It is not necessary to be very observant so that, when entering any children’s bookstore, it is clear that informative illustrated albums are becoming more and more present. Sometimes, there are even sections and shelves full of titles that, combining text and illustrations, explain to readers of all ages curiosities about animals, planets, healthy eating, mythology, dinosaurs, history, feminism, sexuality, science, rights humans or philosophy, among many other increasingly specific and specialized topics. These non-fiction titles are a new boom in the ever-effervescent children’s and youth book sector, and more and more publishers are joining it, in a healthy competition from which, ultimately, readers win with more and more proposals. interesting.
“For readers, these types of albums are very attractive, because in the end they start from the beginning of everything: curiosity. Boys and girls are curious by definition and, for this reason, these albums are generally more attractive to them than the literary album”, says Rosa Tabernero, university professor, director of the Master’s Degree in Reading, Books and Readers for Children and Youth at the University of Zaragoza and coordinator of the book Reading out of curiosity: non-fiction books in the formation of readers (Editorial Graó). “In fact,” he continues, “there is already research that has shown that the nonfiction album is liked more at the first levels of reading than fiction, among other things because it involves less elaborate thinking.” In addition, Tabernero considers that the growth of this genre also has a lot to do with the demand from families and schools: “The current educational curriculum is demanding the development of informational competence and also the capacity for critical reading. These albums offer tools to develop both skills from an early age”.
To these factors, Marta Lozano, editor of the Maeva Young publishing house, adds a third: “In a publishing world marked by the saturation of novelties and the ephemeral life of most of the titles, these albums have a much better chance of staying for longer. time in bookstores. “Many talk about universal themes and early readers from now and five years ago, for example, are asking the same questions,” she adds.
The informative illustrated albums are children of the books of photographs and encyclopedic character that constituted a revolution decades ago. “This category of books has always existed, although before perhaps they were more school books than playful. Today non-fiction illustrated books are no longer boring and brainy encyclopedias”, says Lluís Cassany, CEO of Mosquito Books, a Barcelona publisher specializing in news albums. Cassany believes that publishers are increasingly investing “more time and money” in presenting information in an attractive way and without punishing readers “with big rolls” that demotivate them. “The information is designed to be transmitted in short, easy-to-read blocks,” he adds.
For Rosa Tabernero, this evolution has a lot to do with the development of the digital society, since in a context like the current one, in which all the information is just a click away, a book of traditional encyclopedic knowledge “would not make the slightest sense ”. An opinion shared by Marta Lozano: “It seems that all the answers are on the internet, but these are books that offer a pause in that marabunta of information: it appears structured, adapted to the level of the reader and ordered into a whole in which text and design are inseparable.
That design concept is fundamental. Maeva Young has in her catalog graphic and design jewels such as the History albums Grecomania either egyptomania, of the Italian duo formed by Emma Giuliani and Carole Saturno, or the spectacular works full of die-cuts and flaps by the French artist Hélène Druvert. “We bet on exceptional aesthetic proposals from prestigious artists in which the topic they present is rigorously treated, but also thinking that the reader finds it fascinating and accessible”, explains Lozano.
A shared vision from Mosquito Books, which in its founding decalogue as a publisher already makes clear its “vocation for beauty”. As Lluís Cassany points out, the aesthetic proposal is at the base of his editorial action: “We dedicate many hours to, firstly, attracting talent and, secondly, planning and designing the book to convey what we want to convey in a beautiful and motivating way”. Which is not to say that the content is not taken care of. Among its authors are Roger Vila, a CSIC researcher known as The Indiana Jones of butterflies; Anna Omedes, director of the Museum of Natural Sciences of Barcelona; or Marta Yustos, until recently a popularizer at the Museum of Human Evolution in Burgos. “The quality of the texts is one of the most recent innovations in this sector. A few years ago you managed to sell a book with beautiful illustrations and weak text, but it turned out. Today it no longer strains. The knowledge that is told must be solid and have a fundamental informative vocation ”, she assures.
For the researcher Rosa Tabernero, this aesthetic vocation is recovering the idea, often ousted, of instructing by delighting: “It is said that you have to read for pleasure, but the truth is that children need to know. In the end, that is the founding idea of the children’s book: we need to know, we need to know, because curiosity is there”. And to know and know, neuroscience research has endorsed a maxim for years: without emotion there is no learning. “It seems that knowledge is at odds with art, with emotion; And anything farter from the reality. The emotional dimension of the informative book provokes a series of very friendly paths for the development of knowledge because what is enjoyed is better known”, argues the expert, who in the pages of read out of curiosity claims the potential of these books —often underestimated with respect to fiction— for the training of future readers.
“They are as important or more than fiction books,” says Tabernero, who points out that there is a “very interesting” aspect in the information album that is fundamental in the formation of readers. “It helps to prioritize, to argue, to raise awareness and, above all, to generate questions”, he argues. And he points out the trend towards hybridization that the genre is experiencing: “Increasingly, the literary line is converging with the informative line and we have hybrid albums, which sometimes have a very high narrative component; while other times they give more priority to the concept of knowledge. This hybridization is a strategy that can be very relevant in the training of future readers”.
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