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July 1976

Eighteenth Century Children Through Their Books

Author Affiliations

From the History Department, Ohio Dominican College, Columbus.

Am J Dis Child. 1976;130(7):726-737. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1976.02120080048006

In this year of our country's bicentennial celebrations, some thought must be given to the most neglected segment of 18th century society—the children. The changing status of colonial children is given tangible expression in the books provided for little ones, in the manuals for parents, and in accounts written in later years by the boys and girls of this era. No period in the history of American juvenile literature is so bleak and uninspiring as that of the first half of the 18th century. During this time, no real effort was made either in the colonies or in England to provide suitable reading for the young. Children everywhere were treated not as immature beings but as "little men and women," and nothing was written especially for the needs of the young mind. Instead, little ones were expected to digest as best they could the heavy literary diet of adults, beginning