© 2018

Reading Children in Early Modern Culture

  • Little attention has been paid to date of the child as reader in Early Modern England

  • Challenges traditional narratives of the emergence of a particular version of the child and the development of children’s literature

  • Positions the reading experiences of children alongside representations of childhood in the books produced for them and in accounts of how they should participate in early modern textual cultures


Part of the Early Modern Literature in History book series (EMLH)

About this book


This book is a study of children, their books and their reading experiences in late sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Britain.  It argues for the importance of reading to early modern childhood and of childhood to early modern reading cultures by drawing together the fields of childhood studies, early modern literature and the history of reading.  Analysing literary representations of children as readers in a range of genres (including ABCs, prayer books, religious narratives, romance, anthologies, school books, drama, translations and autobiography) alongside evidence of the reading experiences of those defined as children in the period, it explores the production of different categories of child readers.  Focusing on the ‘good child’ reader, the youth as consumer, ways of reading as a boy and as a girl, and the retrospective recollection of childhood reading, it sheds new light on the ways in which childhood and reading were understood and experienced in the period.


Book history Youth Reading practices Textual culture Children's literature

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.School of EnglishQueen’s University BelfastBelfastUnited Kingdom

About the authors

Edel Lamb is Lecturer in Renaissance Literature at Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland. She previously held an Australian Research Council Fellowship at the University of Sydney and an Irish Research Council Fellowship at University College Dublin.  She is the author of Performing Childhood in the Early Modern Theatre (1599-1613) (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009). 

Bibliographic information


“With this passionate and compelling book, Edel Lamb provides a much needed reflection on the reading experiences of early modern British children. … This book comes as a welcome advancement in the direction of historically aware studies on childhood, finally distanced from any useless moralism and open to the challenge of difference.” (Luana Salvarani, History of Education, Vol. 49 (1), January, 2020)