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Children's literature is literature specially for children (not to be confused with literature about children, although there is a quite a large overlap between these two categories). The genre has a long history, although originally it was more for instruction than specifically for entertainment.
John Newbery's publication of A Little Pretty Pocket-Book in 1744 marks the beginning of pleasure reading marketed specifically to children. Previous to Newbery, literature for children was intended to instruct the young, though children adopted adult literature that they found diverting. Among the earliest examples found in English of this co-opted adult fiction are Thomas Malory's Morte d'Arthur and the Robin Hood tales.
In current publishing, the typical breakdown within the field is - pre-readers, early readers, chapter books, and young adults. Picture books, which cross all genres and age levels, feature art as an integral part of the overall work.
Many authors specialize in books for children, or have written books beloved by children. In some cases, books intended for adults, such as Swift's Gulliver's Travels have been edited (or bowdlerized) somewhat for children.
Picture books are very popular in the pre-reader and early reader market, as they are illustrated on every page.
The most noted awards for children's literature in the United States are awarded each year by the American Library Association (ALA): the Caldecott Medal is awarded to the illustrator of the picture book that the ALA deems "most distinguished"; while the Newbery Medal, nominally for the author of the most distinguished children's book in any genre, usually (but not always) goes to a chapter book. Runners-up are designated "Caldecott Honor Books" and "Newbery Honor Books".
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