Acts of Reading: Teachers, Texts and Childhood

Acts of Reading looks at the history of reading and texts for children from an educational perspective. The texts selected date from the eighteenth century through to the digital age and beyond. They are examined through the eyes of their various audiences--the children, writers, teachers and parents--so as to explore the act of reading itself, whether oral, silent or performative, whether for pleasure or instruction. Also considered are the changing representations of childhood over three centuries and the influence of the visual on the acts of reading. The genres explored include commonplace books, fairy tales, poetry, fiction, fables, picturebooks, Arthurian legends, online messageboards, reading primers and A Very Pretty Story (1744). The inspiration for this collection is the case study of Jane Johnson’s unique eighteenth-century nursery library, which reveals how children were taught to read in one particular household and sheds light on perceptions of childhood and texts for children at the time. The opening chapters extend our knowledge of this historical archive, and the volume goes on to trace the progression of ideas around reading and childhood past, present and in the future. The nineteenth century is considered through the writings of Romantic poets, while the early twentieth century focuses on classic children’s literature. The last three chapters show how our expectations and ways of teaching are being modified as a result of the changes in the book and its relationship to other media, including multimodality and ways of engaging with readers through digital technologies. Overall, this volume spans the vast range and depth of what reading means and has meant to children and the adults around them, so helping us understand that still mysterious process—the act of reading.The contributors include: Eve Bearne, Janet Bottoms, Peter Cook, Valerie Coghlan, Teresa Cremin, Judith Graham, Elizabeth Hammill, Shirley Brice Heath, Anouk Lang, Karlijn Navest, Geraldine O’Connor, Francesca Orestano, Margaret Meek Spencer, Vivienne Smith, Laura Tosi, Victor Watson and David Whitley.


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