Since the beginning of time, adults have entertained childrenwith stories and fables. From these folktales developed anelaborate tapestry of childrens literature. Today childrensliterature encompasses multiple genres and appeals toreaders of every age.Emerging from Oral TraditionJust as other forms of literature, childrens literature grewfrom stories passed down orally from generation togeneration. Irish folk tales can be traced back as early as400 BCE, while the earliest written folk tales are arguablythe Pachatantra, from India, which were written around 200AD. The earliest version of Aesops Fables appeared onpapyrus scrolls around 400 AD.In Imperial China, story telling reached its peak during theSong Dynasty (960-1279 AD). Many stories from this epochare still used to instruct students in China today. No suchequivalent exists in Greek and Roman literature. However,the stories of Homer and other storytellers of the era wouldcertainly have appealed to children.As Europe became acultural center of the world, instructive texts becameincreasingly common. These books were mostly written inLatin, with the purpose of instructing children. During theMiddle Ages, very little literature was written for the solepurpose of entertaining children. Hornbooks, textbookscontaining basic texts like the Lords Prayer and the alphabetwould not appear until the 1400s. Alphabet books beganpopping up around Russia, Italy, Denmark, and otherEuropean countries roughly a century later.The Advent of Illustration
Chapbooks, pocket-sized books often folded rather thanstitched together, were the first books to be illustrated forchildren. They usually contained simple woodcut pictures togo along with their contents--often popular ballads, folktales, or religious passages.Meanwhile, during the 1600s, the concept of childhood wasevolving. Rather than being seen as miniature adults,children were seen as separate entities with their own needsand limitations. Thus, publishers throughout Europe beganprinting books specifically intended for children. Thepurposes of these texts were still frequently didactic,although several collections of fairy tales were published withvarying success.The trend of illustrating childrens books prevailed, andchildrens literature grew in popularity throughout theeighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In 1744, John Newberypublished A Little Pretty Pocket-Book. The volume washeralded as the true first book intended for childrenspleasure reading. As paper and printing became moreeconomical, the childrens book industry veritably boomedduring the 1800s.Modern Childrens Picture Books
It was in the 1920s that books could be mass produced incolor and literacy became sufficiently widespread tomake childrens picture books a true industry unto its own.Wanda Gags Millions of Cats (1928) was one of the mostsuccessful of this era, selling more than a million copies.Other classic childrens picture books were published soonafter: The Little Engine thatCould(1930); Babar (1931); Madeline (1933); and CuriousGeorge (1941).Today, the variety and quality of illustrated childrens bookshas made them an interesting and desirable focus for rarebook collectors. Its easy to build a collection around a singleillustrator like Charles Van Sandwyk or to focus on childrensChristmas books.Whatever the focus of the collection, condition is always key.Some collectors allow a bit more latitude for condition;children are hard on their books, making copies inexceptional condition even more scarce. In this regard,collecting childrens books takes a fair amount of patience.Rather than settling for a book in less than pristine condition,keep shopping until you find the book you want in the bestcondition possible. The right childrens book bibliography isalso an invaluable tool for collectors. Youll find bibliographiesdedicated to specific authors, illustrators, and eras.
@#@@@A Brief History of the Development of Childrens Literature"Obedient miniature adult, mischievous free spirit, or mini-consumer - theimage of the child in society has changed many times over the past threehundred years". (University of Delaware, 1998)The history of the development of childrens literature is fraught with theconsuming desire to impose adult values on children. The Bible wasconsidered the only reading material necessary for children (Clyde, 1983), andall early efforts in reading instruction were ultimately directed at achievingcomprehension of this work.In the nineteenth century, works of literary merit, although not specificallyaimed at children, were made available but only to children of middle andupper classes.This century has seen the development of literature specifically for children,catering to their wants and needs. Development in this area is continuing aseducational theories evolve and specific requirements of individual learnersare identified.Books in general have become more accessible, with a greater number ofpurchasing points, lower costs and greater emphasis in responding toconsumer demands. Dow (1998) notes that publishers have altered formatand content to reflect the contemporary recreational requirements of youthraised in an era of electronic entertainment.