Lecture: Children's LiteratureAuthor: QQ-464094252: Narrator: Listen to part of a lecture in an education class. Professor: In the weeks ahead, we'll be analyzing some children's literature. Literature considered ideal for various stages of childhood development. Now, this phrase "children's literature" can mean different things to different people. It can refer to books children by children, such as comic books, or to books written by children, like The House Without Windows By Barbara Follett. I thought she wrote that book when she was only nine. Children's literature can also refer to books written to instruct children. In fact, the first books written specifically for children emphasized memorizing numbers, the alphabet, religious and moral values, rules of social etiquette, but for our purposes, what we'll be referring to as children's literature are books and some short stories and poems written both to instruct and to delight, or to entertain children up to about age twelve. Now, this idea that children's literature should both instruct and entertain dates back to 18th century England and even today, for the most part when parents and teachers choose literature for children, isn't that what they're mainly looking for? So, from your reading, who's mostly responsible for this notion of children's literature? Tom? Tom: Oh... Locke. John Locke. Professor: Right, the English philosopher and educator whose most influential materials date to the end of the 17th century and how does Locke fit into the picture? Tom: Well, for most of western history, childhood itself, you know, the concept of childhood, it didn't really exist. Children were basically seen as little adults and they were treated that way from an early age, like they worked hard to help support the family and also, oh ... it ... it was assumed that humans were like born with all of their ideas and beliefs already in place. But Locke believed that the human mind was blank at first, waiting to be filled with ideas, ideas developed mainly through experience. Professor: Yes. Now traces of this philosophy do go back as far as ancient Greece, to Aristotle. But the philosophy that a child's mind is blank at birth and that therefore you can shape a child by providing appropriate experiences – the right education, the right books, this idea didn't become popular until Locke. Locke was the first to successfully promote it. Additionally, Locke popularized the idea that the key to educating a child was to combine learning with pleasure. Why did he think that? Caroline: Well, I guess he observed that children naturally like to have fun, so trying to get them to learn by doing things they didn't enjoy, like memorizing rules, that didn't make sense to him. But if kids were given fun books with nice illustrations and interesting activities, reading and learning would be like playing a game. Today, this approach is second nature to many parents and educators. But in Locke's time it was almost revolutionary but what about fairytales? Most kids like them, but our textbook says that Locke didn't approve of them. Professor: Yes, remember fairytales are often set in dark places like forests where evil characters lurk. Locke believed that when adults read such stories to young children, the children would form bad associations that they'd carry into adulthood, like that scary things happen in the dark that the dark was something to be afraid of. Caroline: But he approved Aesop's fables, didn't he? Professor: Yes, because Aesop's fables are instructive. They're stories with a moral lesson. They teach values like the importance of choosing the right friend and they're lighthearted generally and fun to read, the perfect learning tool. Okay, so Locke's idea really appealed to people in mid-18th century England. Everyone was reading Locke, especially parents. See, in England, at that time with its growing middle class, it wasn't as necessary for children to work to survive. Parents could now afford to treat children as developing individuals to be safe and molded by appropriate experience. In some, parents now believe that a good education, good books could develop children's minds and possibly lead to better jobs and future economic prosperity for their children and into this social climate came a British writer and publisher named John Newberry. Newberry, too, embraced Locke's philosophy and he also acted on it by writing and publishing children's literature. It was Newberry who essentially created a market for it. His first successful book included lots of themes and advice and its primary method was "Learn your lessons and one day you'll be well-off." In Newberry's universe, working diligently in school eventually paid-off monetarily.