Any parent who was an enthusiastic reader as a kid has probably noticed that children’s books look a lot different these days. All you have to do is go to the book section geared towards the 7-10 year-old crowd and you’ll see the book-equivalent of a loud cartoon smattered all over neon-colored pages.
Not only do children’s books have way more illustrations compared to years past, but the text is often bolded or broken up into small chunks reminiscent of a mom hiding an extra serving of vegetables in her spaghetti sauce. On top of that, story lines are often fast-paced, repetitive, and have minimal character development. What’s the deal? When did writers start to underestimate a child’s ability to appreciate good literature?
I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve purchased a couple of these freakishly frenzied books for my own two kids, thinking they would be enticed to pick these up on their own accord. One of these purchases include the George Brown Class Clown series. True, my kids enjoyed the first two books in the series. They are cute, silly, and predictable. However, by the third book, both of my kids were bored because they were all the same. And no, they never did feel inclined to read these on their own. So I put away the “book candy” and tried to find something more meaningful.
A day later, we started reading a book from my own childhood, The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks. I wasn’t sure if my kids were going to stay engaged in the quiet story about an average boy and his magical cupboard especially since the illustrations were not only sparse, but (gasp!) black and white. But they did stay engaged, in fact, they loved every minute of it and protested each night when I stopped reading. Even to this day, they remember so much about that book and still talk about the characters. Why? Because the story has depth, and real human emotion that even our little ones can relate to. I really hope this trend in children’s books comes to a much-needed end soon enough. Our kids deserve better.