Sunday, April 27, 2014

COSCBWI Meeting April 2014: The History of Children's Books

This month’s COSCBWI meeting featured a presentation by Assistant Regional Advisor, Andrea Hall.  Andrea took the group on a PowerPoint journey through the History of Children’s Books.

Children’s books weren’t always fun, colorful, and abundant like they are today.  Andrea explained that long before books, people would exchange stories orally.  While it was acceptable for children to listen, the stories weren’t geared towards them as an audience.  The earliest books children were exposed to, including Hornbooks, Battledores, and Chapbooks, were primarily tools for learning about letters, the alphabet, proverbs, and etiquette.   (And isn’t a good book on etiquette just what every child loves?)

John Locke was really the first person in the mid-1700’s to preach that a child’s mind was like a blank slate, and that it was up to adults to mold those minds with books.  Traditional stories aimed for children were soon brought to paper, and great minds like John Newbery (of the prestigious Newbery Award) championed the cause.  The Victorian era branched children’s books into new realms like fantasy and adventure, and the early 1900’s ushered in the first children’s publishing departments at major publishing houses.  Throughout the 1900’s, children’s books kept picking up steam with authors like Beatrix Potter, Maurice Sendak, and Margaret Wise Brown (and too many others to name), and children became enthralled with well-loved series like The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew.

If you’ve been around the literary world for the past few decades, then you’re already familiar with the huge boom the children’s market has experienced.  Countless book series grace bookstore shelves, a wealth of authors have risen to stardom, and many books have found their way to the big screen for audiences to enjoy as a new medium.  Oh, and there are these new things called “eBooks” that everyone is reading.  (Perhaps you’ve heard of them?)  There are more choices than ever, and the competition has never been stiffer.  Publishing conglomerates have formed; houses have instigated closed-door submission policies; and slush piles have risen to skyscraper proportions as more and more aspiring authors seek publication.  The emphasis on “Common Core Standards” is changing the way literature will be used for education, and libraries have all faced tough choices in the current economy.

But at the heart of it all, children are reading more and more. 

It’s a “best of times, worst of times” situation, and no one quite knows how everything will shake out.  But as long as we don’t go back to the era of etiquette books, this blogger is confident everything will turn out all right.  ;)

If you’re interested in finding out more about COSCBWI, be sure to check out the new website at or “like” the group on Facebook.  A big thanks to Andrea for sharing her PowerPoint slides with me so I could compile this summary for you all.  I hope to see you at the next COSCBWI meeting!

No comments:

Post a Comment