The idea that picture book writers should read 100/300/500 new traditionally published picture books to improve their craft is great advice, essential even. With envy, I view social media pictures of giant stacks of new releases that writers have borrowed from their public libraries. Access to seemingly unlimited numbers of new English language picture books (for those writing in that market) isn’t always possible. While it is clear that most writers do not have unlimited budgets to buy books, it might not be clear that many don’t have unlimited access to a public library either. Also, all public libraries are not equally funded.
Public Libraries are undoubtedly the best resources. (We do have public libraries in Hong Kong, but with limited choices and also changing and complicated COVID regulations.)
So, how can I work towards meeting these reading goals?
- School library: If you have children, their school library can be a great resource for you too. In addition to asking to borrow books, I’ve even managed to get my 3rd grader to help. When I treated myself to an Amazon delivery of 4 new picture book biographies (a present to myself for signing a book contract), she then surprised me by borrowing 2 more PB bios for me to help me with my work.
- NetGalley: When it comes to the market of children’s book publishing, I’m still learning which is why I just discovered NetGalley. I’m still learning my way around it, but through requests, you can receive new releases to review for free. You need to review the books, but there is no downside. This a great resource and a way to also help other authors too.
- Advance Reader’s Copy (ARC): It is possible to receive ARCs directly from authors. How? One way is to increase your network of writer friends online. I admittedly didn’t know what an ARC was when I was given my first one to read from a Twitter friend. The expectation is that you will give some form of feedback. By joining a new release co-marketing group, you will also gain access to ARCs and have the opportunity to share your own. More on co-marketing groups in future posts because I can’t wait to talk about the incredible Picture Book Pals.
- Other libraries: Don’t overlook other libraries that you may have access to. Does your house of worship or community center have a library? Is there a Little Free Library in your neighborhood? I’ve still never seen one! A book swap? I happen to oversee my community’s JCC library and even have a very small budget to buy new books with which we have curated a wonderful collection of Jewish children’s books (adult books too).
- Bookstores: Areas with limited access to public libraries likely have limited access to bookstores, but it is still worth checking out. You can read books in the store. Many stores even have areas set up for this. The bookstore in Hong Kong (yes, that is pretty much singular) has a few good titles, but often not the ones I’m looking for, but there is also a used bookstore that is a great resource too. Hong Kong’s reBooked is dedicated entirely to children’s books!
- Prime Reads: While I appreciate the need to support independent bookstores, these aren’t always options for overseas deliveries especially during the pandemic when deliveries have slowed or stopped. If you are a member of Amazon Prime, you are entitled to read a selection of digital titles for free. Take advantage of this. Reading picture books on Kindle (especially when it is black and white), is imperfect, but it is better than not reading. You can see the cover and sample pages on the Amazon website to be able to better appreciate the artwork.
- Other resources: In my case, I’m fortunate enough to be the director of my local PJ Library. Before I distribute the PJ Library books, I read them all. Of course, if your child is eligible for PJ Library (Jewish), you can also sign-up to receive one new picture book each month. If you are part of a local SCBWI, talk to the other members. They love books too and chances are they have collections of their own.
Get creative! Think out of the box! Happy Reading!