Among the list of responsibilities suggested by Neil Gaiman were two suggestions for writers of books for children; however, I think both suggestions are good advice to teachers and parents.
First, he urged that writers recognize "...an obligation to our readers...to write true things...not to bore our readers, but to make them need to turn the pages...not to preach, not to lecture, not to force predigested morals and messages down our readers' throats like adult birds feeding babies."
|Collection of Fairy Tales from several countries|
|Scott Gustafson, Robert Ingpen, & Kinuko Y. Craft|
Although Gaiman does not address the importance of children's book illustrators, I believe illustrators are equally important in developing a taste for the arts. Three of my favorite illustrators are Scott Gustafson, Robert Ingpen, and Kinuko Y. Craft; however, there are so many incredible illustrators that I could name, working in a variety of styles. Recently, the style of children's book illustrations has shifted away from the fine artists I admire toward more cartoonish drawings. In my opinion, children see enough flashy, cartoon-like pictures on TV and in advertisements without having that sort of imagery in their books, especially when there are fine artists illustrating books for children. I would paraphrase Gaiman by saying we should 'understand and acknowledge that as illustrators for children these artists are doing important work.' (The books pictured above are Gustafson's "Classic Fairy Tales," Ingpen's "The Wind in the Willows," and Craft's "Beauty and the Beast.")
The balance between turning children on to reading and turning them away from reading isn't easy, but the three blogs in which I have shared Neil Gaiman's suggestions are a good place to start.