Feature Article – A Brief History of
Children’s Literature by Marlin &
Educational Helps – by
A Brief History of Children’s Literature
As you may recall in the April epistula we initiated a reading contest. We are so excited to hear all the interest it has stirred. It has also raised questions about children’s literature and started some good discussions. We thought we might address some of them with a little history lesson on the world of children’s literature.
Children’s literature has not always existed as we
know it today. Only a little more than two centuries ago children’s literature
emerged as an independent genre. Prior to this, works were rarely created
specifically for children
and when they were done they were for education, not
pleasure. In 1657 Les jeux
et plaisirs de l’enfance
(The Games and Pleasures of Childhood),
a book dedicated to games for children, was published. Interestingly, as you
look at the illustrations
the children are portrayed as little adults
indicative of how they were perceived then. The next notable book is a
precursor of children’s picture books. 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. We also know another
of the earliest form of books for children was alphabet
books. Before the
children used hornbooks, wooden paddles that had the alphabet and a form of a prayer
or catechism inscribed on them, to learn their letters.
Probably the most enduring of all genres in
children’s literature is the fable. Originally, fables were passed down from
generation to generation orally. Interestingly, these tales were frequently
told in Latin in classrooms as the children were studying the language. We know
that Aesop’s Fables w
first published in English by William Caxton in 1484. We do not consider this
the first work for children, because it was not specifically published with
children in mind. The first edition for children was published in 1692 by
Robert l’Estrange in 19th
Nineteen years after the Mayflower landed in
Plymouth (1639) the first printing press in North
America began operating in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The first book th
published was the Bay Psalms Book. It
would be 50
years until the first children’s book, The
New-England Primer, would be published in the new world.
Benjamin Harris, an English publisher and bookseller, is believed to have been
its publisher. He was a staunch anti-papist who fled By 1830 it is estimated that six to eight million copies had been
Cultural norms of the day have their impact on children’s literature like others aspects of society. We see this clearly in alphabet rhymes. The “K” rhyme changed in many ways:
“Our King the good/ No man of blood”
After the war for independence:
“Kings should be good/Not men of blood”
We also see changes after the Great Awakening in
Not long after this
John Locke’s Some Thoughts Concerning
Education (1693) was published. He believed that childhood was distinctly
different from adulthood. He believed that children should be treated as
rational creatures. He also recommended that children’s reading should be an
“easy, pleasant book.” Rousseau
the philosopher who lived shortly after Locke, would
also influence children’s literature as he believed the goal of education
should be to preserve the child’s “natural state.” 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 , the Romans had been teaching their
children this way for centuries, but that was lost by modern times.
In 1749 what is often described as the first novel
for children was published. The
Governess; Or, Little Female Academy by Sarah Fielding, follows the lives
of nine girls and their governess through nine days together at their boarding
school. For the first time we would see the impact that a novel could have on
children. The novel’s underlying theme was that girls must think for
themselves. Although obedience is the central theme, Fielding accomplished this
by insisting that the girls reason and think through things on their own. If we
were to read this today it would seem quite tame, but at the time it was quite
the topic of conversation. It was then that we all saw literature originally written
for adults be given and marketed to children. One example is Morte d’Arthur by
Thomas Malory. We now enjoy this book in many versions about King Arthur and
his knights of the
Jumping forward to the Victorian era (1830
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: Lewis Carol’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865), Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women (1868 elberry
Finn (1884), and Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle
Book (1894). 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.
Jump to the period between WWI and WWII. These
tumultuous times produced fantasy figures in mass-produced series. Tom Swift,
the Hardy boys and Nancy Drew were born. Publishers would create the position
of “juvenile editor” to oversee children’s publications alone. WWI had
distracted the culture from things like publishing
but that had now changed. In 1919 the editors of Publishers’ Weekly began
having “Children’s Book Week” to promote children’s literature. Just prior, in
1918, the John Newberry Medal—the same Newberry mentioned earlier—was
established as the world’s first literary prize for children’s books. The first
Newberry award winner was Dr. Wittendick Willem Van
Loon’s The Story of Mankind. As you know
this award is still alive and coveted to this day.
Today we enjoy a robust and mature literature tradition for our children. We hope a little more understanding where it came from will help you appreciate it just a bit more. Of course, we have seen considerable changes continue as culture has changed. We are frequently appalled by some of the titles we are privy to in the publication catalogs we receive. You would be, too. Yet, we can be thankful to live in a day where so much good literature is available to our children from both past and present. And we have every reason to believe that more good books are still to come.
Previously we made mention of the guy and his wife in the pew behind us
at church. He has struck again
along with many others. People everywhere wanted suggestions in the form of
reading lists in response to reading
contest in last month’s epistula.
won’t tell you this but she has probably spent 100 hours
putting lists together. What might have been an even more overwhelming task was
greatly reduced by the helpful suggestions of some dear friends. Our thanks to
Ned and Leslie Bustard (
He’s our graphic designer and she will be teaching online for us
starting this fall .), Carl Petticoffer (our VP of
Operations and avid reader), Emily Fischer (former
Veritas Academy teacher and wife of the headmaster there), and Julie Etter ( She’s the wife of Bruce Etter, our
online course administrator
and she will also be teaching online for us this fall .)
for their suggestions.
are books of all genres on this list and some that you may be surprised to see
included. We believe for children to develop a love of reading they need to get hooked. As a child
Laurie spent countless hours po
over good books. The only thing her mother ever told me she got in trouble for was reading when she
was supposed to be sleeping. When one of our boys was little, he hated to read.
If you think you feel bad about this, think how it feels when you sell books
for a living to
your child dislike reading. One of the things we realized was too
many of the books were too hard for him, even though our other children had
devoured them at the same age. This particular child loved bugs, any and all
kinds. Laurie remembers that he liked them so much that he stored them for in his pockets. Imagine what that
looked like after washing and drying. So ,
she bought ever easy reader about bugs she could
find. Were these great literature? Absolutely not! But , we love those books , because they accomplished something
great works had not ,
they got him to love reading. Of course
you need to draw the line somewhere. If we showed you all the things that come
across our desks for young children
you would cry. We do. There is some real trash out there. It is no longer okay
to go to the local library and pull something off the shelf. That is why
everyone wanted a list. There are three lists ; ,
and . Click on the one that interests you.
Hope they help. Many of these books will bring back great memories. Happy
reading this summer!
We have created a CD that
includes a song to memorize the Ten Commandments, a song to memorize the US
Presidents and a talk explaining classical Christian education by Marlin
Detweiler. You may have a free copy by requesting it with a May order of $50 or
more. When ordering on
the internet enter _ as an item
code to get one.
A few friends and I were having a debate over what kind of books our children
should read over the summer. What do you think categorizes good literature for
should ask that, because we
have been getting that question a lot since announcing the reading contest. I
will give you my opinion
but please realize that opinions vary on this subject. I do not believe that
everything that your children read needs to be in the category of GREAT literature.
Some of my most precious memories as a child come from times I spent reading a
book on our boat while my father fished, and the books were not all great
literature. Things like Nancy Drew and the Hardy boys are a great way to get your child
hooked on reading. When you
only give your children things to read that are difficult for them to read and
they may never develop a love of reading. Like anything else, I sometimes fed my
children Wendy’s or McDonald’s, but if that was all I ever gave them they would not be very healthy.
Q. I have been looking at your online classes, but my children have been classically educated because we just became familiar with the idea. They are in junior high and I’m concerned it may be too late, but would really like them to take some of the classes. Any suggestions?
A. Don’t worry about the fact that they have not had a classical education. We always say, “Some is better than none.” You did not say what classes you wanted them to take, but Latin I for instance starts at a beginning point. Obviously, they will have to work harder that someone who has already learned elementary Latin, but we have students doing it all the time. The same is true of other subjects. Give us a call and we will be happy to help you prepare your child and help place them in the right classes.
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2008 – 2009 Catalog
Our 2008 – 2009 catalog is
at the printer. Yipee!! You should expect it in the
of May. We hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoy putting it together.
Veritas Press Teacher Training Conferences
By now you may have received our brochure for the teacher training conferences we are hosting.
You can enjoy one here in Lancaster with all local flavor of things like shoo-fly pie, and one online. Voddie Baucham, author of Family Driven Faith, will be the featured speaker at the 2008 Teacher Training Conference July 21–23 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Or you can attend our online-only teacher training conference on August 6–8 which will feature Joel Belz, Douglas Wilson and Oliver North as keynote speakers.
We are also offering Latin-in-a-Week, Omnibus I-In-A-Week and Omnibus II-In-A-Week July 21–25th. Some of the In-A-Week conferences are offered online at different times, too. The teacher training conferences link above provides helpful information for the In-A-Week classes, too.
Veritas Press Scholars Online Classes
for online classes has already exceeded our
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16th Annual ACCS Conference: Recovering Truth, Goodness, and Beauty
The Association of Classical and Christian Schools
(ACCS) Conference will be held
Job Openings in Lancaster, Pa and Online
Online Teachers – Veritas Press Scholars Online continues to have teacher openings for the 2008–2009 school year. We are also interested in hearing from you if you are interested in discussing subsequent years, even if you can’t teach this coming year. Experienced teachers can work from home, the beach, or anywhere high-speed internet is available. Send resume to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Customer Service, First Phone – Here is a great chance to join the fun at Veritas Press. We have a great full time job available that we dub as “First Phone.” Imagine being able to help all those moms, dads and schools to make their curriculum choices for the year. Duties include customer service, answering customer emails, processing orders, and of course being the first to answer the telephone when customers call. Send resume to email@example.com.
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