Pretty Things

Peter Campbell

The literature of pre-literacy reaches its audience by way of adults – parents, teachers, librarians and so on. The best reason for learning to read is to escape from what they prescribe or tolerate. Being neither buyers nor readers, the ultimate audience for picture books is doubly disadvantaged when it comes to influencing what is provided for them. Yet it has on the whole been well served by the teachers and librarians who, in Britain and the USA at least, are still major buyers of hard-cover picture books. The mass markets of cheap annuals and paperbacks are another matter – although the huge increase in the number of titles in soft covers, many of which have already had a long life as library books, heartens anyone who cares about the health of the picture-book form.

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