“Children’s literature of the 18th and 19th centuries sought to improve its young readers, combining social and moral instruction with entertainment.”
-Professor M.O. Grenby, “Moral and instructive children’s literature”, The British Library
Children’s Literature to Instruct and Entertain
To the modern audience of parents and children, books for kids are meant to be comforting or helpful, entertaining, but gentle. That is why, when examining images and scenes once thought normal, ordinary and necessary for the young in order to teach them their letters and to not play with matches, readers with a grim sense of irony may find the books shockingly funny and bizarrely inappropriate. Michale O.Tunnell and James S. Jacobs observe in The Origins and History of American Children’s Literature, that, “before the 17th century, children’s books did not exist because children had not yet been invented.” Until the 20th century, children were perceived as miniature adults, capable of reason, and enticement to good behavior. The Children’s Book Gallery provides an excellent overview of the timeline and types of children’s conduct books in their early history.