Go back to the very first picture book you recall reading. Was it an illustrated nursery rhyme? Was it a children’s comic? Was it bit fancier with real photos? Whatever it was, probably the most vivid part of that memory was the discovery, reading and sharing of a magical world that somehow made you feel warm, safe and also transported. It probably was the beginning of your reading habit. And even as your reading has evolved and your filter, lens and sensibilities have gotten much more sophisticated, there probably are still one or two such cherished children’s books that you will read again in a heartbeat.
Whether read to you or helped to read word by word or described and augmented by a parent or grandparent, the reading experience is a mainstay of many a childhood. Is it not astonishing then that while the world of technology grows in amazing leaps and bounds, the reading experience itself has not changed all that much? When our kids are headed into an increasing technological and interactive world, there seems to be both a paucity and even reluctance to let the reading experience go there.
Historically: Prior to the birth of printing, most stories including those for children were narrated and followed the “oral tradition”. The first known children’s book is “A Little Pretty Pocket-Book”. Written and published in 1744 by John Newbery, it is widely considered the first modern children’s book. The landmark book aimed contained a mixture of rhymes, picture-stories and games.
For a detailed history and list influencers of children’s literature, here is the Wiki page. The English philosopher John Locke who developed the tabula rasa is credited with setting direction on easy and pleasant learning for kids. Picture books appropriate for early and pre-readers was one of the many genres that emerged. Here are the all time best selling children’s books. Notice that most of these are picture books.