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.
"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
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
Founded by Jack Zipes in 1994, Children's Literature and Culture is the longest-running series devoted to the study of children’s literature and culture from a national and international perspective. Dedicated to promoting original research in children’s literature and children’s culture, in 2011 the series expanded its focus to include childhood studies, and it seeks to explore the legal, historical, and philosophical conditions of different childhoods. An advocate for scholarship from around the globe, the series recognizes innovation and encourages interdisciplinarity. Children's Literature and Culture offers cutting-edge, upper-level scholarly studies and edited collections considering topics such as gender, race, picturebooks, childhood, nation, religion, technology, and many others. Titles are characterized by dynamic interventions into established subjects and innovative studies on emerging topics.