Discussion

Length of Initial Post – 300-350 wordsDeadline for Original or Initial Post – Friday, Sept. 17, 11:59 p.m.
Tasks:Read these five traditional poems written for children:  Against Idleness and Mischief (32),  The Sluggard (33), and Obedience to Parents (33) by Isaac Watts; The Old Mans Comforts and How He Gained Them by Robert Southey (33-34); and The Spider and the Fly (46-48) by Mary Botham Howitt.[1] Read the excerpt provided of Lewis Carrolls classic Alices Adventures in Wonderland (62-76). Read these three critical essays: C.S. Lewis essay On Three Ways of Writing for Children,  Sheila Egoffs Precepts, Pleasures, and Portents: Changing Emphases in Childrens Literature (12-15), and John Rowe Townsends Didacticism in Modern Dress (16-19).
Writing Prompt:As with last week’s Discussion Forum, the theme of this weeks forum is To Teach or to Entertain?  However, this time you will post after learning from, and engaging with, three expert critics who have written on the topic: Egoff, Townshend, and Lewis.For centuries, the main purpose of literature offered to children in Western societies was religious instruction although the literature was presented not to children only, but to a mixed audience of adults, young people, and children.  School books reflected the basic principles of Christian belief.  Many of these books had to be memorized and recited in response to set questions in the classroom.Long before any of these writings existed, in oral traditions around the world, the distinction between teaching and entertaining was often blurred, as it is again in media such as television and popular films today.Historians and critics of childrens literature in the twentieth century often date the beginnings of a genuine literature for children to the middle of the eighteenth century.  This view is based on the idea that publishers such as John Newbery, who, in a famous phrase, sought to unite instruction with delight, were the first to acknowledge that children needed to be entertained and pleased by their reading material.  This is an assumption that we more or less take for granted today, but it was certainly not held by most writers of books of instruction before the eighteenth century.Recent critics, nevertheless, are turning their attention once again to those texts that were aimed at teaching children, particularly by appealing to childrens innate capacity to reason and comprehend.  In any case, the history of texts for children, whether didactic (educational) or literary (aesthetic in quality) or both, is a history of tension between the desire to teach children and the desire to please them. After readings the three essays by the critics, engage once again with the central question of this weeks module by reflecting on the following critical questions:How important, in your view, is a childs pleasure in reading a story?  How important are the lessons?Why and how did earlier writers who included children among their readers ignore or perhaps subtly acknowledge the interests and demands of their child readers? This time, support your views with quotations gleaned from the critics’ essays.  Be sure to cite specifics (with in-text citations) from both types of reading material so that your classmates (and your instructor) can connect with and locate your reference points.