How many types of children’s literature do we know and how do we apply it?


In his Poetic Art , Horace coined that maxim that said: Prodesse et delectare , which has been commonly translated into Spanish as “teaching delighting”. This Horatian idea, widely rooted, supports the idea that literature should be a source of knowledge and, in turn, of pleasure.

If children’s literature has a prodigious entity within general literature, with its own characteristics that differentiate it from other genres, then, how can we not make it the center of the curricular context of the infant and primary stages?

While general literature is not always read with a didactic purpose, children ‘s literature , from the beginning, has been linked to the pedagogical and has still barely been separated.

But the educational potential of a book is not only in using a text in the classroom for pedagogical purposes. It is, above all, that the child learns to resort to reading as a source of enjoyment. In which to become a reader. For this, it is essential that you feel the story close to your intelligence and cognitive level.

Are the classics appropriate reading?

Many of the readings that have been imposed throughout history were not created specifically for children, and were difficult to analyze and understand. They raised worlds alien to childhood.

This is the case, for example, with immersion at the wrong time, and in versions that were not for children, of classics or canonical authors. However, in Madrid, Saturnino Calleja (the one with the saying “You have more stories than Calleja”) stood out as an editor with collections for children’s literature. His selection of stories, such as the Cuentos de Calleja , adaptations of popular stories and classics, had an important impact on the educational sector at the time. A pioneering advance in the genre of youth literature and school books, not only in terms of its innovative literary value, but also as a specialized publisher.

Other authors in Spain, consecrated and considered classic authors, wrote for children: Fernán Caballero, Juan Valera, Clarín, Pérez Galdós or Ramón Llull. The difficulty, when we see these texts today, lies in the fact that those themes and the way in which they are related –sometimes with incomprehensible vocabulary– take the young reader away from their full understanding.

As an example, the story of The conjuration of words by Benito Pérez Galdós, versioned, translated and adapted with activities by the Casa Museo Pérez Galdós, but with not very encouraging motivational results according to the results of a forthcoming study entitled El Negative impact of canonical literature on children’s world: a historical cognitive estrangement .

Children’s literature in the 20th century

The generation of the Republic or of 1927 (Benavente, Valle Inclán, Alberti or Lorca) wrote poetry and theater aimed at children and young people.

In the 1930s, Elena Fortún ( Celia and her brother Cuchufritín , among others) and Antonio Robles ( Eight tales of children and dolls and The puppet brothers ) did it.

We are currently investigating the effect that this type of canonical literature has on children’s readers. Despite being good literature, aimed at a young audience, it is too far removed from reality to meet the needs of “conversion to reading.”

Three approaches

Of these creations that are not in tune with the child’s mind, children’s literary production has gradually focused its focus on didactically exploiting that contact with the literary, and not so much on the playful-creative.

The most established classification of children’s literature is the one developed by Juan Cervera in his 1989 book Theory of Children’s Literature :

  1. Won or recovered literature: these are works that were not created for children but have been adapted for education. They are part of the children’s literary canon and are recreated as learning material. This is the case of the adaptations of Perrault’s Tales , Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland , or the editions of One Thousand and One Nights .
  2. Literature created for children: texts intended for them and created with the creative needs of children in mind. It is a type of literary creation that is maintained today in the form of stories, poetry, songs or theater texts. Creators strive to make texts vivid, interesting and engaging , and can be accompanied by extraordinary illustrations that boost motivation. The main problem is maintaining that interest and habit over time, especially in high school.
  3. Instrumentalized literature: we refer to that large number of publications that are produced and that appear in series in which, after choosing a common protagonist, they make him go through different scenarios and situations: the beach, the mountain, the circus, the market , the zoo, the countryside, the church, the school, the square… Or those that are created specifically for grammar exercises or other subjects. In these works the didactic intention prevails over the literary one. They are books that take the outline of literature but they are not literature, although they may seem so.

Reading that allows you to grow

From the point of view of responding to the needs of the child, the earned and created modalities fill children’s leisure time educationally – not school-wise, and their presence at school is beneficial.

Especially, when reading comprehension is promoted for a pre-dissertation work, pre-debate or games of semantic, lexical fields or towards writing workshop approaches. Young readers will understand the power of literature through language as a communicative and creative tool.

However, the expansion of instrumentalized literature would entail the invasion of leisure time by the school. In this way we would go against the new pedagogical trends with which we intend that starting from the playful the child can create his own imaginary worlds.

Reading as delight

So that the little ones understand reading as a delight, as another entertainment option and not as a compulsory extension of school, we should avoid those stories that end with activities to check if the child “has found out”.

The ideal is to achieve a reading activity that allows growth in emotions and self-criticism, in which learning is through exposure to different contexts, and a holistic interest in the work.

Author Bio: Elm Rose Love is Prof. Dra. Degree Education. Professor of Language and Literature, Literacy, Language Acquisition. Neuropsychology at Nebrija University