What kids used to read

Have you forgotten what kids used to read? I was doing some research for an idea I have for a new novel and I came across a childhood book of mine as I rummaged through old notes and boxes of stuff. I was astounded.  My search came to a halt and off I went down the sidetrack. As you might remember from a previous post, it often happens – don’t worry.

I’d won a prize at primary school and in those days prizes most likely would be a book token. I was 8 years old. This is the book I chose.

what kids used to read

I read this when I was 8yrs old

From the Royal Series by the publisher Ward Lock & Co, this classic children’s book by Robert Louis Stevenson had been our class reader. I loved it. I liked it best when our teacher, Mrs Hall read from it. I wanted to be able, like her, to put expression into the action and read aloud with confidence.

The book cost 4 shillings. I remember my mother being surprised that this was how I wanted to spend my prize token. Treasure Island was really for boys, wasn’t it? Was I sure that this was what I really wanted?

She showed me other books from the same series.

what kids used to read

I read this one later

Uncle Tom’s Cabin was one I read when I was a bit older. What Katy Did or what she did next didn’t interest me at all. However I did enjoy Little Women when I was around eleven. So, I went home with Treasure Island and read again the story of all those great characters.

NextWhatKatyDidNow here’s an interesting thing. Look what Ward Lock had to say on the back cover of the Royal Series and I quote exactly as printed on the dust cover.

Ward Lock 1957 said . . .

These stories should be read by all young people, for they are an essential part of our cultural heritage and as significant in the educative process as any subject in the school curriculum.’

Wow! They go on to say,

Above all, through an exciting world of imagination, they will gain knowledge of human beings and their ways that would otherwise take a life-time to acquire.’

Blimey! Sounds like they were publishing books for young Martians.

Ward Lock now publishes text books for teachers and students. I wonder what they think about how children’s literature has changed over the years. Or ways it hasn’t changed at all. Here’s a link to their current web site.

Here’s an excerpt from Treasure Island Chapter 4 – punctuation as original –

‘It was already candle-light when we reached the hamlet, and I shall never forget how much I was cheered to see the yellow shine in doors and windows; but that, as it proved, was the best of the help we were likely to get in that quarter. For – you would have thought men would have been ashamed of themselves – no soul would consent to return with us to the “Admiral Benbow.” The more we told of our troubles, the more – man, woman, and child – they clung to the shelter of their houses.’

I wonder how many 8 year olds would get their heads round that now?

By the end of Chapter 5 there have already been three deaths: Jim’s father upstairs on his sick bed; Captain Billy in the inn from a stroke after drinking too much rum; and Blind Pew who is trampled by horses.

Murder and mayhem just to get you started. Good guys and bad guys.

In what ways do you think children’s literature has changed?

Please join in. I’d love to hear from you.

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