From the 19th to the 24th March the Cardiff Children’s Literature Festival will be taking place in the city, at a variety of locations, and featuring authors and illustrators. A whole variety of events will be happening, for children, schools, and even adults! You can keep up with their activities by following @CDFKidsLitFest on Twitter. Cardiff University is contributing to the festival, and hosting some of the events, and in SCOLAR we are putting on an exhibition celebrating the history of children’s literature, from the 17th century up to the 20th century. We are looking at the chronological development of children’s literature by highlighting several themes.
Books for children were initially for educational purposes, which then developed into moral instructions too. Children were taught how to behave, and were given frightening examples of what might happen to them if they didn’t. The prevailing religiosity of the 18th and 19th centuries gradually waned until by the end of the 19th C. children were being regarded with a more sentimental outlook. More illustrative works began to emerge, some portraying idealised images of children, whilst others were aiming to capture their attention. Reading was no longer just for instruction, but for entertainment too, as fairy tales became popular. With an increase in fiction, the gender divide became markably apparent, as works were specifically aimed at either boys or girls.
Children’s fiction became more adventurous, and elements of fantasy were increasingly included, much of it owing a debt to British myths and legends that were popular at the time. In the twentieth century fantasy literature took on a life of its own, and is now one of the most popular genres in children’s fiction.
Charlotte Guest’s English translation of the Mabinogion in 1838 contributed to the fascination with Arthurian myths, as she brought the tales to a new readership. Translations of works into Welsh or English also provide a interesting look at what we want children to be reading.
We have gathered items from SCOLAR’s collections, including the Children’s Literature Collection which can be seen in part in the glass cases at the entrance to SCOLAR, and from the modern children’s literature collection held in the main part of the library. Items from the modern collection are also being utilised in a display on level 1 of the library (ASSL), where readers can vote for their favourite children’s novel.
The exhibition is available for viewing March-May 2013, and details of the items displayed are available on our webpages.