I was surprised to find that yesterday’s Ezra Jack Keats event at the New York Public Library was not the announcement of the 2011 award winners (that will be May 10th), but a discussion about the award, its history, and the current state of picture books. Although I was initially pumped up to hear the award winners announced, it turned out to be a rather pleasant surprise, as the conversation was smart, illuminating, and directed by some of the most interesting and well-read women in the biz.
The discussion ranged from the frustration in finding quality picture books about and by people of color, to the importance of arts education in shaping and encouraging future writers and illustrators, to the explosion of ebooks and children’s book apps and the place of picture books in this brave new world.
Although some of the arguments and predictions reiterated points that I have heard before, it was nevertheless refreshing to hear a panel of experts talk so passionately and confidently about the future of the picture book. This was no doom and gloom affair, but rather a confirmation of what all savvy librarians and teachers already know to be true: the picture book is alive and well, thank you very much.
One point, made by Lisa Von Drasek, that really stuck with me was that librarians and teachers have a responsibility to spread the gospel of the picture book as a medium for all ages (not just babies and toddlers) to the parents in our communities. It’s all well and good to attend panel discussions, conferences, and participate in the kidlit blogosphere, but that’s a little like preaching to the choir. The places we really need to reach are the mommy, daddy, and caregiver networks. This has really got me thinking about how to use this blog to reach out farther and better to parents and caregivers. Hmmm…. Definitely some very good food for thought.
Many thanks to the amazing and brilliant panelists, and to NYPL and the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation for organizing and hosting the event.