word craft


“Not Lost in a Book”

child screen time

Slate, an online mag­a­zine devot­ed to polit­i­cal affairs, cul­ture, and cur­rent trends, recent­ly had an arti­cle about mid­dle school read­ing and pub­lish­ing that I think is required read­ing for any of us inter­est­ed in children’s books. The title of the arti­cle is “Not lost in a book.”

Read it

The writer (Dan Kois) reports that the sale of mid­dle grade books is rad­i­cal­ly down. Kids in third and fourth grade have stopped their fun read­ing, a trend pushed by the pan­dem­ic. Screen time is an issue, but the way read­ing hap­pens in schools these days is a greater prob­lem. It’s the new cur­ricu­lum. “In ele­men­tary school,” to quote the arti­cle, “you read, you take a quiz, you get the points. You do a read­ing log, and you have to read so many min­utes a day. It’s real­ly tak­en a lot of the joy out of reading.”

All this is rad­i­cal­ly mut­ing the love of free deep read­ing at a cru­cial stage in child development.

The result? “More and more pub­lish­ers are look­ing for light, fun­ny-sto­ries-with-pic­tures that can help uncer­tain read­ers make the leap from pic­ture books to big-kid books.”

In oth­er words, lit­er­a­ture is con­sid­ered sus­pect. The lit­er­ary book is not what pub­lish­ers want because, quite sim­ply, they are not sell­ing. Part of the rea­son they are not sell­ing is because they are under attack.

Nev­er for­get that pub­lish­ing is a for prof­it business.

It doesn’t help that pub­lish­ers have giv­en over much of their mar­ket­ing to social media.

I can speak from per­son­al expe­ri­ence about all this. I had two books in the pipeline, only to be turned away because “kids won’t care about the sub­ject.” And, “No one wants his­tor­i­cal fic­tion. Too risky.”

I have heard this from sev­er­al editors.

Let me has­ten to say I did sell one of those books, but it was a strug­gle. And I do have a track record that helps.

But if you are con­sid­er­ing writ­ing a thought­ful, expe­ri­ence-immers­ing sto­ry, you are going to have a dif­fi­cult time pub­lish­ing, sell­ing, and get­ting kids to read it.

Hard times in the world of reading.

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