Ideas about children's books are inextricably bound up with cultural constructs of childhood
What do children know? How do they learn best? What rights should they have? All these fundamental questions about childhood can be contested (and frequently are
Derived from psychology, the term is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as ‘an object of perception or thought, formed by a combination of present with past sense-impressions'. Since the Oxford English Dictionary also equates ‘construct' with ‘anything constructed, especially by the mind; hence specifically, a concept specially devised to be part of a theory',
In this chapter, I will focus on describing ways constructs about childhood can influence the form children's books take, and shape discourse about children's literature.
ltural constructions about childhood and books to make decisions that can be justified as in the child's best interests.
But the practice of putting this particular category of books in a special department is indirectly predicated upon the notion that childhood is a separate stage of life, a cultural construction that may not always have been in place.
his construction was the subject of Philippe AriÈs' famous study, Centuries of Childhood (1960), where AriÈs observed that, in early modern Western Europe, it was eventually ‘recognized that the child was not ready for life, and that he had to be subjected to a special treatment, a sort of quarantine, before he was allowed to join the adults'. 2
f they were consulted about how the books should be organised, they might suggest ways based on different criteria, such as the response a story arouses (fright, laughter or boredom, for example) or favourite characters (Captain Underpants, Olivia the Pig, Harry Potter). It is the adults who can easily navigate the shelves and are therefore invited to locate – and therefore screen and select – any book. Adults will bring the material chosen mostly under their supervision to the cash register, which is also sized for the big people who pay for the books, not for little people who will read them.
Western constructs of childhood, infused with adult projections, expectations and anxieties about individual fulfilment and society's future, usually point to foundational principles.
ile the quarantine construct arises from the conviction, based on observation, that enlightened segregation from adults serves children's need
d Book Number 1: My Girl (2001), Super Mario's Adventure: My Very First Nintendo Game Boy (1997) and hea
On the one hand, she considers herself to have been buying ‘for' the child without being aware that the tension about child agency in the quarantine construct is surfacing in another context
Yet the youngest ‘readers' depend upon adults to show them how to make sense of their baby books, so reading is not a solitary experience, in which words are silently construed on the page in the order they were printed. Rather it is a social encounter, in which the adult uses an illustration as a point of departure to explain a concept through conversations with the chi
ith a child who cannot yet speak, the process is one-sided