Good books, good friends
·         Forward with books
·         Build the future with books
·         United through books
·         Books are bridges
·         Books for the world of tomorrow
·         Books tell the story
·         Make friends with books
·         New horizons with books
·         Reading is fun
·         It’s always book time
·         Go exploring in books
·         Go places with books
·         New horizons with books
·         Reading is fun
·         It’s always book time
·         Go exploring in books
·         Go places with books
·         Book power
·         Books now! Books wow!
·         Live!  Read!
·         Curious? Read
·         Anytime, anyplace, any book
·         Get lost in a book
·         Good books, good times
·         Reach for a book
·         The world is an open book
·         Books for everyone, everyone for books
·         Anytime is book time
·         Rise up reading
·         One world, many stories

Interestingly, none of the posters depicted an e-reader.  The focus is always on reading for fun, exploration, and imagination.  However, I didn’t see a poster that highlighted the benefits of reading:  knowledge, skills, empowerment.  The posters are always colorful and inviting – and they always show a child or cartoon character reading, holding a book, or bonding through reading.  Maybe a slogan involving connections would be useful, and can serve as a play on words for the social media savvy.

We must all support the ecosystem of reading for children.  More libraries, indie bookstores, parents engaging children at home, and school teachers encouraging your readers is the formula for a better world.

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”
--Gandhi

“Everyone things of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”
--Leo Tolstoy

“Let us never negotiate out of fear.  But let us never fear to negotiate.”
--John F. Kennedy

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Brian Feinblum’s insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are his alone and not that of his employer or anyone else. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2019. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent.  This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby http://blog.bookbaby.com/2013/09/the-best-book-marketing-blogs and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by WinningWriters.com as a "best resource.” He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America.

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