Children’s Books

Fifty Top Literacy Statistics

27 May 2017

From the Ferst Foundation for Childhood Literacy:

1. The greatest amount of brain growth occurs between birth and age five. In fact, by age 3, roughly 85% of the brain’s core structure is formed. In contrast, the majority of our investments are made in the traditional education years of K-12, which begin at age five.“Lifetime Effects: The High/Scope Perry Preschool Study Through age 40.” Ypsilanti, MI: High/Scope Educational Research Foundation, 2005.

2. Cognitive processes develop rapidly in the first few years of life. At birth your baby’s brain is only 25 percent of its adult size. By age three your child’s brain will be 80 percent of its adult size.

3. The developing brain triples in the first year alone and is virtually fully formed by the time a child enters kindergarten. Eliot, L. (1999). What’s Going on in There? : How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life. Bantam Books.

4. Given the course of brain development, it is not surprising that young children who are exposed to certain early language and literacy experiences usually prove to be good readers later. Just as a child develops language skills long before being able to speak, the child also develops literacy skills long before being able to read. National Research Council. (1998). Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.

5. The average child from a professional family hears 215,000 words per week; a child from a working class family hears 125,000 words per week; and a child from a family receiving welfare benefits hears 62,000 words per week. Hart, B. & Risley, T.R. (1995). Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children. Baltimore, MD: Brookes Publishing.

6. Researchers found that when mother frequently spoke to their infants, their children learned almost 300 more words by age 2 than did their peers whose mothers rarely spoke to them. Huttenlocher et al., 1991. Early vocabulary growth: Relation to language input and gender. Developmental Psychology, 27, 236-248.

7. The most important aspect of parent talk is its amount. Parents who just talk as they go about their daily activities expose their children to 1000-2000 words every hour. Hart and Risley (1999) The social world of children learning to talk.

8. In the first three years, infants and toddlers begin acquiring the first of thousands of words they will use throughout their lives. Simultaneously, children are learning the rules of grammar as well as absorbing the social conventions that exist around communication in their community. Im, J., Osborn, C., Sánchez, S. and Thorp, E. (in press). Cradling Literacy: Building Teachers’ Skills to Nurture Early Language and Literacy Birth to Five. Washington, DC: ZERO TO THREE.

. . . .

16. The single most significant factor influencing a child’s early educational success is an introduction to books and being read to at home prior to beginning school. National Commission on Reading, 1985

17. Having books in the home is twice as important as the father’s education level. Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, 2010

18. The only behavior measure that correlates significantly with reading scores is the number of books in the home. The Literacy Crisis: False Claims, Real Solutions, 1998

19. An analysis of nearly 100,000 U.S. school children found that access to printed materials is the “critical variable affecting reading acquisition.” JMcQuillan, J. (1998). The Literacy Crisis: False Claims, Real Solutions.Heinemann.

20. The most successful way to improve the reading achievement of low-income children is to increase their access to print. Newman, Sanford, et all. “American’s Child Care Crisis: A Crime Prevention Tragedy”; Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, 2000.

21. Creating a steady stream of new, age-appropriate books has been shown to nearly triple interest in reading within months. Harris, Louis. An Assessment of the Impact of First Book’s Northeast Program. January 2003.

22. By the age of 2, children who are read to regularly display greater language comprehension, larger vocabularies, and higher cognitive skills than their peers. Raikes, H., Pan, B.A., Luze, G.J., Tamis-LeMonda, C.S.,Brooks-Gunn, J., Constantine,J., Tarullo, L.B., Raikes, H.A., Rodriguez, E. (2006). “Mother-child book reading in low-income families: Correlates and outcomes during the first three years of life.” Child Development, 77(4).

23. Children who are read to at least three times a week by a family member are almost twice as likely to score in the top 25% in reading compared to children who are read to less than 3 times a week. Denton, Kristen and Gerry West, Children’s Reading and Mathematics Achievement in Kindergarten and First Grade (PDF file), U.S. Department of Education, NCES, Washington, DC, 2002.

24. Children who live in print-rich environments and who are read to during the first years of life are much more likely to learn to read on schedule. Southern Early Childhood Association, “Making Books Part of a Healthy Childhood.”

25. Children with greater access to books and other print materials express more enjoyment of books, reading, and academics. Children’s Access to Print Material and Education Related Outcomes.

26. Children who are “well-read-to” (at least five times a week), when asked to tell a story, used more literary language than unread to children, and they used more sophisticated syntactic forms, longer phrases, and relative clauses. They were also better able to understand the oral and written language of others – an important foundation for the comprehension skills that will develop in the coming years. Wolf, M. (2007). Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain. New York: Harper Perennial.

27. Children growing up in homes with at least twenty books get three years more schooling than children from bookless homes, independent of their parents’ education, occupation, and class. Evans, M. D., Kelley, J., Sikora, J., & Treiman, D. J. (2010). Family scholarly culture and educational success: Books and schooling in 27 nations. Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, 28(2), 171-197.

28. Books contain many words that children are unlikely to encounter frequently in spoken language. Children’s books actually contain 50% more rare words than primetime television or even college students’ conversations. The Read-Aloud Handbook, by Jim Trelease.

29. The nurturing and one-on-one attention from parents during reading aloud encourages children to form a positive association with books and reading later in life. Reach Out and Read, Archives of Disease in Childhood, Reading Aloud to Children: The Evidence, 2008.

. . . .

32. In middle-income neighborhoods the ratio of books per child is 13 to 1, in low-income neighborhoods, the ratio is 1 age-appropriate book for every 300 children.  Neuman, Susan B. and David K. Dickinson, ed. Handbook of Early Literacy Research, Volume 2. New York, NY: 2006, p. 31

Link to the rest at Ferst Foundation for Childhood Literacy


Spy author Anthony Horowitz ‘warned off’ creating black character

22 May 2017

From BBC News:

Author Anthony Horowitz says he was “warned off” including a black character in his new book because it was “inappropriate” for a white writer.

The creator of the Alex Rider teenage spy novels says an editor told him it could be considered “patronising”.

Horowitz wanted a white and black protagonist in his new children’s books but says he is now reconsidering.

“I will have to think about whether this character can be black or white,” he told the Mail on Sunday.

“I have for a long, long time said that there aren’t enough books around for every ethnicity.”

Horowitz, who has written 10 novels featuring teenage spy Alex Rider, said there was a “chain of thought” in America that it was “inappropriate” for white writers to try to create black characters, something which he described as “dangerous territory”.

He said it was considered “artificial and possibly patronising” to do so because “it is actually not our experience”.

“Therefore I was warned off doing it. Which was, I thought, disturbing and upsetting.”

Link to the rest at BBC News and thanks to Kris for the tip.

PG remembers not long ago when there were not enough black characters in children’s books.


Fictional Truth

20 May 2017

From author Heidi Schulz via Nerdy Book Club:

I lie about telling lies. My official author bio says, “Lies to children for fun and profit,” but I strongly believe the job of a children’s author is to tell the truth.  Ever since Dick and Jane, I have depended on books to illuminate, reveal, or to reinforce truths that I already know—but never so much as I did when I was eleven, for that is when books first saved me.

One evening in my last year of elementary school, I went with a friend to a local roller-skating rink. There, a cute boy asked me to couple skate with him. Obviously, I said yes. But, unbeknownst to me, another girl had decided that this particular boy was off limits to anyone but her. Back at school on Monday morning, I found myself in the middle of a Girl War: me vs. every other girl in my grade.

For the rest of the school year—two long months—I was totally friendless. My interactions with the other girls ranged from being ignored to being outright ridiculed. Unfortunately for me, my home life wasn’t much better at the time.

It was a very painful period in my life. I may have sunk completely if I didn’t have books. Tucked safely between their covers, I saw bravery that gave me greater courage and injustices that helped me feel understood. I read the truth and it lifted me up.

. . . .

No matter what I write, I always strive to tell the truth.

Some stories are inspired by my own experiences. Take, for example, in Hook’s Revenge, when Captain Hook’s daughter, Jocelyn, reaches in her cloak pocket and finds it filled with cruel notes from the girls at her finishing school. That incident comes directly from the aforementioned Girl War, and my own small hand slipped into my coat pocket while heading out to recess.  The scene tells a lot of truths. Among them are these: Other people can be unkind. It hurts to feel different, even if we pretend it doesn’t. Sometimes we get angry. If we are lucky, a real friend will come along and keep us from doing something we might later regret.

In my latest publication and picture book debut, Giraffes Ruin Everything, I tell two seemingly opposite truths: Giraffes are terrible. Giraffes can be great friends.

In the book, the young narrator becomes increasingly frustrated with the company of a giraffe. The giraffe ruins the boy’s birthday party by spilling a glass of punch on his favorite shirt; an afternoon at the movies, by blocking the screen with its long, long neck; and even the boy’s No Giraffes Allowed secret clubhouse, by accidentally removing the rope ladder when it gets tangled in the animal’s legs.

This story also came from my own experiences, first from a childhood run-in with a nosy zoo giraffe that mistook my beloved baby doll’s head for a delicious snack.

Truth: Giraffes, pardon the expression, can be a real pain-in-the-neck. (And sometimes people can be, too.)

Link to the rest at Nerdy Book Club

Here’s a link to Heidi Schulz’ books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.


Robin Stevens’ anger over snobbery towards her books

15 May 2017

From The Bookseller:

A children’s author has described the labelling of her books as “too immature” for certain students as “heart-breaking”.

Robin Stevens tweeted about a message she received from a young fan who was told not to read her books in school because “she was too smart”. The comment gained support from other authors and publishers and was retweeted more than 250 times in two days.

The Murder Most Unladylike Mysteries (PRH) author said: “Dear teachers who tell your students that my books (or any books) are too ‘immature’ for them to read. You’re wrong. Please stop. A kid wrote to me explaining that she has to read my books at home because she is too smart to read them in school. My heart broke.”

Stevens told The Bookseller she found the situation “really concerning” in case it discourages children to read at all. She said: “It was an email that a kid of around 14 sent me from New Zealand but I’ve seen it in the UK as well. She was very smart and the teacher said she was too smart and she had to read my books at home.

“Sometimes kids in England have said ‘I love your books but teachers have said they are not high level enough for me’. It’s heart-breaking. Reading shouldn’t be like that. Kids should be able to dip in and out of different things in the way adults do – many kids are reading YA or Malory Towers [Hodder Children’s Books]. Comfort reading is about returning to books as a confident reader. Adults do it all the time – they could read The Essex Serpent (Serpent’s Tail) and The Girl on a Train (PRH) in the same week.”

. . . .

The author said she had rebelled as a child against dictated reading lists for pleasure. “My mother was given a list of books I should read when I was a child and I didn’t like this. I refused to read a book she bought me off the list which turned out to be Skellig [by David Almond, published by Hodder Children’s Books] – I read it 10 years later and loved it.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller


Ashdown Forest

10 April 2017

Author A.A. Milne would take his son on walks in Ashdown Forest, the which later inspired the Hundred Acre Wood from Winnie-the-Pooh. Illustrator E.H. Shepard also used the forest for inspiration while bringing the story to life. (Click the photo for a larger version)


Photo via Wikimedia Commons, licensed under Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication

Ashdown Forest, Milne and Shepherd memorial, Gill’s Lap. Photo via Wikimedia Commons, licensed under Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication


Dear Netflix: Don’t Photoshop Our Anne

7 April 2017

From Bookriot:

Anne, the new CBC/Netflix adaptation of Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery, has been getting a lot of hype. The series premiered on CBC on March 19th, and it’ll be available on Netflix on May 2nd and already there have been subtle differences between how the series is marketed towards CBC audiences versus the Netflix audiences–most notably in the respective trailers. Those differences have been interesting, but harmless. And then my friend Melanie Fishbane (author of the upcoming YA novel Maud, yes, about that Maud) and the biggest LMM fan I know shared this image:

. . . .

On the left, we have the CBC promo image. On the right, the Netflix image. Or as the added captions note, Canada vs. America (U.S.). The first obvious difference is the background color, but the more you look at the Netflix image, the more obvious it is that someone thought that fourteen-year-old Amybeth McNulty needed some serious Photoshop magic.

. . . .

In the Netflix version, Anne’s face has been elongated, her freckles lightened, and her teeth straightened. The circles under here eyes have been smoothed away, and it would seem that even her eyes are farther apart.

Link to the rest at Bookriot


Currency concerns could exile illustrators

4 April 2017

From The Bookseller:

This year’s Bologna Children’s Book Fair began with “a positive vibe” for many UK fairgoers, despite some anticipating a “rocky road” ahead as the impact of Brexit begins to hit their businesses.

. . . .

Usborne UK and commercial sales manager Christian Herrison noted a “positive vibe” at the fair, and said Brexit had rarely been mentioned in meetings at the fair. But he added: “I’d say Brexit is not at the forefront of people’s minds, but it’s there. It’s a concern. The only effect we’ve felt is the drop in the pound, which is hurting lots of publishers and making print buying more expensive. We will have to review r.r.p.s and how we produce books, and consider things such as whether we can afford to put as many stickers in our sticker books.”

United Agents’ Jodie Hodges echoed Herrison’s concerns. She said: “I worry about the costs of expensive books: picture books, novelty, pop-ups, board books etc. If the pound continues to suffer then the costs associated with producing these books will rise and inevitably start having an effect on authors and illustrators… It’s possible that advances and royalties will be hit.”

Hodges also pointed out the “Catch-22” for illustrators: they “are already barely earning enough from their advances and royalties, and they are also discouraged from publishing too widely for fear of cannibalising their own sales (domestically and internationally)… If it becomes even harder [for them] to earn a living from books then this will become a bigger issue.”

Agent Ben Illis said “the path ahead is a rocky one”, and he too envisioned a squeeze on authors and illustrators as publishers’ costs rose. Yet there may be a bright side, he said. “This may provoke a shake-up in the standard terms of agreement between authors and publishers. It may even open the door to some interesting new contractual models, which many would say would not be before time.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller


I haven’t been very enthusiastic

26 March 2017

I haven’t been very enthusiastic about the commercialization of children’s literature. Kids should borrow books from the library and not necessarily be buying them.

Beverly Cleary


How celebrity deals are shutting children’s authors out of their own trade

23 March 2017

From The Guardian:

Another day, another celebrity announces they are to “pen” a children’s book. Already this week, Jamie Lee Curtis has announced a “selfie-themed” tome, Chelsea Clinton a picture book about inspirational women and the Black Eyed Peas a graphic novel featuring zombies.

They join a slew of celebs cashing in on a burgeoning market. In the past month, model-turned-actor Cara Delevingne, TV presenter Dermot O’Leary and even politician and professional motormouth George Galloway have joined Frank Lampard, Danny Baker, Julian Clary and Fearne Cotton in vying to be the next JK Rowling.

Though publishers are notoriously cagey about money, industry sources say the advances paid to celebrities are considerably higher than the amounts usually doled out to children’s writers, whose contracts are won on talent rather than fame. Which explains the resentment many authors feel towards these incomers.

One prize-winning writer, who didn’t want to be named, left her last publisher after a new media star received a huge advance for a ghostwritten novel that consequently bombed. “The massive advances mean publishers put all their marketing into making these books work in order to earn back the investment,” she says. “So when they fail, not only have they taken money for publicity that could have helped the rest of us, but there is no money left.”

Link to the rest at The Guardian

But, but, curators of culture!


They know not what they say: Why a Guardian article about young readers’ appetite for print may be misleading

21 March 2017

From Melville House:

In the Guardian this week, Sian Cain opens an article called “Ebook sales continue to fall as younger generations drive appetite for print” with this assertion:

Readers committed to physical books can give a sigh of relief, as new figures reveal that ebook sales are falling while sales of paper books are growing — and the shift is being driven by younger generations.

Her numbers come from the Nielsen Corporation, whose data are generally read as closely by publishers as by those driving other media.

. . . .

While it’s true that, as a top-line revenue marker, e-books have declined over the past several years, it is not at all clear that this shift is being driven by innate preferences among younger readers, rather than factors more specific to the particular titles those young readers are buying. Take, for instance, the new Harry Potter book published last year by Scholastic, which Nielsen lists as 2016’s all-around top-seller. If you didn’t get a chance to read it, it was the script of a play, a genre ill-suited for e-books; factor in that many Potterheads probably want their own print copies as collectables, and the fact that this particular title has sold most heavily in print seems less relevant.

In fact, looking at Nielsen’s list of which kids’ books are selling well in print, we find many titles that may be ill-suited suited to electronic reading, from the scrawl-and-sketch-filled Diary of a Wimpy Kid series to the lushly illustrated The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Both are available as e-books, of course, but in both cases it seems likely that consumers are mindful of how much better the content is served by print.

. . . .

 As Andrew Nusca reported in Fortune a year and a half ago, print books are still on the decline as a trend. This doesn’t mean that there won’t be years in which the data seem to say otherwise, but rather that a larger, overall transition from print toward digital remains visible despite them. And an inquiry that excludes consideration of how a given year’s particular titles might work in varying formats is an incomplete one.

Link to the rest at Melville House

Of course, Author Earnings has shown us that traditional sources of industry information for the book business don’t include Amazon’s massive sales of ebooks. The OP from a traditional publisher is an interesting exception to this rule.

Pulling up to a higher level, anyone who has observed groups of teenagers lately will have seen an obsessive attention to their cell phones. The use of iPads and other tablets in many U.S. schools begins during the elementary years. The lack of computer screens and tablets in a school is generally regarded as a marker of a seriously under-resourced school system.

The idea that a screen-native generation will reliably believe that stories should be read on paper seems illogical. Yes, children are intrigued by colorful objects, be they books or toys, at least up to a certain age, but is that a basis for concluding that the future of printed books is anything but bleak?


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