The purpose of storytelling throughout history was to be entertained after a hard day’s labor. Before the invention of movable type, the first books available for children were lesson books were handwritten in Latin by monks. Mostly religious or instructional, intended only for the wealthy or for use by the teachers in the monastery schools. Most of these early lesson books followed one of two forms, which would continue to be used until the early twentieth century: (1) a dialogue between the pupil and the teacher, usually in the form of questions and answers or (2) rhymed couplets, which made for ease in memorization,” (Huck, Charlotte S.
, & Barbara Z. Kiefer. Children’s Literature in the Elementary School, 8th ed. 2004. Boston: McGraw Hill. p. 97.) These early lesson books are only important to the history of children’s literature due to the fact that they represented some concession to developing specific books for the instruction of children.
William Caxton made an incredibly remarkable contribution to children’s books in the late 1400s.
Caxton was an English British man who went to germany to learn the printing trade. He returned to England, setting up a printing press in Westminster where he is credited with publishing his first of many, such as A book of Curteseye (1477) and Aesop’s Fables (1484)
In the late 17th century, French author Charles Perrault helped define the fairy tale genre, transforming what had previously been an oral tradition. In The Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault, he reproduces the captivating renditions of some childhood favorites such as, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Little Red Riding Hood.
Little Red Riding Hood as written by Charles Perrault, has less of a kid friendly feel to it, especially for it being a children’s fairy tale, due to the specific word choice and ongoing advanced vocabulary throughout each story. Readers are also able to tell that this is an old fairy tale, because the vernacular used now doesn’t involve words such as “thee” or “girdle-cake”. Perrault starts with the characterization of Little Red Riding Hood, he begins by describing her as a little country girl, the prettiest creature ever seen. He then later goes on to create a more suspenseful mood, when Little Red Riding Hood finally arrives at her grandmas house and gets in bed with the wolf. At the end of the story, he devours Little Red, with no question or warning. Perrault does however, write The Moral of the story afterwards, which teaches children the value of an underlying message within a story. More specifically in this story, that there always lies a wolf among us, so thou ought to be careful wherever you may go.
After the American Revolution, there was a rush to publish textbooks that reflected the changing social purposes and interests of the new nation. Children were also expected to be taught by their mothers at home, through stories and dispensed information throughout the day. In the early nineteenth century author Samuel Goodrich eliminated the British background in books and influenced and produces moral tales for the uneducated masses of children who would attend sunday school. During this time only a few writers and publishers seemed to realize that children want to learn about their world, (Huck, Charlotte S., & Barbara Z. Kiefer. Children’s Literature in the Elementary School, 8th ed. 2004. Boston: McGraw Hill. p. 107.) In the early 19th century, two German brothers began to write about stories others had heard, beginning the early folktale collections. But It wasn’t until the last half of the nineteenth century that folktales and fairy tales were completely accepted for children.
According to Children’s Literature in the Elementary School, the twentieth century may be characterized by the recognition of literary and artistic quality in children’s books, the growth of children’s book departments in publishing houses, etc (Huck, Charlotte S., & Barbara Z. Kiefer. Children’s Literature in the Elementary School, 8th ed. 2004. Boston: McGraw Hill. p. 119.) That being said, there were many different kinds of books being published in the 20th century. The picture book was created early in this century, as well as informational books for all ages. One of the first picture books being The Tale of Mr. Rabbit, a well-loved story, illustrated by Beatrix Potter. Another well-known illustrator of this period was Arthur Rackham. The imaginative detail of his pictures, which frequently portrayed grotesque people and human-like trees evoking an eerie atmosphere, has given him considerable recognition.
The increased understanding of child development brought attention to the fact that the child is naturally curious and actively sought out information. Children enjoy facts, and are eager to learn and accept information given to them. The twentieth century was when there began the growth of informational books. E. Boyd Smith was one of the first to create some of the earliest artistic and accurate information picture books, such as, The Farm Book (1910), Chicken World (1910), The Seashore Book (1912), and The Railroad Book (1913). These stories had large, double-page spread illustrations filled with fascinating detail. There was also a proliferation of series books. In the twentieth-century fiction fact stories were developed by Edward Statemeyer, who manufactured the plots for countless amounts of books, including The Rover Boys (1899-1926), The Bobbsey Twins (1904-), The Tom Swift Series (1910-1941), and The Hardy Boys (1927), just to name a few.
The publication of Grimm’s Household Tales in the early nineteenth century represented the beginning of the interest in recording the told tale. It wasn’t until the twentieth century that children would have access to the folktales of almost the entire world. Authors and illustrators from all around would record and gather stories they had heard growing up, or traveling to different countries. The turn of the century saw the first publication of the work by a rare children’s poet, Walter de la Mare’s Songs for Childhood (1902). This was author, more specifically a poet, who understood the importance and meaning of early childhood experiences. Lenard Clara says of him: Walter de la Mare wrote as if he were a child himself, as if he were revealing his own childhood, through with the mature gives of the authentic poet. His children are true to childhood.”
While it is so that the twentieth century brought the introduction of a variety of nonfiction books for children, it is also evident that most children’s books published today could also be classified as nonfiction. A few reasons there is a steady increase in the number of books published yearly are because different trends such as hardcover series and the blending of publishing houses and large organizations have been putting more emphasis on the book trade market. As improved technology and different trends occur, new editions of old favorites have attracted buyers. Also, children are becoming more attracted to books that include toys, pop- up pages, and moving pictures.
From the Resources for Teaching, Landmarks in the Development of Books for Children, there has been countless amounts of books written in every century specifically targeted to the young audience. In 1780, Mother Goose’s Melody, of the Old British Nurses, made its first appearance. This book of illustrated children’s nursery rhymes, and although it contains several old nursery rhymes that have not stood the test of time, it also holds many that are still familiar to us such as ‘Hush-a-by baby’ and ‘Bah! bah! black sheep’. These nursery rhymes reflect the eighteenth-century quite perfectly, because they discuss the ongoings of what happens in this era, such as sitting by the fire and spinning thread, to there being enough sheeps wool. The stories reflect what is known and what can be found in eighteenth-century London. Whereas, Curious George, by A. A. Rey, written in the first half of the twentieth century appeals to the same audience of a different era. Although the story is a bit politically incorrect, it captures the attention of it’s readers with a story about a curious monkey, and his newfound home with the man in the yellow hat. We follow the adventures of George and there unravels his curiosities, like the curiosities of young children. A.A Rey writes about items that appeal to young children, such as balloons, and zoos, and the wonders of what is a telephone. This does a good job reflecting the society of the early twentieth century, with a fun-filled story about the many wonders of life within this era.
Recent years have seen far greater emphasis placed on contemporary realistic fiction, for example, than on historical fiction or biography. (Huck, Charlotte S., & Barbara Z. Kiefer. Children’s Literature in the Elementary School, 8th ed. 2004. Boston: McGraw Hill. p. 137.) Children today seem to be a lot more interested in stories that reflect their own, than stories about the past. With the decrease in historical fiction and biography, there has been a significant increase in the amount of informational or nonfiction books published. Due to the decrease in federal funds, there has also come a decrease in the number of books published about minorities.
A Little Pocket Book, intended for the Amusement of Little Master Tommy and Pretty Miss Polly is the title of a 1744 children’s book by British publisher John Newbery. It was first published ts with the tales about Dick Whittington, Sir Guy of Warwrick, Robin Hood, and many more.in 1744, is generally considered to be the first book specifically directed at children. It was originally sold with free gifts, a ball for a boy and a pincushion for a girl. Young children learned to read from Hornbooks; a hornbook was not really a book but a little wooden paddle to which sheets of parchment paper were pasted, printed with the alphabet, the vowels, and the Lord’s Prayer.
Primers were an elementary textbook that serves as an introduction to a subject of study or is used for teaching children to read. Orbis Pictus, or Orbis Sensualium Pictus, is a textbook for children written by Czech educator John Amos Comenius and published in 1658. It was the first widely used children textbook with pictures. Chapbooks, were small inexpensive folded paper booklets sold by peddlers or chapmenm that first appeared in the late 1500s, but it was in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries that they achieved their popularity. Sold for a few pennies, these crudely printed little books brought excitement and pleasure into the lives of both children and adults.
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