My 7 year old niece came to visit recently and I was able to do something I hadn’t done in a long time, sit down and read picture books with a child. I read children’s books all the time, for research and enjoyment, but it isn’t the same as that bond you get when you are sitting with a child sharing a book.
I pulled out some of the picture books I had saved from my childhood, stories I hadn’t read in years. And as I began reading, I was amazed at the changes in children’s books. Back when fire was new and dinosaurs were pets, picture books had long wordy story lines. If I submitted a manuscript that long today they would either reject the manuscript outright or ask me to chop it down to size. Today’s writing is more streamlined and compact, when you only have 1000 words to tell your story a lot of adjectives get thrown away.
There are some who say we are creating a generation of children who think in soundbites and 30 second bits of information. I would have to agree, today’s children have too many choices available to them, if something doesn’t capture their attention they will move on to something else.
My husband recently read “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.” One complaint he had for the book was the extensive descriptions used in the story. I pointed out to him that when the book was published in 1869, a world before television, radio or the internet, those descriptions would be essential for the understanding of the story. The reader could be a family living on the prairie or deep in the woods and they would have to rely on those descriptions to gain a full understanding of the story. Today if we don’t know what a league is or what a squid looks like we can look in a book or on the internet, the reader in 1869 didn’t have that luxury.
I don’t know where we will head in the future but I will hold onto the past a little longer. I still love my old picture books and someday I may be able to share them with my own grandchildren, that is if they will sit still long enough to listen the story.
Writing on the Sidewalk