The Love of Reading in the Young

The beauty of books is that they can transport you anywhere and anytime. During the Regency (and indeed many, many years before and after) reading was a past time enjoyed by the whole family.

Before television and radio became the focus of family entertainment, books had the ability to share stories and start conversations. We’ve talked before on this blog about books, including how they were bought or borrowed during the Regency and how we fell in love with reading in the first place.

This past week, I’ve been privileged to see a love of reading blooming in younger generations. My eldest daughter is starting to enjoy the story complexity of longer, chapter-style books while my youngest son had begun carrying picture books around in case a lap becomes available. A teenager I work with recently asked me for a list of author suggestions as she transitions from YA books. As a book lover myself, I get excited to see children and teens finding the same love.

Books are the perfect place for young, creative minds to grow. They realized this even in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. This is when the children’s book as we know it began to exist.

Illustrated books with two to six lines of writing on each page appeared in the late 1700s. John Newbury, who is honored annually in America with the Newbury Medal, began publishing these happy books to fill a growing need in children’s literature.

By the Regency, children’s books became more involved, more targeted. Some even had movable parts, such as an illustrated dolls head or arms moving.

Perhaps it was this surge in the idea of children’s literature that propelled the success of the Grimm Brothers. Late in the Regency, the Grimm Brothers began publishing their collections of German folklore. They were very popular in England as children fell in love with Snow White and Rumpelstiltskin.

In August we celebrated Jane Austen and the role she played in the modern romance. It is interesting to know how much modern children’s literature was influenced by authors from the time as well.

What was your favorite children’s book? Were you a lover of fairy tales?


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