Reading between the lines

Material Information

Reading between the lines shifting views of American childhood 1922-2009
Paul, Jamie
Publication Date:
Physical Description:
xii, 139 leaves : ; 28 cm


Subjects / Keywords:
Children -- Social life and customs -- United States ( lcsh )
Children's literature, American -- History and criticism ( lcsh )
Americans -- Attitudes ( lcsh )
Americans -- Attitudes ( fast )
Children -- Social life and customs ( fast )
Children's literature, American ( fast )
United States ( fast )
Criticism, interpretation, etc. ( fast )
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )
Criticism, interpretation, etc ( fast )


Includes bibliographical references (leaves 136-139).
General Note:
Department of Sociology
Statement of Responsibility:
by Jamie Paul.

Record Information

Source Institution:
|University of Colorado Denver
Holding Location:
|Auraria Library
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
672293484 ( OCLC )
LD1193.L66 2010m P38 ( lcc )

Full Text
Jamie Paul
B.S. Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff 1999
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Sociology (M.A.)

This thesis for the Master of Sociology (M.A.)
Jamie Paul
i has been approved
Karl Flaming


Paul, Jamie (MA, Sociology)
Reading Between the Lines: Shifting views of American Childhood 1922
Thesis directed by Assistant Professor Paula Fomby
This article aims to investigate the evolution of American childhood as
reflected in children's literature from 1922 2009. The well-respected
Newbery Award winning books from these years provide a series of social
fields within which to study America's shifting attitudes towards
childhood. These attitudes had the power to transform childhood from the
class-defined experiences of vastly differing substance, content, and
duration that defined its many faces in the early twentieth century, into the
single assumed twenty-first century American childhood marked by
irresponsibility, helplessness, marginalization, and the need for constant
adult supervision and protection.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I
recommend its publication.
X-Paula Fomby

I dedicate this thesis to my parents, Stephen and Corein Paul, and to my
family, who gave me my love of books, reading, and all things historical
on our countless library and museum trips when we read every single
plaque, pamphlet, and historical marker with enthusiasm. And to our
family of friends, all of whom humor me in my constant presentation of
books that they just have to read. And to my Oscar, who makes endless
fun of sociology, yet gave my first draft a position of honor next to Uncle
Johns Bathroom Reader.

Many thanks to my adviser, Paula Fomby, for all her patience and
direction as I changed thesis topics and blundered about. Also, thanks to
Candan Duran for the Sociology of Childhood class that dragged me away
from an even more practical degree in the humanities, and for her candor
in class and on committee. Finally, thanks to Karl Flaming for providing
advice and feedback as the final member of my committee.

1. INTRODUCTION.....................................1
Purpose of the Study..........................1
Scope of the Study............................7
Arrangement of the Thesis.....................9
2. REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE........................11
Literature as Sociology......................11
History of the American Social Construct of Childhood
and Adolescence............................. 15
History of American Children's and Young Adult
History of the Newbery Award.................37
3. METHODS.........................................40
Summary of Methods...........................40
Detailed Descriptions of Items, Rational,
and Data Collection..........................45
4. RESULTS.........................................59
5. DISCUSSION.....................................102

Suggestions for Further Research
A. Newbery Book List...................133

Figure 1: Percent Historical Fiction/Fantasy by decade.............59
Figure 2: Average Number of Violent Instances Per Novel by
Figure 3: Average Number of Deaths Per Novel by Genre...............61
Figure 4: Average Adult Content Score Per Novel by Genre............61
Figure 5: Average Graphic Content Score Per Novel by
Figure 6: Flesch Readability Score by Year Published................63
Figure 7: Kincaid Grade Level by Year Published.....................64
Figure 8: Average Flesch Readability Score by Decade Published.....65
Figure 9: Average Kincaid Grade Level by Decade Published...........66
Figure 10: Average Number of Deaths Per Novel by Decade
Figure 11: Average Number of Violent Instances by Decade Published..69
Figure 11 A: Average Protective Score by Decade Published...........69
Figure 1 IB: Protective Score by Year Published.................70
Figure 12: Average Percentage of Juvenile Characters Engaged in
Economic Activity Per Novel by Decade
Figure 13: Average Number of Adults Presented as Caretakers
by Decade Published......................................72

Figure 14: Average Percentage of Presented Adults who are Serving as
Caretakers by Decade Published..........................73
Figure 15: Average Number of Adults Presented as Allies or Enemies
by Decade Published.....................................74
Figure 16: Average Percentage of Allies and Enemies who are Adults
by Decade Published....................................75
Figure 17: Percentage of Total Coded Interactions with an Adult or
Adults as an Ally or Enemy Rather than Caretaker by
Decade Published...................................................75
Figure 18: Average Percent of Action Taking Place in Public Space by
Decade Published........................................77
Figure 19: Average Percent of Action Taking Place in Family Space by
Decade Published........................................77
Figure 20: Average Percent of Action Spent in Child Specific Space by
Decade Published......................................78
Figure 21: Percentage of Books in Which Most Characters are
Ageless by Decade Published...........................79
Figure 22: Percentage of Books in Which Protagonist is or Becomes an
Adult by Decade Published.............................80
Figure 23: Average Number of Pages by Decade Published...........81
Figure 24: Average Number of Total Deaths Per Fantasy Novel by
Decade Pair From 1960 On..............................82
Figure 25: Average Amount of Total Violence Per Fantasy Novel by
Decade Pair From 1960 On..............................83
Figure 26: Average Protective Score For Each Fantasy Novel By Decade
Pair From 1960 On.................................................83

Figure 27: Average Percentage of Each Fantasy Novel Set in Public
Space By Decade Pair From 1960 On.....................84
Figure 28: Average Percentage of Total Interactions that are With
Adults as Allies or Enemies in Each Fantasy Novel by
Decade Pair From 1960 On........................................85
Figure 29: Average Number of Characters Under Protagonists' Care in
Each Fantasy Novel by Decade Pair From 1960 On..................86
Figure 30: Average Amount of Total Violence in Each Contemporary
Novel by Decade Pair From 1920 On....................87
Figure 31: Average Graphic Content Score (1-10) for Each Contemporary
Novel By Decade Pair From 1920 On...............................88
Figure 32: Average Protective Score (1-10) for Each Contemporary
Novel by Decade Pair From 1920 On....................89
Figure 33: Average Percentage of Economic Participation by
Protagonist in Each Contemporary Novel by
Decade Pair From 1920 On..........................................90
Figure 34: Average Number of Characters Under Protagonists' Care in
Each Contemporary Novel by Decade Pair From 1920
Figure 35: Average Percent of Each Contemporary Novel Set in Public
Space by Decade Pair From 1920 On......................92
Figure 36: Average Percentage of Total Interactions with Adults as
Allies or Enemies in Each Contemporary Novel by Decade
Pair From 1920 On......................................93
Figure 37: Average Kincaid Grade Level of Contemporary Novels
by Decade Pair From 1920 On..........................94
Figure 38: Average Number of Total Deaths per Historical Novel by
Decade Pair From 1920 On...............................95

Figure 39: Average Total Violence per Historical Novel By Decade
Pair From 1920 On.......................................96
Figure 40: Average Protective Score (1-10) for Each Historical Novel
by Decade Pair From 1920 On.............................97
Figure 41: Average Percentage of Total Interactions in Each Historical
Novel that are with Adults as Allies or Enemies by Decade
Pair From 1920 On...................................................98
Figure 42: Average Percentage of each Historical Novel Set in Public
Space by Decade Pair From 1920 On.......................99
Figure 43: Average Kincaid Grade Level of Historical Novels by
Decade Pair From 1920 On................................100
Figure 44: Average Age of Protagonists by Decade Published..........101

Table 1: Data Collection Grid Sample

Purpose of the Study
This study evaluates the content of the Newbery Award-winning
childrens novels from the award's genesis in 1922 until 2009. The
resulting data is analyzed with the aim of discovering, corroborating, or
discrediting any trend(s) in the overall perception and treatment of
American children and the construction of American childhood over the
last 90 years.
Why look at works of fiction in order to ascertain the social facts
that define American childhood? As Karl Marx suggested, the attitudes of
the historical and social times in which a work of art is created effect the
art and its purpose. Francis George Steiner, literary critic, philosopher,
novelists and professor of literature at both Oxford and Harvard, agreed,
saying, "We now see the work of art as rooted in temporal and material
circumstance. Beneath the complex structure of the lyric impulse lies
specific historical and social foundations, (Finnegan 1974).

The social context in which an author worked shines through his
plots, characters, and dialogue. These details paint a picture of the
normative childhood of the author's times. Even in historical or fantasy
works, in which the author may try to faithfully recreate either the society
of the past or that of another reality altogether, the author's own time
unconsciously colors her creation. The author cannot completely remove
herself from the society which she has helped to create and in turn been
created by. Her characters every action is measured against the real
world and the hypothetical consequences or results of a similar action
there. Quality children's literature thus reflects shifts in American
childhood over time, just as it also evidences technological advances and
shifting social norms in general.
I analyze the content of the 87 books awarded the Newbery Medal
from 1922 2009 for evidence of these shifting norms and expectations
surrounding childhood, and contextualize this analysis within the
sociology and history of childhood.
The picture that emerges renders today's American childhood as a
time of comparative innocence, victimization, and irresponsibility,
inhabited by children who are limited in their ability to contribute to or
interact fully with adult society. Interestingly, this seems to be in direct

opposition to the popular conception of childhood today. Parents today
declare a desire to raise their children to be assertive and independent.
Many conduct family interactions as if they themselves were mere
representatives for the child citizens of their own small democracy.
Parents whom allow children to make decisions for the whole family,
those who generally organize their lives around the children's needs and
desires, seem to find favor with the general public in America. This
manner of child raising, the "concerted cultivation" of Lareau, held up by
mainstream society and institutionalized by private and upper-class public
schools and organizations, would seem to suggest a time marked by
maturity and responsibility rather than dependence and helplessness
(Lareau 2003).
However, I believe that a comparison of contemporary American
childhood with previous historical and sociological constructions of
childhood will reveal the existence of a new American Childhood that is
indeed the very picture of dependence and irresponsibility, contrary to the
modem parents predilection to create exactly the opposite experience for
their children.
My review of the Newbery Award-winners, along with my
experiences as a teacher, and my exploration of the current and past

literature on childhood, all lead me to the same conclusion. Today's
American childhood is a time of irresponsibility, lack of agency,
marginalization from the broader society, and increasingly low
expectations of the childs academic and practical ability. The superficial
power and entitlement afforded to those children who have every need and
desire immediately met is not comparable with the actual responsibilities,
assumed capabilities, and freedoms afforded the children of our past.
Today's American childhood is in part a class-specific
construction, like that of the past, in which childhood as a time of
innocence and separation was almost entirely the province of the upper
classes. However, the push for all Americans to live the American Dream
of affluence, combined with the American connection between self-worth
with material worth, makes the childhood currently prescribed by the
upper classes the default setting, the expected childhood for all
Americans. This in turn has created an ideal of childhood steeped in the
nostalgia of nonexistent times, dripping with the guilt of those who cannot
afford to uphold it, and littered with the judgment of those who feel that
their standards of childhood are the only acceptable rendition of the real
thing, while any other definition is the result of an irresponsible failure of
parenting abilities. Concerted cultivation is, after all, condoned by

schools, psychologists and the collective they. It is what the children
deserve (Lareau 2003).
The American childhood of 100 years ago was a more overtly
class specific affair. Then, the general idea of childhood tended towards
more responsibility and a pronounced appreciation and practical use of
children's capabilities throughout society, with those responsibilities
defined according to the class of the families and communities involved.
Children were less marginalized, and participated in the life of their
families and communities in ways that are currently thought to be far from
practical or acceptable (Ben-Amos 1995, Davis 1944, Fyfe 2000, Kett
1971, Klein 1990, Lesko 1996, Moran 1985, Reuter 1937).
Children cooked using real kitchen implements and were
frequently in contact with, and responsible for, dangerous things like fire
and knives. They took care of other children. They populated public
spaces like stores, streets, parks, and open spaces without adult
supervision. Children took care of farm animals and ran potentially
dangerous farm equipment. They held jobs and even created their own
jobs in order to support their families. Upper class children did not do all
of these things, clearly, they did not generally participate in work that their
elders did not have to do. However, they were expected to participate in

the political scheming necessary for their family's position, and often
participated in charity works as well. They were more segregated from
society than were children of the lower classes, but joined society more
fully at a younger age than one generally sees now, sharing adult
responsibilities well before we now grant full citizenship (Graff 1985, Kett
1971, Klein 1990, Ben Amos 1998, Lesko 1996, Davis 1940, Aries
Now, with the idea of class patently offensive to a large portion of
American society, only one construction of childhood is condoned as a
valid life stage. While many claim this to be a symptom of progress,
based on the science of child development, the historical and
sociological record finds an easily traceable genesis of this phenomenon
peeping out from the idea of the protected child of the Victorian upper
classes and the impact of the lower classs aspirations for success in
Americas land of opportunity on this conception of childhood (Cahill
1990, Corsaro 2005, Klett 1971, Gaff 1985, Moran 1985, Ben-Amos
I expect to see shifts in the prevalence and existence of certain
items of interest in American childrens literature over time that will
reflect and confirm the shifts in American childhood over the past 100

years. I also expect to be able to trace these changes not to creditable
psychological and medical advances, but to the realm of the social and the
particular circumstances that attended the development of our current
American consciousness.
Scope of the Study
The study will include Newbery Award Winning children's novels
from the years 1922 2009. These books were published between 1921
and 2008, and awarded the Newbery Medal the year following
publication. Newbery Books must be published for children in the United
States by an America author.
The independent variable for all comparisons will be time, as
represented by the year the novel was published, the decade in which the
novel was published, the decade pair in which the novel was published, or
the year or decade in which the novel was set. Decade pairs, or twenty
year time periods, are used when the sample size for a decade would over
simplify the data and grant undue significance to any single novels data.
Items to be explored as dependent variables will include:

Number of pages
Year of setting
Age of protagonists(s)
Status of protagonist(s) as adult or growth of protagonist(s) into
adulthood during the novel
Gender of protagonist(s)
Salience of age within the novel
Quantity and quality of protagonist(s) interactions with adults
Quantity and quality of protagonist(s) interactions with children
Status of adult characters as caretakers
Status of adult characters as allies or enemies to protagonist(s)
Percentage of novel set in public space
Percentage of novel set in family space
Percentage of novel set in child-specific space
Quantity and quality of protagonist(s) experiences with death
Quantity and quality of protagonist(s) experiences with violence
Quantity and degree of graphic content (1-10)
Degree of protective attitude towards children (1-10)

Number of children participating economically in the household
Number of characters receiving significant care from protagonist(s)
Flesch Reading Ease Score (1-100)
Kincaid Grade Level (k-12)
Adult content (1-10)
Arrangement of Thesis
In Chapter Two, I will discuss the scholarly literature relevant to
childhood in America, literature as a social product, and childhood itself
as a social construct.
First I will examine the idea of popular literature as a possible
avenue to the discovery of social facts. Then I will delve into the history
of the social construct that is childhood and adolescence in America, and
discover the possible effects society's understanding of adolescence has
had on childhood. Next I will discuss the history of children's literature as
it pertains to the sociology of childhood. Finally I will delineate the
criteria necessary for gamering the Newbery Award in children's
literature, and the history of this award.

Chapter Three will contain a specific explanation of the methods
undertaken to complete this investigation into literature and childhood,
and a detailed explanation and justification of both the items used to
define childhood and the specific data collection procedures.
Chapter Four puts forth the results of the study in graph and
narrative form.
In Chapter Five, I will discuss the implications of the collected
data with regards to the sociology of childhood, and suggest possible
further research in the study of children and childhood in America. I will
also delineate the limitations of this study.
The appendix follow Chapter 5, and includes a list of all Newbery
Award Winners.
My bibliography of sources completes the thesis.

Literature as a Social Field
The creation of a novel is essentially a social act. The author has
an intended readership in mind, and is interacting with this readership in
absentia just as the readers will one day interact with the absent author and
the other readers who are also absorbing his words. The social space
created in the novel helps us discover Bourdieu's habitus, or the set of
rules and expectations, the scaffold of internalized culture, that create
one's largely unconscious image of the self. This structure is the overseer
of social reproduction (Eastwood 2007).
An individual habitus combines with those of others into a sort of
societal habitus, something akin to Durkheim's collective conscious. That
is, the combination of individual expectations creates a set of communal
norms by which members of society are judged and defined. The
individuals within society may agree or disagree with these ideas on a
conscious level, but all members agree that the abstract "they", the every-
man and no man, that idea undoubtedly does subscribe to the official
norms that they themselves are also aware of, norms that cause them to

adjust their own expectations and habits both consciously and sub-
consciously (Eastwood 2007).
Evidence of this social norming is undoubtedly present in works of
the imagination. Works of literature provide the social field for an
encounter in which the writer and reader confirm and challenge each
others perceptions of the world and their places within it. They construct
and confirm the social norms and expectations of their times while
interacting in the social field of literature. The observation of this habitus
is the observation of Durkheimian social facts. These facts are at their
most obvious in social situations wherein actors are required to interact
with each other based on the rules and norms of the society that surrounds
them (Cahill 1990, Eastwood 2007, Lareau 2003).
As a recorded social situation, the novel is a document of social
experience a re-creation of the world the author finds herself in, and a
script through which the reader and author are constantly interacting. The
novel is a recorded set of social interactions which has roots in the
creators' time, place and society, as well as that of the readership the
author expects to entertain or inform (Finnagan 1974). The novel reflects
cultural ideals and power relations of its time, and provides a snapshot of
the social structures that lived and breathed in the author's present.

Children's literature is no exception to this phenomenon. Indeed, it
provides a more focused opportunity to discover the expectations and
norms assigned to the child reader and his spot in society as a whole due
to its intended audience, which is more specifically delineated than it
would be in another genre (Grauerholz & Pescosolido 1989, Lundin 1994,
Musgrave 1982).
Children's literature as a genre is easily adapted to sociological
reading. Its very creation identifies the sub-group we seek to study. Its
content reveals the subjects and ideas thought appropriate for children of a
certain time, as well as the plot-lines that would be believable for those
same children. It must walk a fine line between the many adult versions
of childhood and the interests of actual children in order to be marketable
and publishable. Even as children's literature responds to the social cues
surrounding its creation and its own authors' normative and practical
views of childhood, its readers find within the pages the idealized
definition for their own category of person, and in turn can either rebel
against this definition or adapt to this fictionalized version of themselves
(Cahill 1990, Kumar 1982).
Literature is frozen and unselfconscious. A book cannot reroute
ideas to make room for poltical-correctness post printing. It cannot

rewrite characters into new slangs and trends, or re-plot to please the MTV
generation. Literature cannot lie about the times it came from, and so is
much more useful to our purposes than many other sources would be. It is
a treasure trove of sociological investigation more immediate and less
troublesome than the survey or focus group, even assuming the children
who populated childhoods of the past were still available for comment.
After all, many survey subjects attempt to please or challenge the
researcher by programming their answers in a given direction. Focus
groups can similarily avoid honesty by bowing to the participants' desire
to discover the researchers' true purpose. What are these questions after?
It is human nature to attempt to figure out the researchers' purposes; to
push the research in a given direction out of over-cooperation or
obstinance. Books cannot foil investigation, as they were not written with
the investigation in mind. They exist as a given record of time and place,
a given unchangeable story.
The Newbery books we are concerned with in this study, held up
as examples of excellence in the field of children's literature, can tell us
much about the children who devoured them and adults who
recommended them. They can describe for us the normalized childhood
of their time and our own, and inform the ever-present outcries about

kids these days by illuminating the actual disparity of experience
children of today have had when compared with those of the past. They
highlight the interactive nature of the creation of childhood as we know it
today, and as society has known it through time.
History of the Social Construct of
Childhood and Adolescence
Though we may often think of childhood as a biological life
stage, the meaning, duration, and place that members of society who are
undergoing this stage hold is socially constructed (Kett 1971, Lesko 1996,
Graff 1985, Moran 1985, Ben Amos 1998, Reuter 1937, Lundin 1994,
Katz 1982, Lareau 2003, Corsaro 2005, Aries 1962). The idea that
childhood means many different things to many different peoples is quite
thoroughly borne out in works of art, fiction, biography, and research in
the social sciences, both past and present; as well as in historical and
contemporary education and legal policies of various societies regarding
persons of various ages.

Author and professor Dan Ben-Amos claims that our medieval
ancestors saw life as only two distinct stages: infancy and adulthood.
Small children were often painted with facial hair or breasts and in
grownup clothing, indicating their place in society as adults of a
diminutive stature (Ben-Amos 1998). In 7th century Anglo Saxon Britain,
persons of 10 years were considered legal adults. By Britains 10th
century, adulthood didn't officially commence until age 12 (Kamp 2001,
Aries 1962).
As life expectancy in the western world continued to stretch up
past 40, the life cycle began to gain some complexity in the minds of
educators, philosophers, men of the cloth, and parents. By the 1400's,
children appeared to have gained some status as separate from both infants
and adults, and ambulatory persons under the age of 7 were often
presented in clothing unique to children, rather than wearing adult attire
(Ben-Amos 1998)
In the 1600's, the Puritans came to America with their own take on
childhood. The idea of infant damnation colored their treatment and
expectations for children. Children must be taught to follow Puritanical
mores and to read the Bible for their own edification and salvation with all
due haste. If they were to die before accepting the teachings of the church,

no matter their age, their tiny souls were damned to hell fire (Moran
1985). Such beliefs clearly motivated Puritan communities to provide
early education for their children, and also speak volumes about the
parents beliefs in their childrens ability. Their children were, after all,
capable of earning eternal damnation from birth. There was no room for
low expectations. Today many worry that a five minute time-out may
damage their childs psyche irreparably!
Childhood was clearly not a time for irresponsibility in New
England. Puritan society sought to tame original sin through tempered
affection and appeal to reason, but was simultaneously preoccupied with
worries of spoiling children with too much love. Parents frequently sent
children away to foster with fellow congregants in order to avoid the over-
abundance of parental affection that could prevent them from properly
raising the children (Moran 1985).
It was this Puritan view of childhood, built on both the avoidance
of damnation, and the Lockean idea of the blank slate, that laid the
foundation for universal public education in America, and continues to
effect the American childhood of today (Moran 1985). Of course, both
infant damnation and the idea that one is bom as a blank slate and formed

entirely by ones experiences and surroundings have fallen out of popular
and scientific belief.
However, the legacy of infant damnation and original sin lives on
today in the presumably un-trainable children who populate American
media and are increasingly restricted from public spaces. Boys will be
boys. Thats how kids are. The idea got twisted on its way through time,
and rather than striving to save children from their own original sin, it is
now assumed that they will be bad in any case. That is what kids do.
They apparently outgrow this tendency at some nebulous point. As
childhood expands upward in age, this expected reformation can also be
delayed in order to normalize any and all youthful indiscretions.
This blank slate mentality is evident in the public school systems
unrelenting quest to treat every child the same in order to produce fairly
identical, good, academically successful citizens. By providing identical
tests and increasingly scripted lessons, identical results will be gained with
the identically blank automatons passing by on the assembly line of
In Puritan society, childhood ended at six or seven years of age, to
be followed by a prolonged period of youth. Even in this short childhood
period Puritan families demanded much of the individual. Most tots

learned to read between the ages of four and six, even in rural areas.
Adult-like reasoning ability was expected of those who would only be
attending kindergarten or first grade in our own time (Moran 1985). There
really was no time-out for the children of the early colonies.
This drive for early development continued into the 1800s, at
which point infant schools for children between the ages of two and four
enrolled 40 50% of Massachusetts three-year-olds. The infant school's
main priority was literacy, and the toddlers did in fact learn to read. By
1860 infant schools were in decline, however, due to new fears about the
harmful effects of early development (Moran 1985). This fear of
precocity was connected to fears in the medical community about
masturbatory insanity.
Early development could lead to too much thinking, which may
link to too much knowing especially about biological subjects better left
unknown. Knowledge began to hold the same power to seduce and
corrupt that is evident in the modem Texas text book negotiations. This
medical concern about masturbatorily induced insanity lead to a whole
new definition of youth. Rather than the apprentice adults they had been
in previous centuries, fully responsible yet socially inferior to more
knowledgeable elders, youth became the older, almost certainly wayward,

children; recipients of tracts and pamphlets cut from the same cloth as
after school specials. These educational publications and speeches warned
of the evils of masturbation and other worldly vices that could tempt the
youth. These youths had one foot in childhood, with the other seeking
purchase on ground in the land of adults that was not yet open to them.
The new youths had too much knowledge, yet suddenly lacked the ability
to interact with the adult world in which their predecessors had been
participatory members (Kett 1971, Lundin 1994).
Concerns about threats to youthful innocence and the study of
precocious or stunted youth helped to define normal youth around the turn
of the 19th century (Lundin 1994). The father of adolescence, Granville
Stanley Hall of Clark University, wrote his volumes on Adolescence: Its
Psychology and Its Relations to Physiology, Anthropology, Sociology,
Sex, Crime, Religion and Education" in 1905 (Lundin 1994). It was at
about this time that the distinction between youth and childhood solidified.
Americans began to identify two life stages preceding adulthood;
childhood and adolescence. Puritans and their contemporaries had seen
life primarily as a road through time, but by 1900, society began to adapt
the metaphor of seasons of development. They began to view

chronologically discrete age groups as much more absolute and fixed than
they had previously (Kett 1971, Aries 1962).
It was during this same time period that biographies and
autobiographies began to include childhood as part of the recorded life of
persons of interest. The social habitus towards childhood began to show
signs of romantic sentimentality, and children become objects of
nostalgia. Activists strove to move schools away from community centers
in order to create cloistered areas of youthful innocence (Kett 1971, Aries
1962). The focus was shifting from educating and training children for
their own early self-preservation, to protecting children from societys
evils through enforced ignorance. It is telling that this shift was
accompanied by increased urbanization and an increased presence of
wage-labor over subsistence living that marked the industrial revolution
along with the turn of century flood of immigration that changed the face
of America.
The world was changing faster than most adults could contend
with. They could not simultaneously pursue the American dream of
affluence, and abstain from the worlds new more industrial order. They
could however provide shelter and protection for their children in

romanticized ideas of childhood that held the increasingly steam driven
and godless world at bay.
In the modem urban environment, it was perhaps difficult to keep
older children cloistered, yet the new sentimentality about youth required
those with means to delay their own children's entrance into full adulthood
as long as possible. The idea of youth as a protected pre-cursor to
adulthood began to become a reality for Americans with money enough
for such ideas. Though this new idea of youth was both class and gender
specific, it was opening up the desire for such a youth for all Americans.
In the early 20th century, upper-class males from the late teen years to the
early 20's were considered youths. They were given this time to learn;
time to explore and pursue the tools which would help them to make their
fortunes. Many young gentlemen toured Europe or went there for
education in the old universities. Those of more modest, yet still more
than adequate, means, attended Americas own fledgling universities in
the quest of what they may become.
In spite of this new drive towards a defined youth experience, the
boys and men of the late 1800s and early 1900s didn't exactly obtain the
identity of a cohesive group. They lacked sufficient opportunity to gather
in defined, group specific activities in the Universities, which still boasted

a much broader range of ages and interests than found in our current
system. They saw themselves as members of the broader society, rather
than chiefly members of a stereotyped group (Kett 1971).
Meanwhile females of the same class and age were not afforded
the same protracted youth that antebellum America bestowed on its sons.
Girls were children until about 13 or 14 years of age, when puberty set in
for a quick two years or so of wrenching adolescence. They were
expected to settle into the adult world by 16, safely wed and soon to be
pregnant. Literature of the time demonstrates this gender gap in its stories
for young girls which featured 14 and 15 year old heroines coming of
age, as juxtaposed to male adventure stories, which commonly featured
boys of 18 to 25 (Kett 1971).
While the idea of an official time between childhood and
adulthood was becoming common among the wealthy, America's urban
centers began to fill with a growing middle class. The middle classes
looked out on streets filled with newly immigrated poor, and then across
the city at the habits of the wealthy. They ascertained that moving up
would benefit their own children to no small degree, and, seeing this, they
began to adopt the attitudes and practices of the wealthy as stepping stones

in the journey towards prosperity. Thus, the idea of adolescence began to
trickle down (Katz 1982, Kett 1971, Klein 1990).
Meanwhile, the newly wealthy of America's burgeoning cities
peered through their own windows, and saw that the protected realm of
childhood, an integral part of their newly written normative standards, was
at risk due to the increasingly industrial world. The long-standing place
children held within the economy of home and society were forgotten with
haste. Progress was increasing production and building fortunes out of
steal and coal. It could improve childhood as well. After all, one must be
prepared in this new American society where place and wealth were more
changeable than they had been in the old world. A care-free childhood
that had never really existed for the common man leapt into society's view
of itself, and was defended with the enthusiasm of the newly born-again
(Ben Amos 1998, Katz 1982, Kett 1971, Klein 1990). The best way to do
good in the new world came to revolve around creating opportunities for
Compulsory schooling became the battle cry of the zealots, and
schools became what they had not previously been. Farmers children
were no longer assumed to grow up to be farmers in their turn. Factory
workers, it was said, could give birth to senators, doctors or lawyers.

Everyone must be educated and, to some degree, assimilated to the
new universal upper class standards of behavior and leisure. The
educational world bent to socialize all children into the habitus of the
wealthy and middle class as completely as possible, in order to allow the
social reproduction of a mythical meritocracy. This was, and still is,
necessary for a capitalist nation that also views itself as compassionate and
Christian in its treatment of the poor and oppressed. The normative
view of childhood and adolescence became compulsory even for those
who could not afford it, and such is the situation today. No one can be left
out of these expectations because the fact that anyone who is actually
trying could possibly be living in America sans cable, GAP jeans, and a
summer vacation, is repulsive to the very definition of America. It is, and
was, a matter of pure inconvenience that some are unable to completely
assimilate due to their unfortunate skin color, native language, sexual
orientation, gender or religion.
As Jay MacLeod said in Ain't No Makin' It. "... the self-made
individual is a testament to certain American ideals ... the very existence
of an underclass in American society is a living contradiction to those
ideals. (MacLeod 1987)" The dream of an American meritocracy pushed
the wealthy definition of youth and childhood into the streets,

marginalizing all children to some extant, as they became beings of their
possible future rather than people of the present day. Children continued
to evolve into an increasingly helpless class. They exist now mostly for
what they may one day become, and because they began to be recognized
only as these phantoms of the future, their practical participation as
children in the current world became unimportant and inconsequential.
They may be humored and sent away until they magically attain a
responsible and wisdom filled adulthood and become suitable for social
interactions with the rest of the world.
Children living in poverty were even further marginalized than
were others, living as a sub-group within a sub-population. While
children and youth continued to contribute to the household income for
poor and working class families, such activities became embarrassing
(Ben-Amos 1998, Klein 1990, Lareau 2003). Theirs was not a normal
childhood, and seemed to skip the now universally required stage of
adolescence in a somewhat outdated fashion. The gap between the
childhoods of the upper and lower classes was more obvious in urban
landscapes, as are class differences even today. The rightousness attached
to upper class childhoods of learning and leisure became increasingly
pervasive as more and more families migrated to the cities in search of

opportunity. Adolescence as an extension of childhood became
indispensable to families with any notion of social advancement (Ben-
Amos 1998).
The machine that manufactured the urban opportunities of the
19th and 20th centuries along with the increasing wealth gap in America's
purportedly classless society, was also partially responsible for the
normalization of adolscence as a discrete life stage. The new need for
specialized workers in highly differentiated fields lead to a broader gulf
between childhood and adulthood, and an increasingly problematized view
of those who inhabited the nether regions between the easily defined
helplessness of childhood and the capability of adulthood (Cahill 1990,
Lesko 1996).
It is easy to see the place that Americas particular economic and
political systems, and to a lesser extent those of the western world, have
held in this unconscious campaign to oppress children with privilege, or
the desire for it. In contrast, in traditional agrarian or hunter-gatherer
societies the emotional and social maturity of youth does not seem to lag
significantly behind physical maturity. Reuter and others posit that this is
due to the uniformity of life throughout the life cycle, and thus the ability
for the society to integrate people at all levels of physical and cognitive

ability into the culture as active contributors (Reuter 1937). Industrial
societies have no such productive place to offer a young teen due to the
time required to master the more specialized careers inherent to the modes
of production in such a society.
In some cultures this economic marginalization would not have
such a marked effect. However, America spins on the axis of early
puritanical thought sans its basic spirituality.
The early Protestant work ethic and ideas of predestination
required one to be economically successful, and to have a calling-like
attachment to ones economic endeavors in order to prove ones own self-
worth (Weber 2008). God only really loves the well off, after all. Under
pre-destination rules, he had very little love to give.
America clings to these ideas today, even while vociferously
denying their existence. It would seem that the social democracies of
Europe do not suffer under the impression that socialized public services
are inherently evil, they do not seem to have Americas fervent fear of
the welfare state. There is something about the spirit of capitalism
which did not develop identically on both sides of the Atlantic. Europeans
do not seem to view those who cannot afford a certain commodity as less
worthy people overall, based solely on this inability to pay. America does,

even if Americans claim they do not. The proof is in her social policies,
least capable of boosting citizens out of poverty among all the progressive
policies of the other developed nations (Mooney et all 2010).
America grew up differently, and as a nation she has modeled her
behavior after the self-made man, both mythical and real, who pulled
himself up by his bootstraps. If America can do it, then so can every man,
and lack of success in the economic world must needs define an individual
as lazy or defective in some way. Youth, then, who are not afforded a
pathway towards economic and social contribution, but are old enough to
smell the beef, are left in a nether world of frustrated and hard to define
expectations for themselves. The adolescent's position as a marginalized,
non-contributory party within American society created the none-to-
complementary character imbued to this life stage in America (Reuter
1937, Klein 1990, Ben-Amos 1998, Davis 1940).
In the bourgeois society of Europe, sons and daughters had existed
in this same sort of privileged limbo for portions of time, but in those
cases it was a more isolated, class specific phenomenon. The
industrialized and consciously classless society of America, sans child
labor, assumed the luxury for all youths and in so doing further
marginalized and defined them as a sub-group (Graff 1985, Katz 1982).

The social idea of age groups that evolved along with the
marginalization of youth and children began to influence policy in
churches, schools, and homes. Whereas it was common in the 1860s to
find a five-year-old learning next to a 15-year-old, or a 25-year-old in the
one room school house behind a ten-year-old, modem schools began to
grade classes according to age (Kett 1971, Klein 1990, Graff 1985, Aries
Churches, particularly evangelical branches, began to provide
services specifically for teen congregants. They were seen as ripe for
conversion experiences because of their apparent emotionality, under
much study at the time by the medical community, which first suggested a
clear delineation between childhood, youth, and adulthood with their
intense research into masturbatory insanity (Kett 1971, Ben-Amos 1998).
With this increased segregation of adolescence from the rest of
society, a sort of group consciousness began to grow among its
inhabitants. They saw themselves, and continue to do so today, through
the eyes of a media and a public which viewed them as excitable, overly
emotional, inclined to hysteria and melancholy. They began to act
accordingly in just enough instances to solidify their own character type in
society's consciousness. The stereotypically defined ideal adolescent

obtained a life of its own in Americas collective consciousness, though
the veracity of the underlying assumptions is still much debated.
Some experts report that actual adolescent unrest is grossly
exaggerated. Others claim that while it is not exaggerated, it is a case of
self-fulfilling prophesy. Still others fall back on the medical explanations
of hundreds of years ago, blaming the hormonal inrush of puberty with the
creation of this large group of apparently insane reprobates (Kett 1971,
Ben-Amos 1998).
It is interesting to note again that in traditional cultures, which do
not recognize adolescence as a distinct group of presumably crazed
individuals, and do not dismiss them from the rest of society as
economically and practically larval, instances of adolescent unrest and
differentiation from the main community are seldom seen (Ben-Amos
However, in America the position of the adolescent as a half-baked
being who is assumed to be impulsive, unbalanced, selfish, and hormone-
crazed was solidified with practices of age segregation and schooling
designed around the presumed facts of this age groups singularity. The
media blitz of the 1950s, which romanticized the teen years as a time of
care free enjoyment and rebellion, solidified adolescent status as a

bonefied group even while it helped a generation of youth to define
themselves as separate from other age cohorts, both older and younger.
The creation of the teen cult was complete, and would continue to grow
well into the present time (Kett 1971).
In Americas capitalistic society, this clear definition of a group
created a profitable plan of attack for marketers. The media could not
only define what it meant to be a teen-ager, but also could explain what
one needed to be a popular, successful teenager. With this thought
striking gold into the hearts of businessmen across the country, society
also began to define children as a group of consumers separate from youth
or adults. They were ripe for instruction on their dearest needs and wants.
Society had succeeded in providing ready-made, ever-repopulating market
groups! Mary Poppins had come to the world of consumerism! The
commodification of children and teens jump-started the consumer culture
that now drives American commerce, and to some extent the commerce of
the developed world. These new attentions of the business world
undoubtedly effected how children and youth viewed themselves, and
their place within society.
Thus, America provided a unique petri dish for the development of
a protected and protracted childhood. The unique combination of our

mythic meritocracy and quest for the American dream, combined with an
unregulated capitalistic economy and its attendant consumerism, stirred
together with the invention of a new culture and then steam-rolled under
by the industriral revolution and worldwide urbanization, all simmered
over the brink of many technological advances which made the spreading
of information about each groups needs and want, and the styles most
able to meet these needs, increasingly easy.
A protracted, dependent, entitled childhood of leisure became the
cornerstone of the American economy of insatiable consumerism.
History of American Children's and
Young Adult Literature
As children and adolescence were defined with increasing
precision by social practices and expectations, the world of books began to
follow suit. Children's books, which at one time served to entertain the
entire family and welcomed the likes of Dickens, Kipling and Shakespeare
into their ranks, became more and more differentiated from adult books.
The first children's literature was mainly didactic in nature, full of
heavy handed morals and sermons and designed to help inculcate young

minds with mores and wisdom. Books like Pilgrim's Progress (1678) were
shared by families from all walks of life (Kett 1971, Lundin 1994).
Later, the golden age of children's literature grew up around the 17
and 1800s preocupation with asceticism, and illustrations became the
driving force behind gift book sales to the wealthy. At this point, books
for the young seemed to be marketed mainly to parents and older relatives,
and they played to their ideas of childhood, a trick still employed today in
many markets. Eventually the call for beauty joined forces with the call
for enjoyable naratives, and the world of literature was filled with many
titles designed for children from 6 to 60, liberally sprnkled with
enjoyable illustrations. (Lundin 1994).
As we moved into the 1900's, the ideal of childhood and youth as
separate from adulthood had started to solidify, and books began to be
increasingly specific in their expected readership as well. Publishing
firms developed juvenile editing arms, and what had once been seen as an
extension of the adult book market gained its own identity (Lundin 1994).
By the mid 1900's, a push for defined youth literature acompanied
the media blitz currently preeching to teens and adults alike about the teen
years as an increasingly distinct life stage. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye
(1951), Hinton's The Outsiders (1967), and Harper Lee's To Kill a

Mockingbird (1960). broke open the market christened Young Adult
Literature. Before the purposeful segregation of generations, the books
published under this heading would have found a market in the world of
books in general, rather than the more defined world of Yong Adult
Ideas about the intended readership of Young Adult books colored
their plots and characters. They became known as problem novels,
arranged around central themes of sexuality, violence, death, and the drive
for independence to coincide with this time of life, which was seen as
defined by great upheaval and personal confusion. Characters who found
independence in the teen years, or managed to contribute to or change
society despite their place as a stigmatized youth especially through
victories over the establishment or the adult world became increasingly
popular (Crowe 1998).
Meanwhile, the world of literature had to also redefine the world of
children's books in relation to this new world of the young adult.
Childrens literature at one point had encompassed many books now
thought appropriate for college level study: Alice's Adventures in
Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass (1865) by Lewis Carol,
Twain's Huckleberry Finn (1885). Dicken's Great Expectations (1881).

and even the Bible were considered appropriate and manageable for
children as soon as they could read (Lundin 1994, Crowe 1998).
Now childhood had become a time of innocence, a protected and
coddled period. Many of the themes once thought perfectly admirable for
children became unconscionable. Perhaps they would do for young adults,
but more likely they became academic fare for adults and teens only under
the protection of an informed expert. Children's books needed to be
increasingly careful in their themes and expectations. They needed to be
easily readable, so as not to damage self-esteem. Inoffensive. Inclussive.
Open-minded. Clean. Safe. Anti-violent. And above all, in America,
they needed to sell.
In the late 1900's, children's books held a larger share of profits in
the literature industry than any Adult genre. Educational policies like the
Elementary Education Act of 1968 injected millions of dollars for school
libraries into the economy, and multi-cultural titles requested by the
Johnson administration's War on Poverty dollars were hurridly pieced
together (Lundin 1994, Taxel 2002).
As the Vietnam War dragged on, funding for such library
purchases was cut, and book sales fell sharply. Then in the 1980s and
1990's, an increase in two income households and the disposable income

of the booming 1980's brought children's literature into another hey day.
Market research began to determine the subject matter of books, and
formulaic series with the power to create sales became a staple. Children
began to define what they wanted in literature with their own purchasing
power. The new generation of media savy kids and teens demanded the
types of fast paced action available on TV and in the movies, and
children's literature began to produce more and more TV and movie tie-in
novels. The toy books of the early 1800s came back with a vengence,
and book clubs and stores began to sell toys under the guise of books as
often as not. Children's literature had become a commodity with children
themselves its consumers. Once the didactic tools of salvation, books had
become mighty commodities sent into the world to build fortunes and
engender sequels (Taxel 2002).
History of The Newbery Award
The Newbery Award is the oldest award for children's literature in
the world, and as such one of the most frequently discussed and
referenced. Created in 1921 and first awarded in 1922, the Newbery

Medal has since honored the most distinguished contributions to American
literature for children by the American Library Association. The award is
intended to encourage creative and well-written children's books, and to
give children's librarians an opportunity to band together to encourage
such books for children. It was named for John Newberry, an English
publisher from the 1800's who dealt mainly in children's books.
Newbery's moto was, "Deluctando Monemus", or "instruction through
delight", and this along with his economic success solidly endeared him to
the world of children's literature (ALA 2010).
The Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the
American Library Association, and the distributor of the Newbery Medal,
specifies that children must be the intended audience, and that the book
must respect children's understandings, abilities, and appreciations.
Newberys are traditionally awarded to books aimed at upper
elementary readers or older; however the award committee defines
children as all individuals from birth to 14 years of age. The book is
considered distinguished if it is marked by eminence, or notable for
some significant achievement. It should be of excellent quality...and
distinct among other contributions to children's literature (ALA 2009).

Only the text is to be considered when choosing a winner, and any
illustrations and overall book design must be ignored (ALA 2009).
The winner is determined by a committee of members of the
ALSC section of the American Library Association. These members are
public and school librarians from around the country. Last year there were
14 members serving on the committee. Committee members may not
serve more often than once every five years, and they must confirm lack of
any conflict of interest due to entanglements with authors or publishers
whose work may be considered for an award (ALA2009). Books may be
submitted to the committee for consideration if they fulfill all the awards
requirements, many of which are subjective. The objective requirements
only specify that the book be written in English and be an original work,
rather than a translation or anthology. It must also be written my a
resident of America, and published in America (ALA 2009).

I read each book while keeping a tally of the items occurrences
and noting other helpful events with a pen and notebook approximating
Table 1.
TABLE 1: Data Collection Grid Sample
Novel Year Published Year set in Age of Protag. Death Violence Caretaking Economic participation Page#

Setting public Setting family Setting child only Adults ctkrs Adults Allies/en. Childre allies/ene Ageless/adult protagonist? Notes Graphic 1-10
Adult content I -10
When the majority of action on any single page occurred in public
space, for example, I would add a tally to the public space box.

I listed the names of adults and children who were either caretakers
or allies or enemies in the corresponding boxes and then tallied each new
interaction the protagonist had with each character. Family members were
counted as caretakers, allies, or enemies, but each interaction with family
members was not recorded as the interactions of the child protagonists in
the broader society more directly defined his place in society. I did not
want large or small families to exaggerate or under-represent interactions.
A character with 7 sisters would necessarily interact with many youth on a
daily basis within the home, while an only child would similarly interact
with his parents more often than a child with many siblings. I wanted to
see if children in general were represented as interacting less or more over
time with adults who did not have to interact with them due to
circumstances of birth, but rather did so by choice.
After completing the book, I entered the reading scores, the
graphic content, the protective score, and the adult content scores.
The reading scores came from an internet calculator for Flesch
reading Ease and Kincaid Grade Level. I typed in a random paragraph
form the middle of each book and the computer used the algorithm
required to calculate difficulty based on sentence structure and word
length (Added Bytes).

The Flesch Reading Ease formula was created by Rudolph Flesch,
PhD, in 1948. The formula looks like this:
RE = 206.835 (1.015 x ASL) (84.6 x ASW)
RE = Readability Ease
ASL = Average Sentence Length (i.e., the number of words
divided by the number of sentences)
ASW = Average number of syllables per word (i.e., the number of
syllables divided by the number of words)
The answer, RE, is a number ranging from 0 to 100. The higher the
number, the easier the text is to read. Scores between 90.0 and 100.0 are
considered easily understandable by an average 5th grader. Scores
between 60.0 and 70.0 are considered easily understood by 8th and 9th
graders. Scores between 0.0 and 30.0 are considered easily understood by
college graduates (Readability
The Flesch-Kincaid grade level Score formula was developed in
1967. John P. Kincaid adjusted Flesches work from 1948 in his work to
create a reading ability test for the U.S. Department of Defense.
Consequently, the formula is similar.
The Flesch-Kincaid grade Level Formula works as follows:
FKRA = (0.39 x ASL) + (11.8 x ASW) 15.59

FKRA = Flesch-Kincaid Reading Age
ASL = Average Sentence Length
ASW = Average number of Syllable per Word
Analyzing the results of this formula is slightly more straight-
forward. A score of 5.0 indicates a 5th grade reading level. A score of 3.4
indicates a difficulty level appropriate for a 3rd grader in the 4th month of
school (Readability
Graphic, adult and protective content were recorded subjectively
based on narrative notes and the tallies from other items of interest.
After completing the table for each book, the tallies were
transferred to a larger table showing all novels in column 1, and all
collected data in the additional columns headed with the dependent
variables listed on pages 7 and 8, with novels arranged by year of
Then the data was graphed with the independent variable being,
"year of publication", and the dependent variable being the item of
interest. The table was re-organized by date of setting in order to analyze
possible patterns in the content of historical fiction that may overpower
the date of publishing.

Next the entire sample was collapsed into decade averages and
percentages, and graphed again.
Finally, the original data was separated into the genres of Fantasy,
Historical Fiction, and Contemporary Fiction. This was done in order to
control for any effects on the dependent variables which were the result of
the genre, rather than year of publication. For example, Historical fiction
books tended to be more difficult that contemporary books to read, on
average. Historical fiction and fantasy books also tended to contain more
violence than did contemporary books in any given decade.
The genres were graphed with an item of interest (averaged across
all books for each genre) on the dependent axis, and the three genres on
the independent axis in order to compare the effects of genre on the items
of interest.
Then each genre was also graphed by year and decade pair, as with
the entire sample, using the items of interest on the dependent axis, and
decade pair or year published on the independent axis. Decade pairs
(twenty-year intervals) were used rather than decades in order to increase
the sample size for each average and prevent overrepresentation by a
single novel in any category. The graphs of particular interest are found
in the results section.

The data was then examined for statistically significant trends over
time by both decade and year, and contextualized with regards to historical
events in America and the world.
Detailed Descriptions of Items, Rationale,
and Data Collection
Instances of violence, death, and "adult content" should become
less frequent when childhood itself is seen as a time of protected
innocence. In order to test this possible shift, instances of death of major
and minor characters are tallied in each novel. Instances of violence
involving the protagonist are tallied separately from instances of violence
involving supporting characters. Instances of insinuated or suggested
violence which occur between the pages are also tallied.
Each book is given a score from 1-10 for "adult content" or
content that would now earn a movie a PG or PG13 rating. Examples of
such content include the use of weapons, drugs, cigarettes, alcohol,
profanity, sexual innuendo or sexual relations, or the presentation of
children with knowledge of any of these adult issues. Any type of

action which could produce anxiety, such as war, extreme sickness, and
starvation or violence towards animals, including mentions of hunting or
slaughtering, are also included in this category. A score of 0 indicates no
presence of such events within the book, while a score of 10 indicates that
the book was more or less infused this type of adult content. A higher
concentration of this adult content in books from earlier years would
provide support for the idea that such content was not perceived to be
inappropriate for children at the time of its publication.
For example, in Paula Fox's The Slave Dancer (1973), the pre-
adolescent protagonist is kidnapped form the streets of New Orleans in the
1700's, and pressed into service on a slave ship. Adults abuse and mistreat
him throughout. He sees African children and adults beaten, ridiculed,
and killed. He is made to play a little tin pipe everyday while the enslaved
Africans are forced to dance in an attempt to maintain their muscle tone
while traveling packed away below deck like so many plastic garden
chairs in a cardboard box. This book earns a 9 for adult content.
Meanwhile, E.L Konigsbury's The View from Saturday (1996),
earns a 0 for adult content. It chronicles the adventures of several 11 year
old friends in a trivia competition. There is conflict in the book. One boy
gets picked on for eschewing suburban mall-style clothing and attitudes.

Another boy makes fun of the teacher, who is in a wheel chair. But no one
dies within the story of the book, there are no weapons, there is no
alcohol, no mention of drugs, no starvation or plague, no child abuse or
war. It is a shiny happy book, with problems that seem to be custom
carved for the target audience, an audience that presumably cannot and
should not handle problems of deeper consequence.
The number of child characters who participate in their own world
economically should decrease as societal attitudes towards childhood and
children move towards the idea of a sheltered subclass in need of care and
protection. One who is incapable of helping himself, one in need of
constant supervision and guidance, would not be trusted or burdened with
a position of consequential responsibility. With this in mind, I tally the
number of children in each novel who participate in their household
through economically significant work, either in the home or in positions
away from home. Examples of this would include independently cooking,
cleaning, accomplishing yard work, taking care of other children, and
nursing sick family members. They may also be earning wages that are
contributed to the good of the household, rather than kept for spending
money that would benefit only the child who earned the money.
This distinction is an important one!

In contributing to the general welfare of the household through
chores or wage-earning, the child character is assuming a position of
responsibility within the family and community. A child who is earning
pocket money without benefit to the family in any way is not filling the
same role. If all of the child's needs are taken care of by the adult family
members, and the earned money is then used only for unneeded items, the
child is filling the role of the dependent and protected other, rather than
that of full-fledged member of the family and community. Books written
in a society that envisions children as capable and reliable family members
will demonstrate this. More children will shoulder economic
responsibility on the level with adult family members. Meanwhile an
author who creates his fiction in an environment that views children as
unreliable and incapable of great responsibility, or even as beings who
should not be burdened by responsibility, will portray children as playing
at work more often than not. They will be working for luxuries or for the
"experience" rather than out of need, if they work at all.
For example, in the historical novel, Kira-Kira (2004), by Cynthia
Kadohata, the older sister, Lynne, spends a significant proportion of her
time raising the younger, while her parents are at work. She is solely
responsible for Katie, and if she had not been doing this work, someone

would have been hired, or a parent would have had to forego wages. She
is participating significantly, as does Katie in her turn. Another child,
Silly, does laundry at the chicken factory where the mother works. She
uses the wages to help feed and clothe herself and her family. Lynne's
friend, Amber, is never portrayed as holding any responsibilities of this
sort, nor is Sammy, the younger brother. Of the children with names and
significant presence within the plot, 60% were portrayed as people of
economic or social responsibility, while the other 40% were not.
Meanwhile, in 1938s Thimble Summer, 80% of the children were
presented as economically responsible. Of the first 24 Newberry books,
19 presented 80% or more of the child characters as being persons of
economic and social responsibility. From 1980 2004, however, only 10
of 25 books did the same.
Interaction with adults as allies or enemies rather than caretakers,
as well as instances in which the child participates in society as a primary
care-giver for himself or for others are recorded for each novel as well.
Children living as full members of society, rather than dependent and
protected others, will interact with more adults as enemies or allies than
will children living in a society in which their interactions are carefully
controlled and segregated from adults who are not their caregivers.

Children living in a society which values them as capable, sensible beings
will have fewer adult caregivers fewer adults who are only there in the
capacity of protector. They will be more responsible for themselves and
others in their family and community. If such things are occurring in the
children's literature of any given time without comment, they represent a
view of young people as capable members of that society.
A randomly selected passage from each book will be analyzed
using Flesch's reading score and the Flesch Kincaid Grade Level Rating to
assess the complexity of vocabulary and grammatical structure found in
the book. The number of pages will also be recorded. Longer, more
complicated books could indicate greater focus or concentration expected
from a child reader. Shorter books, or books with a lower difficulty level,
indicate an assumed lack of focus or ability on the part of the reader. I
expect to see longer, more complicated books in a society which deems its
children to be capable and integrates them into general society at a higher
rate. Shorter, easier to read books would more likely dominate in a
society built around increased generational segregation and decreased
expectations for children.

By way of example, The 1922 award winner, The Story of
Mankind, by Hendrik Willem Van Loon, contained the following passage:
. .If we represent the time during which it
has been possible for animal life to exist on
our planet by a line of this length, then the
timeline just below indicates the age during
which man (or a creature more or less
resembling man) has lived upon the Earth..
Page 1
This novel earned a 61.1 Flesch Reading Ease Score, and a
Kincaid grade level of 8.6. It is 548 pages long.
Meanwhile, The Whipping Bov, by Sid Fleischman won the
Newbery in 1987. It contained this passage:
.. .One night the King was holding a grand
feast. Sneaking around behind the lords and
ladies, Prince Brat tied their powdered wigs to
the backs of their oak chairs ...
Page 1
This book scored 98.7 on the Flesch reading Ease scale, and earned
a Grade level Equivalency of 1.5. (The closer a Flesch score is to 100, the
more easily readable the novel is). The Whipping Bov is a scant 90 pages
long. Every book will be graphed for difficulty and page number by year,
decade, and decade pair.

The number of children presented as the protagonist's allies will
also be recorded, along with the percentage of total book time spent in
public, family, or child-specific settings. An increase in child-specific and
family settings as opposed to public settings would indicate an
increasingly privatized childhood. Children who interact only with other
children and their caretakers as opposed to interacting with the broader
society are more dependent on their caretakers and distanced from society
as a whole. Their knowledge of the world is almost entirely at the mercy
of their caretakers, and their experience would be that of a marginalized
group, with little actual control over what they are exposed to in the
world. Increased child-child interaction and decreased child-adult
interaction would indicate the increasing marginalization of children as a
subclass distinct and inferior to the main community. Adults in such a
situation seem to be willing to interact with children only through the
temptation of payment or the obligation of family.
I expect to find evidence of increased segregation and
marginalization in the more recent Newbery books, while observing a
higher rate of adult contact outside of the care-taker roll, and higher
percentages of public settings in the older publications.

General attitudes towards children and their capabilities will be
evaluated in each novel as well, with a score of 1 10 for degree of
protectionist attitude. The assumption that children are in need of
protection suggests an inability to protect and control themselves which
must be circumvented by the adult world. Such an assumption limits the
child's ability to function as a thinking person. I expect higher protective
ratings for newer books. This will coincide with childhood's decreased
control over its own time and resources, and a decreasing respect for the
common sense of children as indicated by increased regulation and the use
of protected space for children in which they are segregated from the adult
world. A book like Waterless Mountain (1932), in which the protagonist
wanders across country in his early teens with no questions asked, earns a
low protective score. Meanwhile, a storyline like that of Walk Two
Moons (1995), in which the similarly aged protagonist is found driving her
Grandpas car alone and under-age causing much alarm, is given a high
score for protective atmosphere.
Characters may occasionally manage to engage in some sort of
risky behavior in books that are rated as highly protective, but society as a
whole rushes to protect them from themselves and tries to prevent such
behavior whenever possible.

In addition to tabulating the number of violent instances, the
severity or graphic nature of any violence will also be judged on a scale of
1-10. A rating of 10 indicates not only violent acts, but specific
descriptors of the violent events that lead to more graphic visualization.
For example, in Rifles for Watie (1957). the story of a civil war
soldier, the battle scenes are described in detail. You see the dying horses
eyes rolling, men scream in pain and die slowly while gasping for water.
There is plenty of blood. Guts. Terror. Similarly, in Neil Gaiman's,
fantasy, The Graveyard Book (2009), the description of murder and
mayhem is quite chilling. Blood is dripping off of knives, shadowy
characters skulk about grabbing and stabbing.
Meanwhile, in Lowis Lowry's Number the Stars (1989). which
takes place in war time, like Rifles for Watie (19571. the protagonist never
comes in contact with violent death directly, but only sees the avoidance
of such occurrences while working to help smuggle her Jewish neighbors
to Switzerland. The scariest thing onscreen is a fake coffin and a growling
dog. Her sister is killed outright when she is run down by a car while
working for the Danish resistance, but the scene is never described in
more words than I have used here.

I would expect glossed-over descriptions of violence similar to
Lowrys in societies that take a highly protective stance towards
childhood and children. It is interesting to note that where graphic
violence is found, especially in the later books, it is found in fantasies like
The Graveyard Book (2009). or historical fiction like Out of the Dust
(1998). It is rare to find violence, let alone graphic violence, in any of the
children's books written as contemporary fiction, especially after 1950.
The age of the protagonists and the types and proportions of his
interactions with adults and other children are also recorded. This item
indicates societys inclusion of children, or their segregation from adult
society. I expect a broader range of ages in earlier books, in which
childhood was a less defined time period and children would be expected
to have more shared interests with people of all ages, rendering multi-aged
interactions and older protagonists reasonable in books enjoyed by
younger readers. Meanwhile, I would expect more uniformity of age in
later novels to provide evidence that childhood is growing further apart
from the rest of society. As specific age becomes a more salient predictor
of behavior and interests, books for children should become similarly
uniform in their own themes and protagonists' ages, while simultaneously
becoming more differentiated from adult literature and adult protagonists.

Books in which the protagonist becomes an adult, or is an adult
throughout, will be noted as opposed to those in which he is always a
child. I expect more child-only protagonists in the later novels, while
earlier books will reflect the child's greater integration into society through
similarly integrated protagonists who can more easily represent the united
interests of humanity, rather than the assumed interest of children as a sub-
Along these same lines, the salience of childhood within the world
of each book will be assessed by determining which books showed little or
no desire to indicate the age of the protagonists and supporting characters,
and which books specifically reported exact numerical ages and created
characters and activities which coincided with these ages as a salient
factor of character definition.
For example, chronological age is rarely mentioned in Lloyd
Alexander's fantasy, The High King (1968). All of the characters within
the book's bounds interact as equals, regardless of age. Although readers
of the earlier novels will recall that the protagonists was at one point a
young apprentice, and is presumably still quite young, he is the
commander of the army.

In The Witch of Blackbird Pond (1958), a historical novel about
Puritan New England, characters are differentiated as youth, children, and
adults in general terms. Exact age is only used to define a few
characters. In the contemporary Cris Cross (2005), we see clearly
defined age cohorts, with specific motivations and actions assigned to
each group. I would expect novels to be constructed with more of an eye
towards the saliency of chronological age in the later years, while earlier
novels should reflect more of the inter-generational society that existed at
the time.
The protagonist's gender will also be recorded for each novel. An
increasingly narrow definition of childhood may also lead to a sharper
division between the genders. Later books may become more gender
specific, while earlier books may have more of an ensemble cast with
multiple protagonists of both genders. It will also be interesting to note
either the presence or lack of co-variance between the gender of the
protagonists and the comparative graphic and violent nature of the books.
Outliers with respect to graphic violence could possibly be thus explained
by constructions of gendered childhood and its interaction with the
construction of historical childhood.

After recording all the above data on the Newbery books from
1922 2009, it will be analyzed for trends by decade, 20-year Decade pair,
and individual year in order to gain a clearer view of the American
childhood of today and yesterday. Any trends will then be placed into
historical and sociological context and the possible causes discussed and
extrapolated. Consideration will be taken for the effect representing either
a historical time period or a fantasy world might have on the
representation of childhood within the novel. Works of historical fiction
and fantasy will be considered alongside their contemporary counterparts,
and then analyzed again by genre in order to determine the absolute effect
of representing a different time or fantasy world from within the broader
bounds of Americas historical construction of childhood.
The above data will then be used to infer the static or shifting
purposes for which authors endeaver to present their narratives as
historical fiction, fantansy fiction, or contemporaary fiction and the
relation these purposes have with regards to the overarching idea of
childhood through time.

As Figure One shows, the survey population was heavily
populated by historical fiction and fantasy books.
Decade Published
30% of the books from the 70s took place in a time outside of the
author's own, while 40% of the Newbery books for the 50's and 60's were
also historical fiction or fantasy. The first decade, from 1922 1929, was
nearly 90% historical fiction or fantasy. The most recent decade, from

2000 2010, also showed a sharp rise in historical fiction and fantasy,
registering 80% or 8 out of 10 books as a history or fantasy.
The average level and frequency of violence, level of graphic
depictions of violence, and presence of death and other adult themes in
each fantasy or historical fiction novel tends to be much higher than it is in
contemporary fiction, as shown in Figures Two, Three, Four, and Five.
Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary, Historical Fiction

Adult Theme Score ~ Average Total Incidence of Death
Genres. Fantasy, Contemporary, Historical Fiction
25 I
Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary, Historical Fiction

Average Graphic Violence Score (1-10)
1 '
Genres: Fantasy, contemporary Fiction, Flistorical Fiction

As Figure Six shows, the Flesch Reading Ease scores generally
trend towards 100, but do not vary linearly by year of publishing. The
formula used to calculate the reading ease score takes into account
complexities of structure, length of sentences, and length of words. The
closer to 100 a book scores, the easier it is to read. Lower scores indicate
a higher degree of difficulty.
Year Published

Figure Seven shows the equivalent grade level for each novel. This
correlates the reading ease score with a less abstract measure, showing a
grade level score of 2.0 indicates a difficulty approximately appropriate
for the average beginning second grader. 2.6 indicates a 2nd grader in the
6th month of school.
£ JD 15
O TD 10
03 O c
Year Published

In Figures Eight and Nine, the Flesch Reading Ease Score and
Kincaid Grade Level are displayed as averages by decade. This
simplification of the data makes it easier to note trends and outliers by
decade, which is more significant for the overall goal of tracking the
construction of childhood in America than is the year by year data. This
data can also more easily be contextualized with historical happenings and
movements than can data from a single book in a single year, which very
well may present an anomaly compared with other books also published
that year. There is a clear overall trend towards higher reading ease that
is easier books as measured by both the grade level score and the Flesch
Reading Ease Score.
Decade Published

Average Kincaid Grade Level
Decade Published

Figures Ten and Eleven show the average number of deaths in
each book in each decade, as well as the average number of violent
instances. It seems that no trend is visible, the peak in the 1950s and
1960's in direct opposition of the low proportion of historical and fantasy
books during those two decades. However, perhaps this blip of increased
violence and death can be explained by the historical context of mid-
century America.
Decade Published

The violence shown in Figure Eleven includes hitting, slapping,
tripping, shooting, stabbing, kidnapping, and other maliciously intended
and painfully received actions caused by any character in the book to any
other. It shows a conspicuous spike in the 1950's, a decade that saw the
Civil War epic, Rifles for Watie. win the Newbery. This book, along with
three other historical novels, threw the average for the 1950's way up, with
202 instances of violence found in its graphic depictions of civil war
battles. The 1960's saw a couple of adventure fantasy books, Lloyd
Alexander's The High King, and Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time,
which pushed the violence up again. Finally, the 2000's show another up-
tick due to The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman, a fantasy world filled
with ghosts, ghouls, and goblins along with a massive force of hired

Average Number of Violent Instances
Figure Eleven A shows the Average Protective Score by Decade
Published. There is a general trend towards higher scores over time.
| 3 /
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Decade Published

Protective Score
Figure Eleven B show the Protective Scores by Year Published,
which also reflect a trend towards a more protective environment overall.
Year Published

Figure Twelve shows the average percentage of child characters
who contributed significantly to the economic well being of their
households. Some children worked outside the house and contributed
their wages to the family accounts. Others worked in their homes,
performing necessary tasks that could not be left undone and contribute to
the well-being of the family. The data shows sharp spikes in the 30's, 50's,
70's and 2000's, with sharp falls in the '60's and 80's.
Decade Published

Figure Thirteen shows the average number of adult characters who
act as caregivers in each book of each decade. A Caregiver is presented as
having authority and power over the child character or characters, as well
as some responsibility over and above the child's own for the child's well-
being. Institutionalized examples include teachers, parents, aunts uncles,
grandparents, tutors, coaches, trainers. Others who interact on a overtly in-
equal footing with the child that is based on the age differentiation
between the characters are also considered care-takers.
Decade Published

Figure Fourteen shows the average percentage of adult characters
from each book who are caretakers, in order to assure that sheer number of
characters does not convolute the comparison of adult characters' purposes
in the narrative. Figures Thirteen and Fourteen show an inarguable trend
towards increased care taking.
Decade Published

Figure Fifteen shows the average number of adults who are
presented as allies or enemies, in contrast to caretakers. Figure Sixteen
shows what percentage of the child protagonists' enemies and allies who
are adults. Figure Seventeen displays the percentage of total interactions
the protagonist is involved with that center around an adult as an ally or
enemy. These graphs show a clear decrease in fraternity between adults
and children that is possibly related to the increased need for care takers.
i 15

Decade Published

Decade Published

70 i x /i
W i
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4 30
Decade Published

Figures Eighteen, Nineteen, and Twenty show which types of
space are most common, on average, by decade. Family Space is defined
as space ruled by familial figures. It could be the home, or someplace
outside the home in which the child protagonists are under the control and
supervision of the family, and are in general interacting only with their
fellow family members.
Child-Specific Space includes all places which are designed
specifically for children. School, day-care, play grounds, and occasionally
more general spaces if inhabited only by children with very little
possibility of interaction with adults, are all coded as Child-Specific
Public spaces include stores, sidewalks, parks, churches, and other
general spaces in which the child protagonists has ample opportunity for
some self-supervision and interaction with people of vastly varying ages.
The three graphs show a clear trend towards increased supervision
of space, with more Child-Specific and Family Space available to
protagonists now than was true of earlier novels, and decreasing time
spent in Public Space after the 1940s, with the exception of the last
decade, in which Gaimans fantasy creates a singular increase in Public

Average Percent of Action Set in Family Arena

Decade Published
Decade Published

Average Percent of Action Spent in Child-Only Space
Decade Published

Figures Twenty-one and Twenty-two speak to the salience of age
as a place-holder in society and a personality definer. Figure Twenty-One
shows the average percentage of novels in each decade in which
characters are presented without a specifically stated age or age category.
They are generally age-less. Figure Twenty-Two shows the percentage of
books per decade in which the protagonist of the children's book is either
an adult throughout, or becomes an adult in the course of the plot.
Decade Published

Percent of books in which protagonist is/becomes an Adult
Decade Published

Figure 23 shows the average number of pages in each book by
decade. The number of pages afforded, on average, to a children's book of
a given time could be seen as a crude measure of the child's expected
ability to commit to a task, to focus, or even to follow a story line. There
is a general trend towards shorter books over time, with each successive
peak topping out lower, and each successive valley dipping lower.
Decade Published

Figures Twenty-Four and Twenty-Five show the Average number
of Deaths, and Average Level of Violence in each Fantasy book published
in each group of two decades beginning with the first Fantasies in the
1960s. The decades were grouped together into 20 year spans due to the
small sample size. The books were not graphed simply by year as this did
not allow for analysis for trends over time as easily, and caused some
themes to be over-represented due to a single novel. Both graphs show a
marked decrease in the amount of violence and death presented in novels
over time.
B 15
Decade Pairs From 1960 On

& 40
Decade Pairs From 1960 On
Figure Twenty-Six Shows the Average Protective Score for
Fantasy Novels grouped by Decade Pair. Again it shows an increase in
protective attitudes towards the children in the novels, overall, with a
sharp climb after 1980.
Paired Decades From 1960 On

Figure Twenty-Seven shows the Average Percentage of Each
Fantasy Novel Set in Public Space By Decade Pair From 1960 On. There
is a marked decline over all, especially from the high point in the 1980's
and 90's to the low in the 2000's. This tendency to use less Public Space
in the setting of each novel coinicides with the overall trend of the same
type in both historical novels and contemporary novels over time, and
demonstrates a clear connection to the date each novel was published
rather than the date of its setting.
Paired Decades From 1960 On
FROM 1960 ON

Figure Twenty-Eight shows a decrease in overall non-care-taker
interactions between children and adults in Fantasy novels beginning in
1960, and a drastic reduction in such interactions after 1980.
f 40
Paired Decades From 1960 On
1960 ON

Figure Twenty-Nine Shows the Average Number of Characters
Under the Protagonists Care in Each Fantasy Novel by Decade Pair from
1960 On. There is a clear decrease in the number of characters each
protagonist is given the care of, or an overall decrease in the protagonists'
expected level of responsibility.
Decade Pairs From 1960 On

Figure Thirty shows the Average Total Violence in Contemporary
Fiction by Decade Pair From 1920 On. The 60s and 70s decade pair
shows a spike in violence due to 1964's Shadow of a Bull, by Maia
Wojciechowska, which catalogs the experiences of a young bull-fighter in
training in Spain, with the obvious attending violence towards bulls and
their fighters. However, barring this peak, there is a general downward
trend in violence.
Decade Pairs From 1920 On

Figure Thirty-One shows Average Graphic Violence Score Per
Contemporary Novel by Decade Pair, again demonstrating a decrease over
time after the 1960's and 1970's, with an increase between the 50's and
I 0.0
Paired Decades From 1920 On
FROM 1920 ON