Wednesday, 2 March 2016
Children's Literature - academic essay
(This first appeared in the Oxford Companion to Literature - editor Dinah Birch)
Children’s literature is of course literature written for children. However, this poses certain problems: what should we say of the works which weren’t written specifically for children but have ended up being read by many of them, or have been repeatedly adapted for a children’s audience? It has been generally accepted by publishers and readers that these two kinds of literature (like folk tales and adaptations of such works as *Robinson Crusoe) are part of the world of children’s literature. Meanwhile, both the notions of childhood and its lived reality have changed radically in the time that a specifically juvenile literature has been produced. At the age of twelve Charles *Dickens, like hundreds of thousands of others of the same age or less, was working a ten-hour day. He would have been a daily witness to children dying from starvation and struggling to survive from begging, hard labour and prostitution. This was the world that he reflected in *Oliver Twist, which itself has often been adapted for a child audience. In the twenty-first century, no twelve-year-old in the western world is legally trying to eke out a living - though he or she may well be enjoying objects made in part by a twelve-year-old from somewhere else in the world. However, there is a literature directed specifically at children which does show ways in which children suffer the privations of the modern world, through war, poverty, discrimination, or abuse. Leaving this to one side, our idea of children’s literature also has to encompass the fact that many of the works we regard as being for children have always been understood by writers, illustrators, publishers and audiences to be read by adults and children alongside each other – the books for the youngest children are a clear example of this.
Sociological, literary and historical approaches can all enrich our understanding of children’s literature. Three key institutions have had a vital part to play: the publishing industry, education and, something more diffuse, the processes of child nurture. Adults create a set of activities around children, though it should be quickly added here that children have never been treated in the same way from one period to another nor from one child to another. There is no uniform child reader across the ages or across any given society. While it has usually been the task of adults to protect and nourish children, there has also been infanticide, abandonment and exploitation. Some children have been carefully educated to take the place of the adults, but there has also been widespread illiteracy and until the 1960s, the production and distribution of printed material for children has been markedly differentiated from one kind of child to another. So, for example, a genre we might think of as one specific form, like the large full-colour picture book, has moved, thanks to publicly-owned pre-school institutions, schools and libraries, from being a luxury commodity consumed only by the well-off to something freely available to all. From the sociological standpoint, what distinguishes children’s literature from other literatures is its unique position in relation to the three institutions of publishing, education and nurture. The publishing industry marks its productions as being child specific, age specific – and on occasions sex specific. Education makes selections of appropriate children’s literature and controls much of children’s critical reading of books, though both the selection and the critical approaches may be laid down in guidelines and contested by teachers. The present discourse around child nurture (carried out most influentially by the mass media, including television, women’s magazines and national newspapers) creates an environment where certain kinds of books and ways of reading are thought to be suitable for different kinds of child or home.
From a literary standpoint, it is possible to say that the literature itself has some common characteristics. There has long been an understanding that the spoken language of children develops in complexity with age, so one of the key markers of children’s literature has been the linguistic registers of its texts – sometimes expressed as ‘the use of simplified language’. Thematically, certain topics have, in different times, been thought to be more or less appropriate. Where once the subject of death was a central preoccupation of the stories and poems read to children (especially in late seventeenth-century England), there have been whole periods when it was thought to be unsuitable. In the nineteenth century, the political aspirations of Empire were made quite explicit in juvenile literature (especially in boys’ magazines), while the mid-twentieth century marked a time when explicit political interventions were mostly, but not entirely, avoided. Throughout most of the history of children’s literature, two important social taboos of the modern era, public talk in popular language about sex and bodily excretions, meant that these topics were off-limits. However, since the 1970s, there have been mass-produced books, freely available to all children, which do not regard such subjects as out of bounds. Structurally speaking, one generalisation often thought to apply to children’s literature is that the resolution of stories should involve some kind of redemption, reconciliation, hope or sense of homecoming. Whether in jest or seriousness, more and more books for a young audience have broken with this constraint too. Underlying children’s literature has also been the notion that the books should improve the child, or at the very least, not encourage behaviour that adults would regard as anti-social. Sometimes this idea of improvement has been explicit and didactic, whilst at other times, the improvement has been thought to derive indirectly through the process of responding to fiction’s call for empathy with others, or even from the very fact that the child is exposed in an accessible way to the complexities of written language. It should be said, though, that there has also been a powerful strain in children’s literature that has mocked improvement, starting perhaps with Heinrich Hoffmann’s satire of moralistic teaching, ‘Struwwelpeter’(Germany 1845; England 1848) and taken up in a different way (celebration of mischief, mostly) by comics such as The Beano, established in 1938. One strong current within the aspiration to improvement that we find throughout children’s literature since the *Romantic period has been the idea that children’s literature can develop or support the ‘imagination’ and that this has a key role to play in the development of personality.
Like its adult equivalent, children’s literature has its novels, short stories, plays and poetry, but it also has forms which are more widely read than their equivalents in adult literature: picture books, pop-ups and ‘moveables’, comics, magazines made up of comic strips and stories, annuals and illustrated story-book anthologies or miscellanies. In response to the demands of education, there has also been a specialist educational literature: many kinds of primers, ‘readers’, story-books and collections aimed specifically at helping children learn how to read. The selection and editing of the written folk or fairy tale has played a crucial part in many of these areas, and their place in publishing and education has helped shape the tales themselves. Meanwhile, all these forms and the reading habits of children have been affected by changing technology. In the present time, it’s quite possible for a child to relate to a book through any or all of the following: a film, a TV programme, a computer game, a website, a radio programme, a music CD or download, a magazine article, toy, duvet cover or any other piece of merchandising, along with some of the more traditional ways of mediating a book such as the classroom, library presentation or cultural club, as with The Jungle Book (Rudyard *Kipling (1894)) and the ‘Cubs’. Characters, such as *Winnie the Pooh, (A. A. *Milne 1926 and 1928) which once existed only in specific, authored books, may now live in several different formats and the original text may or may not be known to the child watching the TV programme or playing with the toy.
Children also create literature in their own right. Thelargely oral culture of their play produces jokes, stories, role play, verbal games, rhymes and songs every day, andat various timesthis has been recorded (as for instance by Peter and Iona *Opie), anthologised or embedded in written poetry (as in W. H. *Auden’s and John Barrett’s The Poets’ Tongue (1938)). Works that children have composed, often while they are at school, and mostly as poems, have also been published and are now appearing more and more frequently on the internet.
The beginnings of this complex world of literature are mysterious. We will never know exactly what kinds of stories, jokes and songs were made up specifically for or by children in the non-literate societies preceding our own. We can guess that adults sang lullabies and soothing rhythmic pieces to children, and it seems likely that they were included in story-telling and singing sessions.. Once writing developed, some young children (usually the boys of the elite class) were taught to write and read, but clear examples of age-specific literature do not survive from the earliest literate societies. The first written forms aimed specifically at children are what we would now call lessons. For example, the ‘Colloquy’ of *Ælfric is a lively conversation in Latin between the teacher and his pupils designed as an aid to teach boys Latin. *Chaucer produced ‘A Treatise on the Astrolabe’ addressed to one ‘Lyte Lowys’ (Little Lewis) now thought to be the son of a friend who probably died in 1391. In the medieval period, there were also texts we can presume were for children such as alphabet poems and etiquette poems addressed to children on, say, how to behave at table. Manuscripts of fables, exemplar tales (secular parables), legendary or miracle tales and bestiaries which circulated all over medieval Europe, were read by or to some children, but were not specifically for them.
A key moment came with the production in 1658 of Orbis Sensualum Pictus (The Visible World in Pictures) by the Protestant Czech educator, Jan Amos Kamensky or *ComeniusEach of its 151 little chapters (such as ‘Aqua’, ‘Homo’ or ‘Mahometismus’) is headed by a woodcut whilst underneath, a set of words in Latin and German, name parts of the picture and relate what Comenius regards as the facts. Though ‘Orbis Pictus’ marks some kind of beginning, for some hundred years prior to this, a popular literature of scurrilous and miraculous tales, crimes, ancient tales, rhymes, legends and jokes circulated in the form of cheap sheets and booklets, known variously over the next two hundred years as blackletter *ballads, broadsheet ballads, *broadsides, street ballads and *chapbooks. Autolycus in The *Winter’s Tale (1610) is a singer and pedlar who not only sells fabric, gloves, bracelets, perfume and such like but also ‘ballads’. If John *Bunyan’s account is to be believed, he read this kind of popular literature when he was a child. Once again, this is not an age-specific literature but it could not have escaped the pedlars’ notice that children were an audience for much of this literature. Interestingly, it was figures like Bunyan who in the seventeenth century produced didactic tales and poems for children as part of the *Puritan tradition, in part as a reaction against the frivolities of the cheap ballads which were seen as Devil’s work. A particular focus of these Christian works was the notion of Original Sin, interpreted by Puritans as the fallen condition of every new-born baby. Baptism would save the child from Hell, so there developed a graphic, or as some might say today, horrific children’s literature relating the fate of those who missed baptism. Others wrote verses (like Bunyan’s A Book for Boys & Girls, or Country Rhymes for Children (1686)) that told children how to observe, interpret and love the world as God’s creation, and how to perform the deeds of a good Christian. As the middle class grew during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, it found that it had sufficient wealth to produce many-roomed houses to live in (including rooms for children) and to endow schools and colleges to advance and perpetuate its status through the education of the younger generation. It also produced theories of how its children should be nursed and trained and out of what we would now regard as the more liberal of these, there appeared the first literature for children that looked to entertain the child. In 1744, in London, the printer Mary *Cooper published Tommy Thumb’s Pretty Song Book in two volumes, of which only volume one survives. It is the earliest surviving example of a collection of *nursery rhymes, that is to say a set of verses mostly without known authors, made up of snatches from longer songs and ballads and songs culled from children’s own singing. Over the years this body of popular verse has narrowed into a nursery rhyme canon. Crucially, ‘Tommy Thumb’ is a children’s book that has no didactic, instructional or religious intent. It includes versions of rhymes that have survived to this day (‘London Bridge is falling down’, ‘Baa baa black sheep’, ‘Sing a song of sixpence’) along with rhymes that would in the nineteenth and in most of the twentieth century been regarded as unsuitably bawdy or scatological for children (‘Piss a Bed,/Piss a Bed,/Barley Butt,/Your Bum is so heavy,/You can’t get up.’) In the same year, the publisher John *Newbery, influenced by John *Locke’s thoughts on education, produced A Little Pretty Pocket-Book, intended for the Amusement of Little Master Tommy and Pretty Miss Polly with Two Letters from Jack the Giant Killer. Each letter of the alphabet has a rhyme and a moral and the book came with either a ball (for the boys) ora pincushion (for the girls). Meanwhile, the popular street literature of ballads, tales, legends, wonder-tales and jokes with a mostly working-class readership continued to flourish. In the same decade, Sarah *Fieldingproduced what is thought of as the first full-length novel for children, The Governess, or The Little Female Academy (1749).
Over the following hundred years, the texts intended for children multiply and diversify. Each of the strands that were present by 1750 developed, often in reaction to each other. So, for example, in the hands of the *Religious Tract Society (founded 1799), the didactic strain of Christian children’s literature imitated the form and shape of the street literature to produce illustrated moral tales for the same price. Authored poetry for children continued to focus on morally uplifting themes, but also incorporated fantasy and nonsense, in part borrowed from the folk nursery rhyme tradition (see in particular William *Roscoe’s The Butterfly’s Ball and the Grasshopper’s Feast (1806). It is in this period that the traditions of oral story-telling and French aristocratic fairy-story writing combine to produce the child-specific, illustrated versions taken from such original collections as *Perrault’s Les Contes de Ma Mère l'Oye (Tales of *Mother Goose,1697), Antoine *Galland’s version of Les Mille et une nuits, contes arabes traduits en français (The Thousand and One Nights,1704), the *Grimms’ Kinder und Hausmärchen (Children’s and Household Tales,1812), and the more authored tales of E. T .A *Hoffmann (1816) and Hans Christian *Andersen (1835). None of the tales in these original collections is a purely oral example of rural peoples’ pre-literate cultureBoth the original editions and the later child-friendly versions of these texts are complex hybrids of the oral and the written, marked with the social and political ideas of their day. For example, the Grimms edited, altered and re-wrote the tales they had heard from their mostly middle-class female friends in order to fashion something that would help the much divided German-speaking world of that time find itself culturally andwould, they hoped, contribute to the creation of a modern, democratic state.
Much children’s literature of the past two hundred years has been made up of re-tellings of these tales. As a result, their many versions have been examined in detail with a view to discerning the psychological make-up or needs of children, the political and social intent of the adults presentingthe stories, and the prevailing moral values of countries that have promoted or altered them. It is interesting to note that there are motifs in these tales (including attempted infanticide by parents, unpunished robbery, cannibalism, violence, rape and deception, and bargaining around sexual favours) that writers of new children’s literature throughout this period are told by their publishers to avoid. The distancing created by the convention of anonymously saying ‘Once upon a time…’ (and all the other non-real techniques of such tales) has allowed these usually impermissible themes and images to circulate.
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Children’s literature in Britain and north America has now become a diverse industry, flanked on one side by largely publicly funded education and on the other by the massive multi-national publishing, distribution, film, TV and merchandising companies. In the midst of it all sits the parent or prime carer who inevitably plays a key role in the selection and availability of books in the home. This produces two opposite pulls: the one towards mass production of best-sellers and the other towards more locally or culturally specific books and readers. The child who is reading and consuming the Harry *Potter or *Disney products may well also be the child who is looking at a book with total sales of only a few thousand that ended up in her hands thanks to, say, the efforts of a small publisher, a book-club, a librarian or teacher. In some circumstances, parents can and do play this role too, but for the mass of children, their route to the kind of book that may well cater for their more specific needs, can only come through the central role of school or library.
In terms of theoretical availability, however, we are at a point where there has never been a greater diversity of books on offer. One reason for this is the internet. A great number of the children’s books produced before 1900 are now available as downloads, while the internet book market of new and second-hand books has put small-scale productions of culturally specific books within the reach of millions (as well as millions of out-of-print books). Another is the nature of business itself. For some twenty years or so, the mass marketing of children’s books determined that it is more profitable to produce more titles with a shorter ‘shelf-life’ in the book warehouses, than fewer titles with a long shelf-life. Meanwhile, the technology of book production has meant that it has become very easy to produce copies of non-illustrated books on demand.
I Is it possible to discern any patterns or tendencies in all this? Clearly, the multi-media blockbusters of recent years, J. K.*Rowling’s seven-volume Harry Potter sequence (1997-2007), Philip *Pullman’s trilogy (1995-2000) and the revival of C. S. *Lewis’s seven-volume Narnia (1950-1956) and the work of J. R. R. Tolkien (1937-55) has tilted the reading habits of children (aged roughly between 8 and 14) towards fantasy literature. Fantasy in the form of newly produced, child-specific novels starts in the nineteenth century. John *Ruskin’s King of the Golden River (1851) can be credited with one of the first self-conscious fantasies intended for child readers, and this is followed by Charles *Kingsley’s The Water-Babies (1863) and Lewis *Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland(1865), and George *Macdonald’s The Princess and the Goblin (1872).
There are many ways of making cross-sections of the field of children’s literature, each offering a different perspective. Issues of gender, class and race have been much discussed since the early 1970s, with predictably divided responses. To take these in turn, it has been pointed out that apart from some notable classics (including those by Louisa May *Alcott and Laura Ingalls *Wilder, and some works by Frances Hodgson *Burnett (1849-1924), Edith *Nesbit or Astrid Lindgren (1907-2002)), the role of girls and women in children’s books of most kinds used to be largely domestic, and secondary to males. Meanwhile, others claimed that children’s books helped to construct masculinity by repeatedly casting boys as adventurers. Scrutiny of the literature also showed a middle-class bias in children’s literature, expressed in the kinds of schools, homes and spending habits of its protagonists. The corollary to this, it was claimed, was that working class characters were again and again cast as a mix of fools, victims, servants or criminals. On the race front, there was an outpouring of books, comics and boys’ magazines between 1880 and 1914 which represented almost anyone in the human race other than people of northern European origin in the same way as working-class people, but also as child-like, cruel and in need of chastisement or even, on occasions, summary execution. European white people were given implicitly or explicitly a mastering role at home and abroad.
The world of children’s books has tried to change and a variety of books re-positioning these roles have appeared. . Sometimes this has been done through historical fiction (see Mildred. D. Taylor’s Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (1976)); sometimes through modern realism (as in the work of Jacqueline *Wilson or Benjamin *Zephaniah); sometimes with picture books, like Mary Hoffmann’s Amazing Grace (1991), or Allan *Ahlberg’s Peepo (1981). Meanwhile, attention has been increasingly focused on such matters as whether young people are becoming less exposed to mild but necessary risk, or are unduly exposed to danger from adults through abuse, motor vehicles and war, or through forms of cynical irony, explicit sex and violence Should children’s books should try to address these problems ,or turn away, and producing what is in effect an imaginative haven? In fact both kinds of books are being produced. Libby Hathorne’s Way Home(1994) is a stark, gritty large format picture book about urban homelessness, whilst Nick Butterworth’s Percy the Park Keeper stories, which began to appear in 1989, are Edenic adventures with talking animals, a paternal Percy and happy endings.
Another way of looking at this problem has been to focus on how books position readers through narrative technique. It has been claimed, for example, that some books over-explain and so patronise the child-reader (a criticism levelled at Enid *Blyton, for example) whilst others offer complex narrative techniques (unreliable, ‘self-conscious’ or multiple narrators, flashbacks and flashforwards, deliberate gaps in narrative, inconclusive endings and so on). Most notable of such authors for older readers have been Robert *Cormier and Aidan *Chambers, and for younger readers in a comic style, Janet and Allan *Ahlberg and Jon Scieszka. (1954 )
The age-ranking of children’s books has been identified as a feature specific to children’s literature which raises the question of whether children’s books reinforce the tendency of modern culture to hold children in a false sequence of development. At either end of this sequence there are books which are marketed, distributed and consumed as Baby Books and books for Young Adults or Teens. At one end you can find books you can play with or chew and at the other end, fiction which is largely adult in style but happens to focus on the lives of young people and children – rather in the way that J. D. *Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye (1951), William *Golding’s Lord of the Flies (1954) or Harper *Lee’s To Kill a Mocking-Bird (1960) have done. Incidentally, Judy Blume can be credited with having written the first novel produced by a children’s publisher which had a girl and boy talking about their genitals and having sex(see Forever 1975).
There is reason to think of the *picturebook as one of children’s literature’s greatest inventions. Originating in cave paintings, two-dimensional story-telling was taken up in church murals, which give accounts of biblical scenes and medieval illuminated manuscripts of tales. Ballads and tales sold in the streets from the mid-sixteenth century onwards were nearly always accompanied by illustration. Orbis Sensualum Pictus and the works of John *Bunyan followed the pattern. Asplendid variety of illustrated books, often tinted by forced child labour, appeared in the nineteenth century.What has developed since is an art form, capable of telling stories with economy and complexity. It is a multiple approach, offering meanings through a variety of channels and in a variety of ways: print, sound (when read aloud), image and, on occasions, touch. So, it is not simply a matter of a story with pictures. Several stories are told in a picture book, with all kinds of features being present in one thread but not in the other. However, this is not simply a matter of objects or characters; it also involves the sensual effects of the images working in conjunction with, or even in ironic contrast to, aspects of the words. The words often have a percussive or musical quality themselves, through alliteration, rhythm or rhyme. The images may well vary in size, intensity, focal spot, distance so that neither eye nor ear will rest as the pages turn. The books of Beatrix *Potter opened the door for a long line of anthropomorphic, domestic and pastoral picture books and her artwork in itself arises from the achievements of English, Victorian water-colourists. Far from being simple, easy-going tales, Potter’s books are full of uneasy undercurrents of selfishness and danger. Mass production of cheap coloured children’s books was pioneered in the Soviet Union in the 1930s and was taken up by publishers like Pere Castor in France, Little Golden Books in the US and Puffin Books in England, whodelivered brightly coloured books for the very young into anyone’s home and school. Maurice *Sendak single-handedly brought modern psychology into the picture-book with Where the Wild Things Are (1969) where a naughty boy quite literally deals with his demons. The modern picture book now tackles such subjects as the Holocaust, sex or death alongside the happiest and lightest of themes.
Poetry for children has its own history, combining elements of the nursery rhyme, verse composed for children, poems not originally composed solely for children but later adopted by publishers and educationists in their anthologies, and children’s own oral poetry. In this way, children have been exposed to a huge variety of poetry, from tiny, musical to complex First World War poetry by Wilfred *Owen. The nursery rhyme canon offers an abrupt, bold poetry: often surreal, violent and mocking, full of characters who don’t follow traditional etiquette or behaviour, though sometimes traditional role models are reinforced. ‘Sing a Song of Sixpence’ describes a king counting money in ‘his’ counting-house, while the queen eats bread and honey in ‘the’ parlour. Most of the canon is anonymous but several rhymes embedded in the English-speaking world’s culture to this day are authored: ‘Twinkle Twinkle’ was written by Jane and Ann *Taylor (1806), ‘Wee Willie Winkie’ by William Miller (1841), ‘Mary had a Little Lamb’ by Sarah Josepha Hale (1830) and ‘Old Mother Hubbard’ by Sarah Catherine Martin (1768-1826) based on an older rhyme.
Etiquette, moral and religious poetry for children in English emerged in the medieval period and continues in many different forms to the present day. The chapbook tradition produced many rhyming sheets based on such characters as *Tom Thumb or told short traditional tales in verse form. In the late eighteenth century, perhaps inspired in part by Bunyan, nursery rhymes and chapbooks, a poetry for children emerges that takes pleasure in the observed world or creates absurd scenes, like ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’. A major shift occurred with Edward *Lear who applied all the skill of a great lyricist to create absurd, melancholic stories of loneliness and travel, or a gallery of oddballs in his *limericks. Lewis Carroll was a highly accomplished writer of narrative verse and parodies, mocking, in particular, the kinds of verses being given to children in Sunday Schools. The four best known British writers of children’s poetry prior to 1950 are Robert Louis *Stevenson, Hilaire *Belloc, A. A. *Milne and Walter *de la Mare, each contributingsomething very different. Stevenson is the first poet to celebrate his own childhood in pomes intended for children. Hilaire Belloc built on the ‘Struwwelpeter’ tradition with his ‘Cautionary Tales’ parodying moral verse. A.A. Milne took some of the themes from the poetry of adult humorous magazines and carried it over into children’s books, while de la Mare created a dreamlike, mysterious, supernatural world. For older children in Britain from the late nineteenth century onwards there was a strand of patriotic and imperial poetry which celebrated Britain’s role in battles defeating foreigners, most famously by Sir Henry *Newbolt.
Just as complex in its production and mediation is the history of drama for children. The pantomimes of the early nineteenth century were seen by whole families and a work often seen as the first children’s play, J. M. *Barrie’s Peter Pan (1904) was also a family entertainment. Punch and Judy was always directed more specifically at children, while cut-out, paper and cardboard theatres come with plays attached, such as dramatisations of ‘Jack the Giant-Killer’. There are three strands to the modern world of theatre for children: the school- and museum-based touring companies; children’s theatres; Christmas shows for children, pantomimes along with such modern classics as dramatisations of Raymond *Briggs’ ‘Snowman’. School-based touring companies started to develop in the 1960s and adopted the radical techniques (and in some cases the politics) of agitprop and Brechtian theatre. In the present time, these educational companies tend to produce plays on such matters as dental hygiene or road safety. Children’s theatres usually offer a mix of adaptations of old and new fiction, plays with totally new stories along with the occasional ‘old’ play such as Maurice *Maeterlinck’s Blue Bird (1908). Children themselves are involved in thousands of school- or club-based theatrical events, often writing them themselves. This too is a form of children’s literature.
Clearly, the internet and the arrival of the electronic book is producing some major changes to what and how children read in the future. Writers have become increasingly accessible to their readers through websites and chatrooms and children themselves can publish what they write from the moment they can use a keyboard. However, the physical object of the book fits into another strand of children’s activity - playing with toys. The tactile holding of a small object that releases possibilities, fantasies, fun and speculation is perhaps not different in kind from a pile of building bricks. That said, the huge creative possibilities of texts and sounds delivered from hand-held screens have yet to be realised. New hybrids made up of moving photographic image, drawn image, computer generated image, interactive game, linear text, music, sound effects, and performance poetry or rap are likely to emerge over the next few years. Indications of this can be found anywhere from modern art installations to the children’s pages of the BBC website. What follows from this is that the production of literature for children will be subject to two forces: one global, delivering mass produced entertainment into every child’s hand; the other, self-made and local. This is analogous to the production of the visual image for adults, where film is now widely available both as a mass produced commodity and as part of a home-made process. Key to the creative power in this new era will be the role of education. Will those who control school curricula leave enough space and time for teachers and school students of all ages to make their own literatures? To do so will both benefit the development of new artists of all kinds, but will also help develop a critical readership amongst young people.