Children’s Literature: From Instruction to Entertainment

Last Monday, I was fortunate enough to see part of the children’s literature collection at the Lilly Library here in Bloomington. The Lilly has an amazing collection of rare books, and it’s always fun to see the treasures they bring out for various events. This particular session was all about the evolution of literature for children who were seen as tiny adults needing life instruction to children who wanted to be entertained.

The earliest examples laid out for us were horn books with the alphabet on one side and key words like doghousehorse on the other. One mother even made instructional flash cards about the dangers of life.

As we got into the later examples of the literature—moving from straight instruction to entertainment—we were shown books like this Newberry edition of Mother Goose and this tiny boxed library set of stories.

My favorites, however, were seeing items like Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit.

And the absolute best was seeing the original manuscript for Peter Pan. What a treat!

If you ever find yourself in Bloomington, Indiana, definitely stop by the Lilly! Not only will they be able to show you amazing gems from their collection, but you’ll learn a lot too.