Who doesn't love curling up with a great book? Or, sitting, turning the pages of a picture book, telling it's secrets to a wide eyed child, who is listening with rapt anticipation. Sharing books with a young reader can be one of the most pleasurable experiences any adult might know. The title one chooses to read will surely set the mood. Which book will it be? Something with a little danger maybe or, one with a happy ending? Should it be a book that was intentionally written for children? How about a book that was written by a child, such as Jane Austin or Lewis Caroll? Their early writings were meant to entertain their siblings.
The history of children’s literature can be traced back to the 15th Century starting with Thomas Malory and the Tales of Robin Hood in 1450. In the 17th Century, the first picture book, Orbis Pictus, was published and illustrated by Jan Amos Komensky in Czechoslovakia. Charles Perrault (1628-1703) of France was the father of the fairy tale. His stories may sound a little familiar to you: Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, Puss in Boots, and Cinderella. Most of these authors did not originally intend their books for children rather, they were written for adult readers. What would Walt do?
Publisher John Newbery, came along in the 18th Century with what is considered the beginning of pleasure reading. He is considered the originator of the children's book and he marketed his books specifically to children. He sold his A Pretty Pocket-Book with a ball for the boys and a pincushion for the girls. It was the first ABC book touted as "instruction with delight".
At the turn of the 19th Century, The Brother’s Grimm wrote Snow White, Rapunzel and Hansel and Gretel (1812). Later that century we have Hans Christian Andersen who gave us The Little Mermaid, The Emperor’s New Clothes, The Ugly Duckling, and The Snow Queen among others. Lewis Carroll: Alice in Wonderland; Johanna Spyri: Heidi; Carlo Collodi: The Adventures of Pinocchio; Robert Lewis Stevenson: Treasure Island; and Rudyard Kipling: The Jungle Book round off the 1800’s with their contributions. Each a wonderful read for all ages.
The 20th Century brought the likes of L. Frank Baum, Beatrix Potter, Kenneth Grahame, J.M. Barrie, A.A. Milne, Laura Ingalls Wilder, C.S. Lewis, Dr. Suess, Roald Dahl and J.K. Rowling. A choice by any of these authors would surely delight. There is no clear definition of children's literature, but sharing any of these classics with a young person for the first time would be its own reward.
The Kindle and other such electronic devices do not hold the same charm as a leather bound tome with full color pages, its true. The next generation will experience reading differently than the curling up with a book but, that doesn't have to be a scary ending. We can hand down our mother's cloth pages or our grandfather's first edition of Winnie-the-Pooh. The story is in the telling.