Picture Books: Word Count

In the world of picture book writing, one of the important guidelines of the time is reduce the word count.  But why ?  Two of the reasons I have heard in response to this are:

– Picture books are expensive to make, today’s picture books are typically 32 pages or less. Word Count is typically under 700.

– Kids have to many other competing interests like TV, Video Games, activities, etc. They have shorter attention spans. They don’t want to read long books.

I do agree kids have a lot more going on today than say thirty years ago. But for editors to think that today’s kids can’t handle longer books, well I think that is short-changing today’s bright young minds. Afterall, they are reading early readers by KG. Heck I didn’t even learn to read til first grade. I still remember “Spot gets a ball”, how boring.

Some of my kids (3 and 5 years) favorite books are:
Blueberries for Sal, pages=64  word count=1042
Cat in the Hat, pages=61 word count=1621
An Undone Fairy Tale, pages=32 word count=1218

If a book gets a kid’s attention I don’t think word count is an issue. However, I think one of the issues is that today’s multi-tasking, overworked, parents may not want to read long books?

Today as I was browsing through the local children’s bookstore, searching for the next great children’s book, I found myself steering away from longer picture books. As I was driving home I asked myself why, the reason is I don’t have time in the evenings. Once the kids come home there is a 2 hour window for them to eat, play a little, bathe, and get ready for bed. Most days it is already very near the “lights out time” when we get to the reading books. So for now short, funny, easy to understand books are what works for me.

I do still read the longer books when my girls ask, but I try to negotiate to reading only one book for the evening (typical is 2 to 3 books), or push the request off to the next night when I set aside more time for reading.

I also need to be a little bit more careful next time I get a long book for them, in that I need to make sure I really, really love the book. I have been reading to them “An Undone Fairy Tale” every night for the last month. I don’t mind the book length so much, except that my girls ask questions on every page spread. So it takes us twice as long as normal to get through the book.

Here is to hoping their next favorite book is shorter!

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One Comment to “Picture Books: Word Count”

  1. I agree. Long books, as long as they are good books should still be published!

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