Money makes the world go round: A blog about the business and culture of all things entertaining in the world of theater, television, film, music, art, gadgets, gizmos and other life necessities (and probably other things, knowing myself)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Saying goodbye to childhood a little does it affect our economy?

As with everything else during this economic downturn, publishers for children’s books are seeing a big dent in their incomes. Scholastic, Simon & Schuster and Penguin Young Reader Group have all noticed a significant decline in the sales of picture books within the past few years. At certain Barnes & Nobles stores, toys and games are paired with some picture books to boost sales. 

Publishers are unsure of what the actual cause behind disappointing sales are but some have suspicions that parents are pushing their kids away…from childhood, that is. Many parents prefer their children read chapter books and get over the picture book stage as quickly as possible – they’re probably afraid their kids won’t be able to get decent jobs with the market looking so bleak. Or that spending too much time on pictures of animals will eventually stop them from becoming president or getting into an ivy league school one day. Or let’s blame it on the school system and conclude that staggering pressures from standardized tests allows no room for picture books: We must get our 4-year-olds to read chapter books immediately!

The interesting factor in all of this is that the young adult fiction genre has been growing, as we have all witnessed the hysterias related to the Twilight and Harry Potter series. Like many of my friends, I am guilty of continuing my fondness for young adult books way past my young adult age. From what I understand, this is a common theme since many fans of young adult series are, well, not young adults. But why are adults still enjoying stories that are meant for those two, three, four times our juniors? Is it because the storylines are so superb or is it because we want to stay in some fantasy land that doesn’t consist of being a grown up?

We've seen this trend developed for quite some time now: parents and society (let’s not blame it all on the parents) are forcing children to grow up fast, hence, the decline in children’s picture books. But are children growing up faster or do they end up staying in their childhood longer than we think? Could saying goodbye to your childhood too fast ultimately lead to staying in a young adult life much longer than intended?

Generation Y, or the Millennial Generation, is growing up slower than any before us. Yes, the economy has made it difficult for us to spread our wings and be the grown up our age requires of us, but can we be expected to fly with this limited job market and retirees putting off retirement because their savings aren’t where it’s suppose to be? I mean, we’ve been told our entire lives that we’re great, we’re the echo boomers, the trophy kids. The majority of us grew up with more belongings than our parents or grandparents ever had. But we were also pushed into growing up too quickly.

What has all the preparation really done for us? We have some snobby sense of entitlement, many of us graduated from college without decent job prospects and a lot of us move back in with our parents. Or even worse, we just don't move out. We are risk averse – we get married much later (but not for the right reasons) and we have no sense of responsibilities. I’m not saying everyone here; I am merely saying if I had to categorize the generation as a whole, this is what would come to mind. 

So what’s the bottom line?

Parents: please allow your children to continue reading picture books! It is an endless cycle - parents pushing their children to grow up too fast, modifying to society’s norms and then comes the decline of certain businesses that have an impact on all of us. It’s not just about children’s picture books, but of all books. Must we all advance so quickly that we forget about the joys certain traditional mediums have to offer?

I saw a group of children sitting on a sidewalk playing with an iPad the other day- no assistance required. I doubt they were reading a book online. Is this the snapshot of the coming generation?  To be honest, I am not sure if allowing your children to read children’s picture books beyond the age of four will help anything, but I am sure it will help publishing houses and that will, in turn, help another sector of our economy…right? Right.


  1. Viv,
    I agree generation Y was built to learn fast and create a better more efficient tomorrow but with very tainted tools to do that with--an interesting economic time, a small amount of opportunity. The ones that will survive will be those who were not fed with a silver spoon and can create a niche for themselves. But the next generation?? I think we are still on the verge of deciding the positive/negative outlook on our future's fast-paced technological break throughs. I think what happens to us (generation Y) in the coming 10 years will decide our kids process. We will either simplify and find new meaning in the horse and carriage, good old candle light and drawn out picture books or re-define "simplify" with gadgets that create a whole new technological understanding. And yes, I think you've got it all plotted out, true, the money of it all may be our fate. Vicious.

  2. Vivian,
    Awesome, insightful article! I think that you bring a couple of especially good points. Its true that while it is great to have children exposed to the newest kinds of technology, I think parents overlook the fact that there is not substitute for learning to read and write effectively, the acquisition of knowledge, and providing inspirations and outlets for children to express their own developing creativity. New substitutes for print media and literature offer amazing opportunities for learning and instruction,(not to mention, they are can be much easier on the environment), but I have to agree, the kids I baby sat last weekend had no ebooks on those ipads (though they could virtual tic-tac-toe like pros). Maybe we are squandering a great opportunity by not introducing these new technological tools appropriately.

    While parents are racing their kids to the Fortune 500 finish line, I wonder are they actually slowing them down in the long run. What happens when the children become adults and need to rely on their own motivation to create and innovate what may very well make the ipad and netbook obsolete? Will they even have the discipline to sit still long enough to do so?