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21 July 2017: Educational Children's Books

 With the advancement of printing technology and the production of books came a greater level of literacy in the population.Children were becoming literate from an early age. Some of the earliest texts aimed at children were religious, in particular puritan texts of the seventeenth century. By the nineteenth century books there were a wide variety of children’s books in publication. Below are some examples of the different types we have.

The majority of children’s books were quite prescriptive. There were magazines and tales with moral and religious aims. An example of this is The Youth’s Magazine or Evangelical Miscellany, a popular young person’s magazine which included short stories, poems, musical scores and bible verses. The majority of articles in the magazine promote a strong Christian, spiritual or moral message. Another example of fiction with an agenda or moral is stories by Maria Benson. Her fictional works such as her Imitation were like a lot of children’s works at the time. They were intended to guide the reader to live a devotional life and use themes such as death to show how it can be dealt with in a pious nature. Another example of this is The Affectionate Parent’s Gift and the Good Child’s Reward which uses themes of reward and punishment to inform children of their duties and obligations to God and to their parents.
 
More obvious instructional works aimed at children includes J Aikin’s The Arts of Life which is an instructional juvenile book on being self-sufficient. The format of this work is through a collection of letters from an adult to a child telling them how to go about certain tasks. Specific topics include how to acquire food, preparing food as well as types of clothing materials and their manufacturing.
 
In addition to these works instructing children on lifestyle development the 19th century also saw the introduction of the educational primer. Lady Ellenor Fenn’s Cobwebs to Catch Flies was written with the intention to help young children in learning to read. The book was published in two volumes with the first intended for children aged 3-5 and the second for those aged 5-8. It was one of the first books published that differentiated between reading groups.  Another instructional work published around the same time is Fanny Umphelby’s A Child’s Guide to Knowledge. The book is set in a question and answer format covering a variety of subjects from starch to lithography. The work is intended as a textbook for teaching reading and useful knowledge and uses enlarged type for ease of the juvenile reader. The title page also states that the work is in ‘the most simple and easy language’.
 
These are just a small selection of the wide range of works we have on our website.
 
 

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