It is hard to imagine a world without books for children. Ever since there were children, there has been children's literature too. There have been children's stories and folk-tales when man first learned to speak. Children's books, however, are a late growth of literature. Miss Yonge says, "Up to the Georgian era there were no books at all for children or the poor, excepting the class-books containing old ballads and short tales". We shall nevertheless see that there were English books for children long before this time. In western Europe, there was no separate category of books for children before the eighteenth century. The Bible, stories of saints and martyrs, and bestiaries or books about exotic animals, were probably the first printed books available to children. Childhood, as we think about it today, is a relatively new concept. Until the 17thcentury, children were thought of as small versions of adults and treated accordingly. In most societies, children were a source of labor. There were some books (mostly for the children of wealthy families) even before the invention of movable type by Gutenberg in 1455, but they were instructional in nature and were used to instill lessons of morality, manners, and religion.. With the rise of Puritanism in England early in the seventeenth century, literature for children became moralistic. Seeing children as amoral savages needing to be taught right, society used stories filled with death and damnation to frighten children into good behavior. Humor and imagination were banned. The Sunday School Movement of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, which aimed at bringing religion to the working class, continued the didactic tone in the thousands of cheap tracts of simple stories distributed throughout England and the United States. Over the next centuries, there was a gradual shift in attitude toward children which was reflected in the reading material produced for them. Hornbooks...
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