When Nikola von Merveldt began researching debates surrounding eighteenth-century children’s literature, it felt like a deja-vu experience.
Parents and educators back then were troubled by the same anxieties as today’s parents of the digital natives. Except that the new medium in the late eighteenth century – at least experienced as new (cf. Gitelman’s definition of new media) – was print. Just as children’s literature was coming into its own, Rousseau condemned books as the curse of childhood, claiming print was alienating children from the real world. Today’s diagnosis of “nature-deficit disorder” supposedly caused by digital media, takes up many of the same arguments. Von Merveldt’s research explores the parallels and differences between these two moments in media history, and focuses on non-fiction books for children and young adults, which try to bridge the gap between the medium and the real world in many different ways. Her latest contribution on informational picture books was published in The Routledge Companion to Picturebooks.