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Children's Literature, Morality + Changing IdealsIntroduction
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With the invention of the printing press in the fifteenth century, and its gradual integration into society, people at last had access to literature. It was William Caxton who first saw the opportunity to make money by printing and selling those stories and fables hitherto told by word of mouth.
At this time, literature did not have age-specific target audiences. Inevitably, some stories appealed to children more than others. Robin Hood was especially popular, while Aesop’s fables offered entertainment and life lessons to adults and children alike.
It is, of course, impossible to say exactly when and how literature was identified as a useful tool in teaching morality to children. It is speculated that there was no concept of ‘childhood’ before the eighteenth century, although historians debate this, as historians are apt to do.