Golden Books Changed Children's Publishing
By Karen Ballum on May 02, 2013
You are out shopping at either the grocery store or the pharmacy and you happen upon some children's books. They have colorful cover art and look like fun. When you pick them you and check the price you discover that they are inexpensive. It makes its way into your basket, perhaps with one or two more. If this sound familiar, you might just have Golden Books to thank for it.
I'm going to guess that most of you either grew up with Golden Books or bought them for your children. In addition to Golden Books, you probably bought other inexpensive books. I know when I was growing up I had my own bookcase. It was filled with everything from Golden Books, to Disney and Sesame Street books, to other classics such as Corduroy. I might not have had so many books had Golden Books not come along and changed the industry by first making books inexpensive for parents and then by also also getting children's books into stores like Woolworths.
In the early part of the twentieth century, children's books were something that were made to be valued. They were items that would grow with a children and perhaps become treasured keepsakes. They were meant to educate children. They weren't necessarily something that children's were supposed to enjoy. Children weren't expected to cart them around and heaven forbid a child get near one with a pencil. Or accidentally toss one into the bathtub. If such a thing were to happen -- and I'm sure many of you have experienced both -- the book just might not get replaced because books weren't cheap.
Enter Golden Books. The people at the Western Printing and Lithographing Company got into book publishing almost by accident, but they discovered if they printed large quantities of anything -- including colorful children's books -- they could do so at low cost. They decided to create books that children could enjoy and parents could afford. It was Golden Books that first took children's books to Woolworths and pharmacies. It was Golden Books that numbered their books so that children could tell which books that they didn't have and request their parents buy them. Thanks to the low price of the books, the parents did just that -- by the millions.
It was how they were able to get books into neighbourhood stores that more than anything probably influenced the books that appeared in my bookcase. I grew up in the country. In my memory there's been exactly one bookstore in my hometown -- a small second-hand bookstore that opened (and then closed) while I was in university. The larger town had bookstores, but I rarely remember visiting them until I was in elementary school. Books were bought in grocery stories and pharmacies. And when my nieces and nephews came along, most of their books were also bought in grocery stores and pharmacies.
Golden Books changed children's publishing buy making the books more accessible. Thanks to that I grew up surrounded by books. Those books allowed me to explore the world in that way only books could do. I may not have had a lot of Golden Books on my shelves, but I'm thankful for them all the same.