Reading, math, moral lessons and loyalty to King Charles II: What's inside the oldest children's book

Instructions on how to develop the reading, writing and math skills of children, along with liberal sprinklings of religious and moral lessons — this is what one of the oldest children’s books in the world contains.

Reading, math, moral lessons and loyalty to King Charles II: Whats inside the oldest childrens book

A kindergarten classroom. Image from Getty

A Guide for the Childe and Youth is said to have been published in 1667, and is bound in leather. It gives a rare glimpse into how children may have been educated 350 years ago. It is currently placed in library of the Keele University in North Staffordshire. The volume was recently discovered amid the archives, and the university has plans to make it digitally available.

In an interview with the Stoke Sentinel, Nick Seager, a senior lecturer in English at the university, pointed out: “The idea of printing a book exclusively for children was new. It was also a period when books were just starting to be acquired by middle-class readers. Previously, they were the domain of the aristocracy… But this is not a story book. You won’t find at the end that they all get home in time for supper.”

Among the highlights of A Guide for the Childe and Youth is the illustrated alphabet, with accompanying rhymes that would help young readers remember each letter. A schoolteacher — known only by the initials TH — is believed to be the author of the volume.

Much like today’s little students, it seems even back in the 17th century, several math questions would be devoted to learning operations like division etc by using coins (although here the currency was in farthings, shillings and pence).

“It was about setting children up for life and trade-based work,” Seager is quoted as having said.

The book also teaches children to show loyalty to King Charles II.

We'll reserve comment on the value of that lesson today or adaptation of that lesson to today's world.

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Updated Date: Mar 17, 2016 12:19:19 IST

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