I need to re-write a series of educational texts. I have a good translation from Russian into English, but the text does not catch the reader in English as well as it does in Russian. Here are a couple of paragraphs. I am looking to have them re-written before committing more texts. Also please send me examples of your liberal arts texts.
Hi, this is ArtWeekend. Today we will find out how the famous British literary fairy tale emerged.
The idea that children needed special books was born not long ago, in the late 17th and early 18th century. As for the children’s literature we know and love, it only appeared in England in the mid-19th century.
The very existence of children’s literature is tightly linked to the question — what is childhood? Can we say that childhood is a distinct period of a human life?
Even today, if we ask people what childhood is, we’ll get different answers. How do we know when childhood is over? When you can obtain a driver’s license? But some learners receive their IDs when they are 15, and we do not normally call a 15-year-old an adult. When you can provide for yourself? In this case, we will be forced to acknowledge that in the early 19th century childhood was over at the age of three for some people. Starting from that age, children could make cardboard boxes or other simple things and thus help their families. As for five- and six-year-olds, they swept chimneys, did the laundry, worked in coal mines, and made a significant contribution to their families’ budget.
For centuries, children were seen as small-size adults. They were dressed as adults, and they were taught as adults in a wealthy family or sent to work as adults if the family was poor. Social distinctions were much more important than age, and they determined children’s lifestyles and interactions with the world.
Take another important question: is a child born good or bad? Is a child sinful by nature? If yes, then adults must correct him. Is a child pure and innocent, a stranger to earthly dirt? In this case, adults must see that dirt does not stick to him.
That’s why religion was so important in the emergence of children’s literature. Protestants (unlike Roman Catholics), and especially Puritans, thought that the ritual of baptism did not cleanse a baby of original sin, which is why parents had to be strict in order to knock bad habits out of their children. Remember Aunt Polly from Mark Twain’s Adventures of Tom Sawyer? She used to lament her own meekness toward the orphaned boy: “Spare the rod and spile the child, as the Good Book says. I’m a laying up sin and suffering for us both, I know.”
The earliest texts that addressed children directly were religious instructions that sought to stop a child from ending up in hell, to rectify his soul before it was too late. Such texts first appear in the 17th century, and they are rather repetitious, like this: “There was a girl who used to lie to her mother; she fell into a fireplace and burned to death.” Or “One boy never heeded his parents’ advice, and then he fell into a river and drowned.” What about obedient children? They were doomed as well — in those pious tales, mortality rate approached 100%. Here’s the beginning of one such story: “You may now hear (my dear Lambs) what other good children have done… May you not read, how dutiful they were to their parents? How diligent at their Books? … How holy they lived; how dearly they were loved, how joyfully they died.” Good children die with a smile on their pretty faces and ascend to heaven; bad children die in torment and descend to hell.
This logic dictated that children needed to watch public executions. In the 18th century, there was a popular series of books called The Newgate Calendar, or Malefactors’ Bloody Register, which eventually became a collection of fanciful biographies of criminals. The title page of one of its editions shows a mother who directs her boy’s attention to the gallows seen from the window: he must know how a sinful career ends. Sometimes religious books intended for adults were appropriated by children. In Britain, many people recalled a powerful childhood impression made on them by John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress from This World to That Which Is to Come (1678). It is a very pious book, but, being full of extravagant fantasies and miracles, it dazzles children’s imagination.
But since the early years of the Victorian era, children’s literature has embarked on a new course. Queen Victoria ascended the throne in 1837 when she was very young and died in 1901. Many historians agree that the momentum of the Victorian age continued until World War I, when that well-ordered world was shattered to pieces.