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Children's literature

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


For the academic journal, see Children's Literature (journal).
"Children's book" redirects here. For the A. S. Byatt novel, see The Children's Book.
"Children's story" redirects here. For the song, see Children's Story.

A mother reads to her children, depicted by Jessie Willcox Smith in a cover illustration of a volume of fairy tales written in the mid to late
19th century.
Children's literature or juvenile literature includes stories, books, magazines, and poems
that are enjoyed by children. Modern children's literature is classified in two different ways:
genre or the intended age of the reader.
Children's literature can be traced to stories and songs, part of a wider oral tradition, that
adults shared with children before publishing existed. The development of early children's
literature, before printing was invented, is difficult to trace. Even after printing became
widespread, many classic "children's" tales were originally created for adults and later
adapted for a younger audience. Since the 1400s, a large quantity of literature, often with a
moral or religious message, has been aimed specifically at children. The late nineteenth and
early twentieth centuries became known as the "Golden Age of Children's Literature" as this
period included the publication of many books acknowledged today as classics.
Contents
[hide]
1 Introduction
2 History
o 2.1 Antiquity and the Middle Ages
o 2.2 Early-modern Europe
o 2.3 Origins of the modern genre
o 2.4 Golden age
o 2.5 Recent national traditions
2.5.1 China
2.5.2 Europe
2.5.2.1 Britain
2.5.2.2 Continental Europe
2.5.2.3 Russia and USSR
2.5.3 India
2.5.4 United States
3 Classification
o 3.1 By genre
o 3.2 By age category
4 Illustration
5 Scholarship
6 Awards
7 See also
8 References
9 Further reading
10 External links
Introduction[edit]
There is no single or widely used definition of children's literature.
[1]:1517
It can be broadly
defined as anything that children read
[2]
or more specifically defined as fiction, non-
fiction, poetry, or drama intended for and used by children and young people.
[3][4]:xvii
Nancy
Anderson, of the College of Education at the University of South Florida, defines children's
literature as "all books written for children, excluding works such as comic books, joke
books, cartoon books, and non-fiction works that are not intended to be read from front to
back, such as dictionaries, encyclopedias, and other reference materials".
[5]

The International Companion Encyclopedia of Children's Literature notes that "the
boundaries of genre ... are not fixed but blurred".
[1]:4
Sometimes, no agreement can be
reached about whether a given work is best categorized as literature for adults or children.
Some works defy easy categorization. J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series was written and
marketed for children, but it is also popular among adults. The series' extreme popularity
led The New York Times to create a separate best-seller list for children's books.
[6]

Despite the widespread association of children's literature with picture books, spoken
narratives existed before printing, and the root of many children's tales go back to ancient
storytellers.
[7]:30
Seth Lerer, in the opening of Children's Literature: A Reader's History from
Aesop to Harry Potter, says, "This book presents a history of what children have heard and
read ... The history I write of is a history of reception."
[8]:2

History[edit]
Early children's literature consisted of spoken stories, songs, and poems, that would have
been used to educate, instruct, and entertain children.
[9]
It was only in the 18th century, with
the development of the concept of "childhood", that a separate genre of children's literature
began to emerge, with its own divisions, expectations, and canon.
[10]:x-xi

French historian Philippe Aris argued in his 1962 book Centuries of Childhood that the
modern concept of "childhood" only emerged in recent times, and that for the greater part of
history, children were not viewed as greatly different from adults, and were not given
significantly different treatment.
[11]:5
As evidence for this position, he noted that, apart from
instructional and didactic texts for children written by clerics like the Venerable Bede,
and lfric of Eynsham, there was a lack of any genuine literature aimed specifically at
children before the 18th century.
[12][13]:11

Other scholars have qualified this viewpoint by noting that there was a literature designed to
convey the values, attitudes, and information necessary for children within their
cultures,
[14]
such as the Play of Daniel from the 1100s.
[8]:46[15]:4
Pre-modern children's literature,
therefore, tended to be of a didactic and moralistic nature, with the purpose of
conveying conduct-related, educational and religious lessons.
[15]:68

Antiquity and the Middle Ages[edit]
Every culture has its own mythology, unique fables, and other traditional stories that are told
for instruction and entertainment.
[1]:654
Early folk-type tales included
the Panchatantra from India, which was composed about 200 AD and may be "the world's
oldest collection of stories for children".
[1]:807[7]:301
Oral stories that would have been enjoyed by
children include the tale of The Asurik Tree, which dates back at least 3,000 years
in Persia.
[16]


Iliad, Book VIII, lines 24553, Greek manuscript, late 5th, early 6th centuries AD.
In Imperial China, children attended public events with their parents, where they would listen
to the complicated tales of professional storytellers. Children also watched the plays
performed at festivals and fairs. Though not specifically intended for children, the elaborate
costumes, acrobatics, and martial arts held even a young child's interest. The stories often
explained the background behind the festival, covering folklore, history, and politics.
Storytelling may have reached its peak during the Song Dynasty from 960-1279 AD. This
traditional literature was used for instruction in Chinese schools until the 20th century.
[1]:830831

Greek and Roman children would have enjoyed listening to stories such as the Odyssey,
written by Homer, and Aesop's Fables by the eponymous Aesop.
Examples of medieval literature include Gesta Romanorum, the Roman fables of Avianus,
the French Livre pour l'enseignement de ses filles, and the Welsh Mabinogion. In Ireland,
many of the thousands of folk stories were recorded in the 11th and 12th centuries. Written
in Old Irish on vellum, they began spreading through Europe, influencing other folk tales with
stories of magic, witches, and fairies.
[7]:256[17]:10

Early-modern Europe[edit]
During the 1600s, the concept of childhood began to emerge in Europe. Adults saw children
as separate beings, innocent and in need of protection and training by the adults around
them.
[11]:67[17]:9
The English philosopherJohn Locke developed his theory of the tabula rasa in his
1690 An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. In Locke's philosophy, tabula rasa was
the theory that the (human) mind is at birth a "blank slate" without rules for processing data,
and that data is added and rules for processing are formed solely by
one's sensory experiences. A corollary of this doctrine was that the mind of the child was
born blank, and that it was the duty of the parents to imbue the child with correct notions.
Locke himself emphasized the importance of providing children with "easy pleasant books"
to develop their minds rather than using force to compel them; "children may be cozen'd into
a knowledge of the letters; be taught to read, without perceiving it to be anything but a sport,
and play themselves into that which others are whipp'd for." He also suggested that picture
books be created for children.
Another influence on this shift in attitudes came from Puritanism, which stressed the
importance of individual salvation. Puritans were concerned with the spiritual welfare of their
children, and there was a large growth in the publication of "good godly books" aimed
squarely at children.
[9]
Some of the most popular works were by James Janeway, but the
most enduring book from this movement, still widely read today, was The Pilgrim's
Progress (1678) by John Bunyan.
Chapbooks, pocket-sized pamphlets that were often folded instead of being stitched,
[7]:32
were
published in Britain; illustrated by woodblock printing, these inexpensive booklets reprinted
popular ballads, historical re-tellings, and folk tales. Though not specifically published for
children at this time, young people enjoyed the booklets as well.
[17]:8
Johanna Bradley says,
in From Chapbooks to Plum Cake, that chapbooks kept imaginative stories from being lost to
readers under the strict Puritan influence of the time.
[13]:17


An early Mexican hornbook pictured in Tuer's History of the Horn-Book, 1896.

The New England Primer
Hornbooks also appeared in England during this time, teaching children basic information
such as the alphabet and the Lord's Prayer.
[18]
These were brought from England to
the American colonies in the mid-17th century. The first such book was a catechism for
children written in verse by the Puritan John Cotton. Known as Spiritual Milk for Boston
Babes, it was published in 1646, appearing both in England and Boston. Another early
book, The New England Primer, was in print by 1691 and used in schools for 100 years.
The primer begins, "In Adam's fall We sinned all ...", and continues through the alphabet. It
also contained religious maxims, acronyms, spelling help and other educational items, all
decorated by woodcuts.
[7]:35

In 1634, the Pentamerone from Italy became the first major published collection of European
folk tales. Charles Perrault began recording fairy tales in France, publishing his first
collection in 1697. They were not well received among the French literary society, who saw
them as only fit for old people and children. In 1658, Jan
mos Comenius in Bohemia published the informative illustrated Orbis Pictus, for children
under six learning to read. It is considered to be the first picture book produced specifically
for children.
[17]:7

The first Danish children's book was The Child's Mirror by Niels Bredal in 1568, an
adaptation of a Courtesy book by the Dutch priest Erasmus. A Pretty and Splendid Maiden's
Mirror, an adaptation of a German book for young women, became the
first Swedish children's book upon its 1591 publication.
[1]:700, 706
Sweden published fables and a
children's magazine by 1766.
In Italy, Giovanni Francesco Straparola released The Facetious Nights of Straparola in the
1550s. Called the first European storybook to contain fairy-tales, it eventually had 75
separate stories and written for an adult audience.
[19]
Giulio Cesare Croce also borrowed from
stories children enjoyed for his books.
[20]:757

Russia's earliest children's books, primers, appeared in the late 16th century. An early
example is ABC-Book, an alphabet book published by Ivan Fyodorov in 1571.
[1]:765
The
first picture book published in Russia, Karion Istomin's The Illustrated Primer, appeared in
1694.
[1]:765
Peter the Great's interest in modernizing his country through Westernization helped
Western children's literature dominate the field through the 1700s.
[1]:765
Catherine the
Great wrote allegories for children, and during her reign, Nikolai Novikov started the first
juvenile magazine in Russia.
[1]:765

Origins of the modern genre[edit]
The modern children's book emerged in mid-18th century England.
[21]
A growing polite middle-
class and the influence of Lockean theories of childhood innocence combined to create the
beginnings of childhood as a concept.A Little Pretty Pocket-Book, written and published
by John Newbery, is widely considered as the first modern children's book, published in
1744. It was a landmark as the first children's publication aimed at giving enjoyment to
children,
[22]
containing a mixture of rhymes, picture stories and games for pleasure.
[23]
Newbery
believed that play was a better enticement to children's good behavior than physical
discipline,
[24]
and the child was to record his or her behavior daily.
The book was childsized with a brightly colored cover that appealed to childrensomething
new in the publishing industry. Known as gift books, these early books became the
precursors to the toy books popular in the 19th century.
[25]
Newbery was also adept at
marketing this new genre. According to the journal The Lion and the Unicorn, "Newbery's
genius was in developing the fairly new product category, children's books, through his
frequent advertisements ... and his clever ploy of introducing additional titles and products
into the body of his children's books."
[26][27]

The improvement in the quality of books for children, as well as the diversity of topics he
published, helped make Newbery the leading producer of children's books in his time. He
published his own books as well as those by authors such as Samuel Johnson and Oliver
Goldsmith;
[28]:36[29]
the latter may have written The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes,
Newbery's most popular book.
Another philosopher who influenced the development of children's literature was Jean-
Jacques Rousseau, who argued that children should be allowed to develop naturally and
joyously. His idea of appealing to a children's natural interests took hold among writers for
children.
[7]:41
Popular examples included Thomas Day's The History of Sandford and Merton,
four volumes that embody Rousseau's theories. Furthermore, Maria and Richard Lovell
Edgeworth's Practical Education: The History of Harry and Lucy (1780) urged children to
teach themselves.
[30]

Rousseau's ideas also had great influence in Germany, especially on German
Philanthropism, a movement concerned with reforming both education and literature for
children. Its founder, Johann Bernhard Basedow, authored Elementarwerk as a popular
textbook for children that included many illustrations by Daniel Chodowiecki. Another
follower, Joachim Heinrich Campe, created an adaptation of Robinson Crusoe that went into
over 100 printings. He became Germany's "outstanding and most modern"
[1]:736
writer for
children. According to Hans-Heino Ewers in The International Companion Encyclopedia of
Children's Literature, "It can be argued that from this time, the history of European children's
literature was largely written in Germany."
[1]:737


Brothers Grimm, Wilhelm (left) andJakob Grimm (right) from an 1855 painting by Elisabeth Jerichau-Baumann
In the early 19th century, Danish author and poet Hans Christian Andersen traveled through
Europe and gathered many well-known fairy tales.
[31]
He was followed by the Brothers Grimm,
who preserved the traditional talestold in Germany.
[20]:184
They were so popular in their home
country that modern, realistic children's literature began to be looked down on there. This
dislike of non-traditional stories continued there until the beginning of the next century.
[1]:739
740
The Grimms's contribution to children's literature goes beyond their collection of stories, as
great as that is. As professors, they had a scholarly interest in the stories, striving to
preserve them and their variations accurately, recording their sources.
[7]:259

A similar project was carried out by the Norwegian scholars Peter Christen
Asbjrnsen and Jrgen Moe, who collected Norwegian fairy tales and published them
as Norwegian Folktales, often referred to as Asbjrnsen and Moe. By compiling these
stories, they preserved Norway's literary heritage and helped create the Norwegian written
language.
[7]:260

In Switzerland, Johann David Wyss published The Swiss Family Robinson in 1812, with the
aim of teaching children about family values, good husbandry, the uses of the natural world
and self-reliance. The book became popular across Europe after it was translated into
French by Isabelle de Montolieu.