An article in the Atlantic entitled Is Google Making us Stupid came to my attention this morning. The author starts out by writing about his inability to concentrate on long articles or books. I have to admit I have noticed the same affliction in myself. In fact, I ended up skimming through his rather longish article as well.
I had put the phenomenon down to too much television watching. As a result, I decided to watch less and read more. Unfortunately, I haven’t curtailed my use of the internet as well. Less TV has helped some, I have been able to devour a few more books in the last months, but they haven’t been really thick ones, and on top of that, they’ve been mid grade and young adult fiction titles. The non-fiction 500+ pages books I have on my to-read pile have remained untouched.
I wonder if this changing of our minds and the sound bites our brains are now accustomed to receiving via the web, the phone and the TV haven’t been the reason for the sharp reduction of the word count in picture book text. I have children’s books from my childhood. There was a lot more story intermingled in the illustrations. I also have books from my daughter’s younger years. Again the word count is much more than today’s typical picture book.
Publishers Weekly has been reporting for years that the publishing industry is in trouble. Children’s books are among the hardest hit. Kids just aren’t being read bedtime stories on a regular basis anymore. There is too much competition for their attention. Even pre-schoolers have access to the net these days, with tons of sites geared just to them and their level of development.
Think about it, when was the last time you actually picked up a pen and scribbled a letter? I’m not talking about signing you name to a get well card or the annual holiday season greeting card. I’m talking about an actual letter where you relay your life’s doings to a friend or family member, fold up and place in an envelope, address and place a stamp on and deposit in the mail box for the postman to pick up. It’s been a long time since I’ve done that. It’s been even longer since I received one. The last handwritten letter I got was so long ago, I don’t even remember when it was. I do receive typed (most likely on a PC in a word program of some description) letters on occasion. The last one was in late January. I have it on my desk, still awaiting a reply, which I have on my to-do list, but that’s another story.
Will the future of picture books see the reduction of the text part reduced into nothingness? Will the picture books in 10-20 years be all wordless books?