Phoning it in for the kids
There’s a trend in the UK at the moment for comedians to write children’s books. The success of David Walliams, who went from being a popular comedy actor on TV to a modern-day Roald Dahl, has inspired many others to try their hand at writing for kids.
It’s almost as if they think anyone can write a good book for young children. After all, you might only have to write 150 words and commission some good illustrations. It’s not exactly The Brothers Karamazov, is it?
In reality, it’s easy to phone in a children’s book and sell copies based mainly on parents’ recognition of the author’s name. But to create something that truly connects with kids takes skill, craft, and art.
I thought about this when I read the Wall Street Journal’s paywalled article
about the mystery behind many of the most popular YouTube channels aimed at kids. Nobody knows who’s responsible them, and yet they churn out countless variations on the same few themes, racking up enormous view counts and revenues along the way.
The difficulty in identifying creators “adds to the lack of accountability,” said Josh Golin, executive director of Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, which has long been critical of YouTube.
Others say the anonymity provides cover for content farms—production companies that generate huge volumes of videos that some say are designed to entrance young children rather than engage them.
The videos often feature recycled content and follow the same few themes—countless versions of “Wheels on the Bus” and “Baby Shark,” real-life toddlers “pretend playing,” a pair of hands teaching about colors with piles of M&Ms or Skittles.
“What they lack is an intent to educate,” said Renée Chernow- O’Leary, an educational consultant and former research director for “Sesame Street.”
It’s production-line based, bottom-of-the-barrel tripe with no care or magic attached to it, and yet kids love it. Young children really will watch anything. They might not care about it or love it for years to come, but it keeps them full of content, like a McDonalds Happy Meal keeps them full of sustenance.
It’s artless, but it’s a living.
That’s led me to decide to launch my own kids’ version of this newsletter as a hardback book. It will be 50 words long, and feature a cute dog called ‘Big Rev.’ Now who’s going to give me a big fat advance?