Time After Time: How children's literature has changed.

This timeline depictes the changes and stages of children's literature from the eighteenth century to present day.

Changes in children's literature

oral stories


Oral stories were told by minstrels.

Book of general information


"Elucidarium" or book of general information for young students, was developed by Anselm, archbishop of Canterbury. This was a type of encyclopedia and covered topics such as manners, childern's duties, the properties of animals and plants, and religious precepts.



Young children learned to read from a "hornbook". This was a small wooden paddle with parchment paper attached. On this paper the alphabet, the vowels and the lords prayer were printed.



A chapbook is "a small book or pamphlet containing poems, ballads, stories, or religious tracts". They were cheaply produced. The term is still used today to refer to short, inexpensive booklets. Chapbooks were so called because they were sold by peddlers known as chapmen.

the first picture book for children


Johann Amos Comenius's, "Orbis Pictus", is often referred to as the first picture book for children.

Contents of children's literature

Instructional information

700 - 1744

During this time literature for children was of a religious and instructional natute. Books taught children the behaviour that was expect so they could be good boys and girls.

Books for entertainment

1744 - Present

Beliefs about child rearing began to change due to thoughts of John Locke, Jean Jacques Rousseau and David Hume. John Locke maintained that as soon as children knew their alphabet they should be led to read for pleasure. This began a change in the literature written for children.

Recognition of children's literature.

Children's Book week


Franklin K Mathiews sought to raise the level of reading for children. His suggestion to establish children's book week was promoted in 1919 by Frederick Melcher. Schools, libraries, newspapers and book stores supported the event.

Newbery Medal


The Newbery Medal was the first award in the world to be given for "distinguished contribution to literature for children". It was first awarded in 1922.

Caldecott Medal


The Caldecott Medal was given for the most distinguished illustration of the year. It was first awarded in 1938.

Children's Book Council


The Children's Book Council was established to promote Children's Book Week and to distribute information on children's books throughout the year