Two girls are among the young readers visiting the China Children Book Expo that ran from May 28 to June 1 inBeijing. Photo provided toChina Daily
At the China Children Book Expo, you would have been amazed to see the variety of children's books on sale and the eager young readers picking out their favorites.
The expo, which ran in Beijing from May 28 to June 1, featured activities such as storytelling and children's art workshops. It was the first child-centered event that had been included in the annual Beijing Reading Season, hinting at the growing importance of the children's book market.
"Sales of children's books have been growing at a double-digit rate from 2002 to 2011, which is regarded as the golden decade by publishers of children's books," says Lyu Weizhen, director of the general editorial office of China Children's Press and Publication Group, one of the country's largest publishers of children's books.
"Although the rate dropped below 10 percent in 2012 and 2013, it bounced back to a year-on-year growth of 10.2 percent last year," adds Lyu.
According to the Openbook, a widely-cited book industry monitor in China, sales of children's books constituted 17 percent of the 34 billion yuan ($5.5 billion) in offline book sales and 22 percent of the 20 billion yuan in online book sales in China last year.
The annual national reading survey released by the Chinese Academy of Press and Publication in April suggests that compared to the average Chinese adult, who read 4.56 paper books and 3.22 e-books in the past year, Chinese children read an average of 8.45 paper books. Although, as more and more adults are turning to cellphones and tablets, Chinese children are reading more paper books.
The expo revealed a fast-growing trend－picture books, which were ubiquitous at the expo, many of them translated works.
"There were few picture books in China when I visited the Beijing International Book Fair in 1995," recalls Ikuko Ishikawa, president of Poplar Kid's Republic Picture Book Shop in Beijing, the Chinese branch of the Tokyo-based Poplar Publishing Corporation.
"When we opened up the book store in Beijing in 2005, it was still difficult to fill the shelves with Chinese picture books," says Ishikawa. "Most picture books in the store were in Japanese, English or traditional Chinese."
After 10 years of promotion, Poplar Kid's Republic has become one of the leading picture books publishers in China, and fostered a group of local picture book illustrators.
Although growing numbers of local publishers have marched into this niche market, imported picture books still represent a large portion of picture books in China.
"The Chinese originality for picture books is still weak, and for most publishers it is easier to import and translate foreign picture books than make a Chinese one," says Lyu.
Hai Fei, a renowned Chinese children's book publisher, thinks the future of children's book publishing lies in originality, and he says young Chinese writers and illustrators have been growing fast.
"In the past, we always felt that the Chinese picture books lagged far behind foreign ones," says Hai. "But this year we find it different. Six out of the 10 recommended picture books for toddlers are original Chinese works."
"The past golden decade of children's book in China was driven by children's literature," Hai says. "As Chinese people become better off and parents pay more attention to the early development of children's reading habits, I predict another golden decade in picture books."