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Opening the Nursery Door: Reading, Writing and Childhood 1600-1900

reviewed by Barbara Beatty - 1999

coverTitle: Opening the Nursery Door: Reading, Writing and Childhood 1600-1900
Author(s): Mary Hilton, Morag Styles & Victor Watson
Publisher: Routledge/Falmer, New York
ISBN: 0415148995, Pages: , Year: 1997
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Perhaps because of the absence of the conforming influence of formal schooling, radical ideas abound in the seemingly innocuous world of young children. This fascinating collection of essays challenges the Romantic orthodoxy which has dominated thinking about children and childhood in England and the United States since the mid-nineteenth century, and recovers pre-Romantic attitudes toward children's learning and literacy. Inspired by the discovery of a shoe box containing home education materials made by an eighteenth-century Buckinghamshire vicar's wife, the engagingly written chapters in this volume defend the notion that rationality is better for children than fantasy. If this does not sound like a radical idea, read on. The book starts with a detailed description of Jane Johnson's home teaching materials, but goes far beyond her nursery to the sources of early literacy, the origins of children's literature, and the instruction of lower-class children. Shirley Brice Heath states that Johnson's morally didactic methods were also quite "open-ended" (p. 29), and makes a strong case for the idiosyncratic intimacy of... (preview truncated at 150 words.)

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 100 Number 3, 1999, p. 680-682
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 10326, Date Accessed: 4/16/2021 4:13:05 AM

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About the Author
  • Barbara Beatty
    Wellesley College
    BARBARA BEATTY is associate professor in education, Wellesley College. She is the author of Preschool Education in America: The Culture of Young Children from the Colonial Era to the Present (Yale University Press, 1995). She is working on a history of the impact of educational psychology on teacher education.
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