This is the first volume to consider the popular literary category of Early Readers – books written and designed for children who are just beginning to read independently. It argues that Early Readers deserve more scholarly attention and careful thought because they are, for many younger readers, their first opportunity to engage with a work of literature on their own, to feel a sense of mastery over a text, and to experience pleasure from the act of reading independently. Using interdisciplinary approaches that draw upon and synthesize research being done in education, child psychology, sociology, cultural studies, and children’s literature, the volume visits Early Readers from a variety of angles: as teaching tools; as cultural artifacts that shape cultural and individual subjectivity; as mass produced products sold to a niche market of parents, educators, and young children; and as aesthetic objects, works of literature and art with specific conventions. Examining the reasons such books are so popular with young readers, as well as the reasons that some adults challenge and censor them, the volume considers the ways Early Readers contribute to the construction of younger children as readers, thinkers, consumers, and as gendered, raced, classed subjects. It also addresses children’s texts that have been translated and sold around the globe, examining them as part of an increasingly transnational children’s media culture that may add to or supplant regional, ethnic, and national children’s literatures and cultures. While this collection focuses mostly on books written in English and often aimed at children living in the US, it is important to acknowledge that these Early Readers are a major US cultural export, influencing the reading habits and development of children across the globe.
Table of Contents
Introduction Annette Wannamaker and Jennifer Miskec Section 1: History 1. From The New England Primer to The Cat in the Hat: Big Steps in the Growth and Development of Early Readers Ramona Caponegro 2. The Boxcar Children and The Box-Car Children: The Rewriting of Gertrude Chandler Warner’s Classic and the Origins of the Early Reader Michelle Ann Abate 3. Creating and Marketing Early Reader Picture Books Rebekah Fitzsimmons Section 2: Aesthetics and Form 4. The End?: Approaches to Closure in Early Readers Karen Coats 5. Superheroes, Villains, and Habits of Mind and Heart: Books in and through the Early Reader Gretchen Papazian 6. Redefining the Early Reader in an Era of Multiliteracies: Visual Language of Mo Willems’ Elephant and Piggie Series Daniel Hade and Laura Anne Hudock 7. Babymouse in Space: Locating the Reader, Text, Character, and Brand Annette Wannamaker Section 3: Culture 8. ‘I think these chapters are not real’: In a Dark, Dark Room and the Horrors of Early Reading Katharine Slater 9. ‘Just think – How many girls have special powers like you?’: Weird Girls and the Normalizing of Deviance in Early Readers Michelle Beissel Heath 10. Free-Ranging Childhood and Saving the Earth in the Marty McGuire and Ivy + Bean Early Reader Series Helen Bittel 11. Alvin Ho: Not Allergic to Playing Indian, Feathers, and Other Stereotypical Things Sarah Park Dahlen Section 4: Global Contexts 12. The World is Flat, Stanley: Globalization, Ethnocentricity, and Absurdity Anne W. Anderson and Rebecca L. Powell 13. Playing with Language, Food, and Pictures: Ideology and Cultural Adaptations in the Translation of the Captain Underpants Series into the Spanish Language Teresa Asiain 14. ‘Watch your language, Andy,’ said Terry. ‘There might be children reading’; or, Early Readers the Australian Way Erica Hateley 15. Anna Hibiscus and No. 1 Car Spotter: Africa in Early Readers Jennifer Miskec
Jennifer M. Miskec is an Associate Professor of Children’s Literature at Longwood University, USA, where she teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in children's and YA literature. She is the director of the Children's Literature minor, involved in the Honors program, and runs a Children's Culture study abroad program in Croatia. Her publications include articles on gender, ballet, and picture books; self-injurious behavior and YA literature; YA adaptions of Western classics; and the Ivy and Bean series. She is also an active board member of the Children’s Literature Association, serving as Secretary since 2011.
Annette Wannamaker is Professor of Children’s Literature in the Children’s Literature Program in the Department of English Language and Literature at Eastern Michigan University, USA, where she teaches courses about illustrated texts, children’s and adolescent media, criticism and theory of children’s literature and culture, and young adult literature. She is North American Editor-in-Chief of Children’s Literature in Education and has edited several collections of academic essays. She is the author of Boys in Children’s Literature and Popular Culture: Masculinity, Abjection, and the Fictional Child (Routledge, 2008) and of various articles focused on literary and cultural studies. She is an active member of the Children’s Literature Association, serving as the 2015-2016 ChLA President.
"Miskec and Wannamaker and all of their contributors are to be congratulated for rising to the original challenge with such subtlety an sophistication"
- Margaret Mackey, Children's Literature Association Quarterly, Spring 2017, 42:1
"This is a terrific collection of essays edited by scholars of children’s literature, Jennifer Miskec and Annette Wanamaker.The editors have drawn together an impressive range of essays – 15 in total – addressing a much neglected area of children’s literature, that of the early reader. (...) each of these essays can be seen as a strong contribution to a broad understanding of the early reader. There are no weak contributions – all have something to offer in terms of better understanding the early reader and understanding children’s literature. Furthermore, the essays are all highly readable and, unlike many collections, they can be read together to form a coherent overall picture of the history and contemporary themes of early readers. The editors have done an excellent job in bringing these essays together, and this collection is highly recommended."
- Amanda Laugesen, Australian National University in History of Education (2017)
"A valuable resource for those interested in education and the history of childhood and students and scholars of children's literature. Summing Up: Essential."
- E. R. Baer, Gustavus Adolphus College in CHOICE
"The Early Reader in Children’s Literature and Culture is a welcome and necessary contribution to children’s literature scholarship, particularly because of its embrace of interdisciplinary approaches, its explo-ration of the historical origins of the genre, and its analyses of contemporary examples of Early Readers."
- Krystal Howard, The Lion and the Unicorn