Children’s literature is fiction written by adults for children. Children’s reading material can naturally contain other texts as well, but this does not make these texts children’s literature.

Books for children started to spread after the invention of printing in the 15th century, when an increasing number of people acquired some education. This process was enhanced by the Reformation and by the spread of Enlightenment ideas. It was no longer enough for a schoolchild to learn letters and syllable-by-syllable reading. To tackle the Bible and understand its complicated text, people needed other texts to practise their reading – known in German as zwischen Bibel und Fibel, pieces of reading between an ABC book and the Bible. At first, children’s books were quite expensive and reached the young readers via adults.

Children’s books were seen as messages from the adult world to immature young people who were soon to enter that world. For a long time, children’s literature was harnessed to the bandwagon of pedagogy.

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