Friday, October 8, 2010

Please tell me this is a parody

The New York Times reports on the decline of picture books for young children:

The economic downturn is certainly a major factor, but many in the industry see an additional reason for the slump. Parents have begun pressing their kindergartners and first graders to leave the picture book behind and move on to more text-heavy chapter books. Publishers cite pressures from parents who are mindful of increasingly rigorous standardized testing in schools. . . .

Some parents say they just want to advance their children’s skills. Amanda Gignac, a stay-at-home mother in San Antonio who writes The Zen Leaf, a book blog, said her youngest son, Laurence, started reading chapter books when he was 4.

Now Laurence is 6 ½, and while he regularly tackles 80-page chapter books, he is still a “reluctant reader,” Ms. Gignac said.

Sometimes, she said, he tries to go back to picture books.

“He would still read picture books now if we let him, because he doesn’t want to work to read,” she said, adding that she and her husband have kept him reading chapter books.

I kept double-checking -- but no, it was the Times, not the Onion.

UPDATE: The mom quoted in the article responds here. It’s not hard to believe that a Times reporter might take someone’s words out of context.

1 comment:

StepfordTO said...

Regardless of whether or not the mom was quoted out of context, I do think this is a real trend. I've seen it with many of my daughters' friends--they were encouraged to read chapter books very early on, which meant that most of them had advanced to books like Harry Potter at a young age. Some parents I know have told me that their kids have "run out of things to read": they are bored by age-appropriate books (or they read them all when they were much younger), and the YA books are not appropriate content-wise. These kids have simply stopped reading for pleasure. The kids who have not stopped reading have moved on to things like The Hunger Games, a book that my two 11-year-olds would find nightmare-inducing. (On the other hand, my husband loved it!) In my opinion, it's all part of this newish phenomenon of not allowing our kids to be kids, of rushing them to grow up, to (for instance) specialize in a sport or an art early on, to demonstrate "expertise" in one area or another--i.e., to be mini-adults. I've been reading Neil Postman's The Disappearance of Childhood, which although a bit dated (first published in 1982), is quite astute about how and why this process of dismantling childhood is occurring.

(Please excuse garbled sentences--I'm a bit sleep deprived.)