Thursday, August 22, 2013

Universal Preschool and Publishing

Does anyone know where Obama's Universal pre-K plan stands? Thoughts of it and its potential impact on publishing have been rumbling through my brain for some time now. According to the Washington Post last February, only 3 out of 10 four year olds currently attend preschool. To narrow the achievement gap, Obama wants to institute a program that would provide funding for preschool to all families 200% and lower than the poverty rate. These preschools would have strict academic standards with teachers trained and paid at the same levels as current k-12 teachers. I'm not saying this would eliminate the achievement gap, but as a teacher, I have no doubt that this would make a significant difference in the achievement of these students.

From the New America Foundation:
The president’s budget proposes $1.3 billion for 2014 and anticipates making awards to just 12 to 18 states. Recognizing that many states have a lot of work to do, the administration is also proposing a second, $750 million, pre-K grant program called Preschool Development Grants. These would be smaller, competitive grants and would help states build necessary infrastructure, such as workforce and facility development, to support the creation or expansion of pre-K programs.
As an author and illustrator, I'm thinking of the picture book market which has been in a slump for more than a decade. Let's pretend we doubled the preschool programs in the U.S. These classrooms need what?

Books! Picture books.

I hope publishers are thinking about this already and are gearing up to bring more young literature to the market. Because CORE standards are emphasizing nonfiction like never before, I would also expect publishers to be looking to acquire child-friendly NF, though children certainly need to be exposed to broad range of engaging text. (And as much as many publishers claim to be "not interested" in rhyming text, rhyming is hugely important to children as a pre-reading skill, which is why librarians include so much of it in their "storytimes" in public library programs. Hint, hint, publishers.)

What are your thoughts on the Obama initiative regarding preschool, and do you think this will affect the picture book market? Publishers, are you looking at this and planning for it, or do you expect to take a wait-and-see-attitude before increasing your PB offerings?

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