What is literature for children?
Children's literature has its roots in the stories and songs that adults told their children before publishing existed, as part of the wider oral tradition. Because of this it can be difficult to track the development of early stories. Even since widespread printing, many classic tales were originally created for adults and have been adapted for a younger audience.
There is no single, widely accepted definition of children's literature. It can be broadly defined as anything that children read, but a more useful definition may be fiction, poetry and drama intended for and used by children and young people, a list to which many add non-fiction. Nancy Anderson of the College of Education at the University of South Florida defines children's literature as all books written for children, "excluding works such as comic books, joke books, cartoon books, and nonfiction works that are not intended to be read from front to back, such as dictionaries, encyclopedias, and other reference material".
Children's literature can be divided a number ways. Two useful divisions are genre and intended age of the reader.
Children's literature by genre
A literary genre is a category of literary composition. Genres may be determined by technique, tone, content, or length. Anderson lists six categories of children's literature, with some significant subgenres:
- Picture books, including board books, concept books (teaching an alphabet or counting for example), pattern books, and wordless books.
- Traditional literature, including folktales, which convey the legends, customs, superstitions, and beliefs of people in past times. This genre can be further broken down into myths, fables, legends, and fairy tales.
- Fiction, including fantasy, realistic fiction and historical fiction.
- Biography and autobiography.
- Poetry and verse.