Litt 516 - History of Children's Literature (A Paper)
Bernard M. Paderes
Litt 516 (Children and Adolescent Literature)
Dr. Jennie Jocson
This paper will discuss the history of children’s literature both foreign and local.
Aside from this, it shall also discuss the importance of studying the history of
History of Children’s Literature in the West
Like other genres, children’s literature started through oral tradition.
There were folktales and mythologies that provided speculations about
beginnings of ancient people, natural phenomena, and the universe. There were
also stories that hunters told about their journeys. These tales were not really
meant for children, but surely there were children who were present when these
stories were told.
In feudal Europe, there were castle tales and cottage tales. Castle tales
were about heroic deeds of the lords, whereas cottage tales were the traditional
“rags to riches” tales of achievement, usually involving slaying of dragons or
wolves. These tales were told by storytellers who were said to have powers for
keeping the children from playing and grownups from working. These
storytellers were paid by free meals and lodging. However, in case they offended
the lords, they would be punished.
Even when the printing press was invented, the books published, which
were expensive, were still not meant for children. In addition to this, the books
did not really serve the children’s interests. The books called hornbooks and
battledores were instructional materials teaching alphabet, numerals, religious
hymns, and prayers. In addition to these books, William Caxton, the one who
established England’s first printing press, published a book called Caxton’s Book
of Curtesey which contained instructions for acceptable manners. Though he did
not really published books for Children, three of the books he published are now
considered classics of children’s literature, namely: Reynart the Fox, The Book of
Subtle Historyes, and Aesop’s Fables. However, his books eventually lose their
popularity because they were too expensive.
During the Puritan Age, children were prohibited from reading these
books about dragons, fairies, and witches, believing that these tales were
impious and corrupting; instead, children were provided with literature which
would reinforce their moral development even more. In addition to The New
England Primer, which was just similar to the hornbooks and battledores, there
were also books which carried morally instructing titles such as: A Token for
Children , Being an Exact Account of the Conversion, Holy and Exemplary Lives, and
Joyful Deaths, and Spiritual Milk for Boston Babes in either England from Breasts
of Both Testaments for Their Soul’s Nourishment. (Oh dear Lord, whoever wrote
these books sure got some serious oedipal issues. Calling Sigmund Freud, nah,
Calling MARGIE HOLMES!!!)
John Locke’s theory of tabula rasa and Jean Jacque Rousseau’s naturalism
created a big change in the society’s view of childhood and children. Writers and
scholars began producing literature for children. Charles Perrault, with his
interest in fairy tales, published Tales of Mother Goose, a collection of fairy tales
retold from French oral tradition; William Blake wrote poems as if they were
written by children themselves; Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm collected German
folktales and revised these for children; and Hans Christian Andersen wrote the
first original stories for children.
During the Victorian age, a period marked by observance of morals and
propriety, most of the literatures for children provided model characters for the
pains of growing up. The existing literatures taught the children to confront life
with the values of courage, temperance, prudence, courtesy, and presence of
mind. Aside from these, there were also Victorian writers who wrote stories
about problems of poor children.
As the world was changing, the views of childhood had changed as well,
form a neglected stage to enjoyable and almost carefree period of life, This
change was reflected through the increase of fantasy and adventure stories for
children. There was Lewis Caroll’s Alice in Wonderland, Robert Stevenson’s
Treasure Island, and Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
History of Children’s Literature in the Philippines
Just like in the West, Philippine children’s literature also started in the
oral tradition. Before the colonization, literatures for children were transmitted
through oral tradition. Mothers sung lullabies in their own regional language to
their babies.; there were legends and myths told around the campfire; and epics
that were chanted during religious ceremonies and weddings.
It was until the Spanish colonization that books for children became
available. However, the books, called cartilla, were just literacy materials that
include Roman alphabet and religious poems and hymms, much like the
hornbooks of the West.
It was the Americans who brought literature for children here in the
Philippines. The Thomasites, brought copies of famous Western classics such as
Mother Goose Rhymes, Grimm’s Fairy Tales and the Western Classics such as Alice
in Wonderland, Little Women, and Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckelberry
In 1925, Severino Reyes, who wrote under the pen name “Lola Basyang,”
published his stories for children in Liwayway Magazine. Another major
development was from the works of Juan C. Laya and Camilo Osias. Both
promoted the use of books as supplementary materials for teaching and learning.
They wrote the first textbooks for Filipino school children. However, though
most of their stories were foreign, the rest were local folktales, myths, and
legends involving Filipino animals.
After the American period, local writers began to rewrite some of the
country’s folk literature from English to Filipino. There were some organizations
that pioneered movements that encourages people to write books for children.
There was CLAPI, a group who published a book called “The Lizard and Other
Stories.” She was also the one who established PAMANA, an organization that
encourages people to write books for children through teir short story writing
In the 1960s, Bookmark came out with its first picture book titled 'Toby and the Christmas Bell'
by Marla Yotoko though, later, due to poor sales, Bookmark stopped production in its children's
book line. Another illustrated children’s book was Bert Florentino’s publication of Jose Garcia
Villa’s 'Mirinisa and Other Stories.'
In the 70s, Philippine Appliance Corporation (Philacor) published a series called the Young
People's Library, hardbound, in full color and with great illustrations. It included titles like
'Filipino Rites and Rituals,' 'Filipino Myths and Legends,' 'Games Filipino Children Play,' 'Stories
Filipinos Tell.' New Day Publishers came out with 'My Friends and the Haunted Cave' by T.M.
Even the magazine Mr. & Ms. came out with Nick Joaquin's (writing under the name Quijano de
Manila) 'Lilit Bulilit and the Babe-in-the-Womb' in 1978. The following year, Joaquin wrote more
stories on the same genre with a series of 10 titles called 'Pop Stories for Groovy Kids,' all a
retelling of mythical and legendary figures like Ibong Adarna, Maria Makiling, Banahaw, and
Juan Tamad. This was funded by a private institution to celebrate the International Year of the
Child in 1979.
To sum things up, both Western and Philippine children’s literature started with the
oral tradition. There were fantasy and adventure stories but these do not seem to cater
children’s needs and interests; they were just told for enculturation and entertainment of
the general public.
In the West, the struggle
In the Philippines, was the struggle to have an identity of its own
Alba, Reinerio A. (July 28, 2003). Nurturing Chidlren’s Literature in the
Philippines. National Commision on Culture and the Arts.
i=63&subcat=13 Retrieved (July 5, 2012)
Lopez, Ivy. (September 10, 2010). Children’s Literature in the Philippines. Pensive
philippines.html. Retrieved( July 4, 2012)
Norton, Dorothy. (1987). Through the eyes of the child: an introduction to
children’s literature. OH: Merill Publishing Co.