With the holiday season upon us, marketing ads directed toward children tend to dominate the airwaves. Directing propaganda at children, though, is nothing new, especially when looking at children’s literature from the 1800’s. In the years leading up to the Civil War, children’s books became a way to persuade young impressionable youth toward a particular, often political, point of view.
Here at HSP, we have the Anti-Slavery Alphabet, Louisa in her New Home, the Dixie Reader and the Confederate Primer; among others. These small books, often meant to be used in a classroom, taught children how to read as well as gave them different perspectives on slavery, depending on where the books were created. Books published in the North would teach the horrors of slavery, while southern schools taught children that it was a God-given right.
These books are interesting to use with your students to talk about why children’s literature might be so politically biased. It could even lead to a classroom debate about the bias in textbooks today. Have students think about what stories are highlighted in their own textbooks and why.