As part of my subject Literature in Education, we are debating the definition of ‘children’s literature’. This is what I had to say on the forum:
“A definition of children’s literature must consider the role children play – as readers and perhaps as selectors – as well as what ‘literature’ is. Just because it is for children, should the quality that is ascribed to ‘literature’ over fiction in general be compromised? Winch (2006) uses longevity and impact as two measures which might separate literature out from other written works. Enid Blyton was not held in my (childhood) primary school library as she was considered poor quality but her works have stood the test of time and are beloved of many children, so according to Winch, they would be included in a collection of children’s literature. She would, however, be left out if literature meant “high literary and artistic standards” as suggested by Sutherland and Arbuthnot (1991, pp.5-7, in MacGregor’s document).
Personally, I loved Enid Blyton and would love to share her with young readers today, so I think my definition would be broad enough to allow relatively populist authors if they did prove to be lastingly successful, though I would draw the line at the Psycho Bum books, beloved of many as they are…”
I was immediately queried over my judgement of Andy Griffith’s Pyscho Bum books so I must hasten to add that though I find them eye-rollingly juvenile, of course I appreciate their value in appealing to children, particularly otherwise reluctant readers. I would always have them in multiple copies in a library collection. My question is whether ‘literature’ includes ALL material made for or enjoyed by children or whether it indicates a certain literary merit and is therefore somewhat exclusive. What do you think?
Winch, G. (2006). Literacy : reading, writing and children’s literature (3rd ed.). South Melbourne: Oxford University Press.