We partnered with the Illinois Ag in the Classroom Coordinator, Kevin Daugherty, to talk to publishers about creating more accurate ag books.
Why would we do that?
It’s not like books change people’s minds. . .
It’s not like they can affect culture. . .
Oh wait. . .
Stories are powerful. Effective storytelling has the power to impact emotion which can impact the way a reader and his/her parents and teachers make decisions.
People are heavily influenced by what they read, and young people are no exception. Eighty-seven percent of parents say they read to their kids and almost 50% read to them daily. Their primary choice is overwhelmingly (76%) printed books. Yet there is often a lack of accurate information conveyed through books.
For ten years, we have searched for “Accurate Ag Books.” Unfortunately many engaging books fall short of the “Accurate” because of a lack of understanding about agriculture. Yet these books are sold, distributed, and read by parents and young people every day.
Penn State Professor of Language and Literacy, Dan Hade points out that “children’s literature is the only class of literature not produced by those who read it,’” which gives authors and publishers “an extra measure of power and responsibility over the content they produce.” Professor Hade also points out that only eight companies, such as Viacom and Disney, publish 80% of children’s books. The likelihood of these companies having ag industry experts on staff to review content in children’s literature is remarkably low.
According to Tamara Mangleburg of Virginia Tech, whose research “Children’s Influence in Purchase Decisions” is published in the Advances for Consumer Research journal, “There has recently been increasing recognition of the child’s importance in family purchase decisions. Specifically, a number of studies have found children have at least some influence on decisions for a wide array of products.”
If children are influenced by stories, and children impact decisions of their older millennial parents, then the importance for conveying accurate information about agriculture has never been more important.
THAT IS WHY we partnered with Kevin Daugherty, IL ATIC, and made our way to Chicago to talk directly with publishers at Book Expo America.
We met with seven publishers including Random House, National Geographic, and Albert Whitman.
During our meetings we discussed our interest in books that convey accurate information about agriculture and portray modern agricultural practices. We specifically said that we don’t need any more “Old McDonald Had a Farm” books - instead we are looking for “New McDonald Has a Drone” books.
After our discussions many of the publishers offered to provide us with advanced reader’s copies to help provide feedback and expertise that will take an ‘okay’ book to a GREAT Book. Both our organizations, (AFBFA & AITC) offered expertise in finding accurate photos, quotes, and just general fact checking to help secure high quality books.
Kevin Daughtery said: “I could not have been more pleased by the outcome of all the meetings! Having worked in the publishing industry for a small, specialty niche company before coming to Illinois Farm Bureau, I was especially impressed with the willingness the editors had in listening to our groups to hear what areas we were seeking new material in. Additionally, I think they found we were not trying to dictate to them or their authors, but genuinely want to help tell the story of agriculture and that we will enhance their product with supplemental materials and get the books into the hands of even more teachers, librarians and students!”
So there you have it folks. We know it is important for children to be reading more accurate books about agriculture, and we didn’t just sit around talking about it. We DID something about it.
Hopefully in the next few years we will see some awesome new ag books out there!
 Reading is Fundamental. (2013). New survey: Only one in three parents read bedtime stories with their children every night; children more likely to spend time with tv or video games than books. Retrieved from http://www.rif.org/us/about/press/only-one-in-three-parents-read-bedtime-stories-with-their-children-every-night.htm
 Trotter, A. (2007, April 9). Story power! The impact of children's literature. Penn State News. Retrieved from http://news.psu.edu/story/141114/2007/04/09/research/story-power-impact-childrens-literature
 Mangleburg, T. F. (1990). Children's influence in purchase decisions: A review and critique. Advances in Consumer Research, 17, 813-825.