I’m just back from a wee trip down memory lane, thanks to a folder of correspondence between the NUWT and the International Bureau of Education. Where did I go? Back to fond memories of childhood reading. It was fun to get the chance to get all nostalgic in work! The correspondence was regarding surveys which both the NUWT and the International Bureau of Education published on Children’s Books. The NUWT sent out a questionnaire to local schools, libraries and book sellers to determine what were popular and good quality books for children in 1929. One of my favourite responses was from the London Borough of Bethnal Green. You can see their reply to the NUWT query below.
The response of Bethnal Green was a bookmark-sized resource ‘The Children’s Library – select list of ‘worthwhile’ books you are recommended to read’. It contains many of my favourites such as Alice in Wonderland, Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tales, Grimm’s fairy tales, Swiss Family Robinson, Child’s Garden of Verse, Peter Pan, but Pride and Prejudice, for children, really?, Dantes, or Don Quixote? Maybe I just had philistine tastes but I definitely didn’t read these as a child! What were your favourite childhood books? Do any of them appear on this list?
The NUWT survey gives one liner descriptions of the book which vary hugely, for example a very lyrical description of Child’s Garden of Verses as ‘vivid and human, speaking of eternal youth with the tongue of genius’. Swiss Family Robinson is described as ‘Adventures during solitary life; generally boys choice’ – I don’t get the ‘boys choice’ bit, it’s a fantastic adventure story that makes anyone who reads it want to be marooned on a desert island, I still love it! There is a section of the survey on ‘Books giving best picture of modern child-life in England’ and in the notes for this section point 3 states -
“English boys love adventure stories and the girls love school tales. Both are full of thrills and exaggerations giving totally false impressions of ordinary life”. But of course!
There are so many books on the lists that I read as a child, some I read first as an adult, and also many I feel I ‘should’ have read but haven’t ever quite got round to!. I know some of them such as Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland will still be popular but thought I’d check the Institute Library to see if many of the others are still in circulation. A great many of them still are and can be found in the curriculum resource section of the Library. You can also find them by doing a quick search on the library catalogue.
Weekly round-up of NUWT related posts elsewhere
Wednesday wonders - Together in Electric Dreams, Emancipation from Drudgery
For anyone in Glasgow, or near enough to go for the day on Sunday, Glasgow Women’s Library are doing a West End Women’s Heritage Silent Walk. I went on their Garnet Hill heritage walk last summer and it was full of interesting facts about places I used to walk past every day. It really makes you connect the history to the spaces that surround you. Plus it’s fantastic to hear the hidden histories, in the sense that many of these women would not be mentioned in the history taught at schools.