Historical children’s books provide insight into how cultural values and viewpoints have been passed from one generation to another. They are also a resource for studying past approaches to the teaching of subjects such as history, science, language, and literature. In addition, many children’s books are of interest for their illustrations, which document not only the history of printing, publishing, and design, but also the complex relationship between visual culture and storytelling.
Established in 1893 as a state normal school, Western Washington University continues to be a leader in the field of teacher training and is a natural home for a collection of books on the history of children’s education. A general Children’s Collection is complemented by the Curriculum Collection, Campus School Collection, Easy Readers and Primers Collection, and Poetry for Children and Teens Collection (PoetryCHAT). Also held is the Helene Whitson Collection of unique format children’s books, which contains around 500 pop-up books and books with moveable parts.
The collections date primarily to the late-nineteenth and twentieth century and are mostly in English, though a few titles in other languages are held. Related collections include the Children’s Literature Interdisciplinary Collection, shelved in the Wilson Library circulating stacks; the PoetryCHAT Oral History Collection; and the papers of Elizabeth Rider Montgomery, a 1925 graduate of Western who contributed for many years to the popular “Dick and Jane” series of children’s readers.