How long should a picture book be?

picture book readingI was listening to a picture book author recently talking about word count. Apparently, the word count for picture books has been steadily declining over the years. She gave this reason:

Parents don’t want to spend too much time reading a book to their kids. A thousand word story including time for looking at pictures and asking question is just too much for bedtime, or story time, or any time. Three hundred words sound much better. One hundred words sounds great. Fifty…

I was outraged. How could anybody do this? Not enough time for reading to your kids? Oh please. I mean, we all know that if we don’t read enough to our kids they will never grow up to be emotionally healthy adults, right? Who would risk that?

And then I calmed down and went to read to my kids. And I noticed a book that my children love, love, love. And yet, it’s placed out of sight high up on the shelf. Why? Because it is a really long book. And not only is the story really long, it also has an envelope on each page with a really long letter in it. We are talking about three thousand words here. And with the reading, picture looking, opening and closing all the letters, asking and answering questions, etc. it’s takes a very long time to read it.

So I hid it. And then I got outraged about the word count in picture books. And then I realized that I hide books that take too long to read. And then I felt awful. Ashamed. Hypocritical.

And then I took the book back down. And we read. For a very long time.

It was nice. (And it took a long time.)


One thought on “How long should a picture book be?

  1. Cheryl Hoker

    Everybody has moments (and sometimes even days) when we just need to take the shortcut or the short book, in this case. And then there are the moments that bring us back to the heart of our mission and we have the time and/or the energy to be more indulgent. Raising children is a marathon, and just like in any marathon, (not like I have run one, but I have heard) we have to pace ourselves. That is not an easy thing to remember when we have high expectations of how we want to do this. But it is oh so necessary. So cut yourself some slack and remember that you are doing a great job…..even on the days when you read the picture book with only 50 words.


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