Reflecting on the historical developments of children’s literature, I am still at odds with myself as to whether I should be lamenting the solidity of printed literature or excited by the prospect of the digital age of children’s literature. In pondering this, I am reminded of the concern of society when oral storytelling made way for print. With every change there comes some uncertainty, some level of wistfulness for the familiar and fear of the unknown. However, the developments that we are now seeing in multimedia offerings in children’s literature are probably not easily understood by non-digital natives. As an early adopter of most technology, it is difficult for me to not be excited by the prospect of the ever increasing digitisation of children’s literature. As a Teacher Librarian with limited capacity in a small school library and the ever increasing need to make budgets stretch further, there is even more impetus to want to drive some of the change towards this type of content. So then, what is my vision for the future of children’s literature? I have a few concerns about the five trends raised by McLean (2013): 1) The rise of the empowered author; 2) The rise of the empowered consumer; 3) The rise of the empowered child; 4) New patterns of content emergence; and 5) Drivers of choice are stable but delivery is not), but I am also excited by some of these. Most of my concern relates to the quality of the literature being produced as a result of these five suggested trends. Empowered authors allows direct engagement with the children reading their stories. This is a very positive aspect of social media and its benefits. Children no longer have to wait for teachers/Teacher Librarians or parents to choose the authors that they engage with through author visits, signing or Writer’s Workshops. Children can follow their favourite author’s blogs, learn about the writing process, watch illustrators and learn how to create stories and images and become involved at the level that they wish. This truly is a worthy future development to facilitate and one that is consistent with my vision for the future. The rising empowerment of consumers and children and new patterns of content emergence is where most of my concerns lie. As the mother of a teen, I have seen first hand how the developing fan-fiction genre, easily accessible to children with an internet connection or using apps such as WattPad can affect the quality of children’s writing. This new pattern of content emergence is largely pushed to children through peers and social media, including YouTube personalities. Although I am not one for encouraging restrictions on literature, caution must be taken that students’ reading breadth is wide and varied to include Eragon, The Perks of Being a Wallflower and anything by Roald Dahl, along with the many and varied other reputable children and young adult authors. This is not a new dilemma however, and can be easily tempered by being aware of popular versus quality literature, as a parent and teacher, and balancing the two with nudges in the right direction. Which of course brings us to the question of the drivers of change. We are now seeing consumer demand (and publisher support?) leading to the development of ‘like’ minded stories, particularly when they translate well onto the big screen. Did ‘SickLit’ as a genre even exist before “The Fault in our Stars”? There is now a plethora of SickLit in every book shop and Library. I believe that this will continue to be the major drive for change. The same is true with children’s reading habits. Their familiarity with devices and ability to navigate what seems to older generations, quite complex actions to access the apps they want, will continue to drive change towards e-books. Their ease of accessibility, usually lower price point, portability, the list goes on… makes e-books the choice of the future for a generation of children that have grown up with a smart phone in their hand as babes in strollers. This is where teachers need to wedge themselves in both sides of the story camp and use their influence to guide students to good quality stories and texts in the format that is best for that story or text. User preference for format will always be varied. For me there is nothing like opening a box of new books, smelling their fresh pages, feeling the texture of the words on the page and exploring the images and how they interact with the words. On the other hand, the convenience of being able to carry around a whole library of text books for study, novels for pleasure, and fiction and information texts for my children’s education and entertainment, all in one device, is immeasurable. For the time being though, e-book versions of picture books are still very sub-standard and cannot compare to print. In preparation for an upcoming author visit, one recent purchase of an e-book that I made really highlighted how poorly picture books can transfer into e-versions. Although the print version of the picture book “Marlo can fly” by Robert Vescio is a heartfelt read and beautifully illustrated, the electronic version of the same book is clunky, limited to single page spreads and requires going back and forth between each page. Although this hasn’t put me off purchasing e-books for personal use, it is definitely a consideration when purchasing for classroom use and teaching. Where this format is beginning to excel is in the more unique, interactive elements that this format supplies. For example, “Sherlock: Interactive Adventure” (HAAB, 2015) is the next level of the choose your own adventure genre, requiring not only reading and comprehension of text but also decision-making and problem solving with a strong narrative throughout. Interestingly enough though, one of the latest developments in e-books is the ‘Bridging Book’ (“Bridging Books”, 2014) which combines both a printed book and a device to display the full content of the story along with additional story features. Will they co-exist happily like the Bridging Book gimmick? Johnathon Gunston’s (2014) article ‘Will printed books disappear? Stephen King on the future of the traditional paperback’ highlights the depth of this debate. Tim Waterstone, Founder of UK bookstore chain ‘Waterstone’, claims that print will never be dead and e-books are a passing fad, but author Stephen King argues that print fiction is dead, mainly because of the lower price point for the same story delivered electronically. What is clear is that there is a place in the world for both formats. They stand alone according to personal preferences and situations but they can equally weave and intertwine to enhance the magic of stories in ways that we have only ever dreamed of before. As Krystina Madej (2003) points out, “Each medium – oral tradition, print, radio, the movies, television, video – has added its own sound to the orchestra of storytelling as it has evolved. Each is important in its own right. Each influences, is used by, and depends on, the others.” (pg. 2).
- Bridging Books. (2014). Retrieved from http://www.bestinteractiveebooks.com/2013/06/bridging-book/
- Gunston, J. (2014). Will printed books disappear? Stephen King on the future of the traditional paperback. Bestseller Labs: Practical advice on how to get published and grow your readership. Retrieved from http://bestsellerlabs.com/no-more-books-stephen-king/
- HAAB. (2015). Sherlock: Interactive Adventure. (Version 1.6).[Mobile application software]. Retrieved from: https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/sherlock-interactive-adventure/id820860824?mt=8
- McLean, K. (2013). The future of children’s books in five trends. [Powerpoint slides]. Retrieved from http://www.slideshare.net/BKGKristen/toc-bologna-2013-keynote
- MaMadej, K. (2003). Towards digital narrative for children: From education to entertainment, a historical perspective. Computers in Entertainment, 1(1), 1-17. doi: 10.1145/950566p.950585
Please join HarperCollins Publishers in congratulating renowned artist Bronwyn Bancroft who has been nominated for the 2016 Hans Christian Andersen award.
Bronwyn is an acclaimed Aboriginal artist and designer and a descendant of the Djanbun clan of the Bundjalung nation. Bronwyn’s artistic career has been expansive and diverse and ranges from fashion design to children’s book illustration.
Bronwyn has illustrated a number of children’s book for HarperCollins, including the award-winning The Fat and Juicy Place by Diana Kidd, Stradbroke Dreamtime by Oodgeroo Noonuccal and The Whalers, Minah and Dirrangan.
Bronwyn also illustrated Sun Mother Wakes the World: An Australian Creation Story by Diana Wolkstein, which was published by HarperCollins US in 2004 and named in the New York Public Library’s annual list for Children’s Book – 100 titles for Reading and Sharing.
In 1994 Bronwyn was the Australian candidate for the UNICEF Ezra Jack Keats International Award for Excellence…
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