Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Another Go at Interesting

Y'all know how I love to talk about children's literature from time to time. And did you also know that I like for my entire inbox to be viewable on one page? So I am up to two pages right now and am having to go through old emails and delete. The things that pile up most are receipts from online purchases and newsletters. I get several good cooking newsletters and don't always have time to try the recipes before the next ones come. And I also get, as I have mentioned before, the Veritas Press newsletter. I almost always enjoy the Veritas Press newsletter. Every now and then, they seem to try to moralize matters of opinion, but for the most part, good stuff. (A huge pet peeve of mine is when people try to make a huge deal out of one type of education over another, as if all children are the same, and learn the same way, and there is one "right" or "best" way. Please! Just to be clear, there are plenty of people in all veins of education saying their way is the only way. I am not picking on the classical education dudes- more power to them!) Anyway, this month's newsletter is about the history of children's literature. I think it is very interesting. Then again, I thought the difference between porcupines and hedgehogs was interesting. I swanee, you people are like crickets chirping sometimes! Anyway, read this, if you like.

Orbis Sensualium Pictus (The Visual World in Pictures), published in 1658, was written by Jan Amos Comenius. He was a reformer in education, and this was the first book that recognized that there was a difference between what children and adults would enjoy reading.

(In 1671) James Janeway's, A Token for Children, Being an Exact Account of the Conversation, Holy and Exemplary Lives and Joyful Deaths of Several Young Children would change the face of children's literature permanently. This book told the story of Christian boys and girls who died in a way that was honoring to Christ. It was written with the hope of influencing other children to walk in righteousness. Until this time children were never the protagonist in literature.

Wouldn't you love to get your hands on a copy of that?! Can you imagine?! "Hey little child, this is a story about a little boy or girl just like you.... who died!"

Locke and Rousseau ultimately pointed the way for a new genre of children's literature in which amusement and enjoyment, not instruction, were the goal of the literature. By the 1770's several of these books were placed in print in London by John Newberry. Innovations in typography and printing enabled the production of illustrated books at a new rate. One of Newberry's books, A Little Pretty Pocket-Book, came with a ball for boys or a pincushion for girls. It is considered a landmark in the pleasure reading market for children. Newberry used the marketing phrase "instruction with delight," acting on Locke's idea of a half-century earlier that learning could be fun. Of course, Locke was not the first one to have thought of it. The Romans had been teaching their children this way for centuries, but that had been lost by modern times.

Jumping forward to the Victorian era (1830-1900) we find that developments in printing technology made producing books even less expensive. Juvenile sections became well established at libraries. The middle class was expanding, and these parents were willing to spend money on books for their children. During the latter part of the nineteenth century, many children's classics appeared.... Major publishing houses, already well-established, adopted children's divisions. Names like Harper, Putnam, Scribner, and Houghton participated. By 1865 every one of these publishers not only published books, but had at least one magazine. The magazines would prove to be a testing ground for young authors, and many books we know today came from a compilation of articles that first appeared in a magazine.

And I suppose we can kind of fill in the rest. There is also a little bit about the fables and tales that were passed down orally, but these were not considered children's stories in particular at the time. The newsletter also came with links to several great book lists for children, one for grades K-2, another for grades 3-6, and another for 7-12. Let me know if you are interested in them and I will forward the email to you.

1 comment:

Fittsy said...

I would love to see the book lists.


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