December 18, 2016

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A GLANCE AT THE LITERATURE FOR CHILDREN

With much interest, I read an article on “Children’s News” (cav;owif;pm) of which literal meaning is the “Newspaper for Children”. It was written by writer Hmaw Wun Kyi Myat in the Standard Time Daily (Myanmar) of 20-6-2015 issue. The article was so interesting that I couldn’t help thinking about the children’s journals of the past and present.
“The Children’s News” indeed was produced as a supplement by Editor U Thein Maung of the Than-daw-sint Daily. In those days, children’s corners or reading materials for children could be seen in the dailies to encourage the literature for children. However “The Children’s News” came out in the post-war period of the World War II.
Prior to “The Children’s News”, “The Students’ News”, (ausmif;om; owif;pm) emerged in 1940. The editor was Daw Ma Ma Khin [B.A, M.Sc. (Chicago)] and the paper was not a daily but a weekly. The paper could be called the first and foremost newspaper for children in the Myanmar literary world.
Regarding the literature for children, five periods could roughly be defined — From Myanmar prehistoric time to Konboung periods; colony period (1886-1948); Parliament Democracy period (1948-1962); Socialist Revolution period (1962-1988); and State Law and Orders Restoration/State Peace and Development Council (1988-2010).
Although we cannot definitely say the dawn of the history of the literature for children, no one can deny that story telling influenced the prehistoric time of Myanmar. Not only in Myanmar but also in the nations of the world, adults have told stories to their children since prehistoric times. Fairy tales, folk tales, myths, epics, ballads and fables have existed since then. Early people handed down their folk literature orally from generation to generation.
It is for this reason that the legends such as Maung Pauk Kyine, Pyu Saw Htee and etc. that our Grandma told us and Jataka stories came over to the children’s literature that has appeal for young readers – individuals from the preschool age up to the teens. In the Inwa Period, literature for children came to flourish thanks to the emergence of (rhyming) homily. Most of the homilies were written by monk writers who wanted the children to become good citizens.
After the collapse of the Konboung Dynasties, the entire Myanmar became British colony in 1886. In Mawlamyine (Moulmein) which was accustomed to the British administration, missionary schools were thriving. A book for children was printed at A.B.M printing press in 1865. It was “Burmese Pictorial Reader” compiled by Maung Na Kaw. According to the historical researchers, it could be said to be the first reader for children in Myanmar. Similarly, Thudamasari Precedents, or Judgments printed and published in Sittway (Rakhine State) in 1866 could also be considered as a book for children simply because it contained folk tales suitable for children. Moreover, “Hitaw Padetha” printed and published in Yangon in 1870 was put on the list of literature for children.
Later, translated works for children’s literature began to flourish in the 1870’s. In 1873, the world-famous “Aesop’s Fables were translated by W.Shway Too Sandy. Although the themes were based on alien origins, they could attract not only young readers but also the adults.
Regarding the history of the literature for children, we cannot ignore the significant role played by “The World of Books” (*EÅavmupmapmif) that emerged in 1920’s. It served as a bridge between the olden days’ style and modern ones. “The World of Books” carried traditional folk tales and translated works for children. Most of the works educated the children to know how to obey the elders and admonished them. It introduced translation competitions for children’s literature which was known as Prize Translation. Even U Thant (former Secretary – General of the UNO) translated a poem of French origin “The Crow and the Fox” into Myanmar under the pen-name of “Thilawa”. Likewise, Thakin Ba Thaung paved the way for children’s literature based on nationalism and patriotism through the children’s corner of the World of Books.
The movements of literature for children gradually gained its momentum when the pioneers such as Maung Wun, Mega Wun, Sun Thawdar, Anyatra, Wathawa, Mya Wut Yee, Shwe Ka-nyit, Khin Theingi, Nga Nyo, Thutethi, Mingalar, Welu Thumana took part in the movements.
According to the records, “The Burma Boy” (jrefrmjynfom;pmapmif) which came out in 1924 could be called the first and foremost magazine for children and became an important milestone in the movement of literature for children in Myanmar. The publisher was an English named Mr. Kinch (of the Scouts) who established the Burma Art Club in Rangoon Hhigh School in 1918 taught painting to Myanmar students. Successful artists U Ba Nyan, U Ba Zaw and famous cartoonist U Hein Soon ware his students. “The Burma Boy” contained The Editor’s Notes, stories, materials on general knowledge including agriculture and livestock breeding, physical exercises and sports and etc. with attractive illustrations. However, the magazine was brought to an end, when Mr. Kinch was transferred to the Shan State in 1927.
It was in 1935 when a periodical called “Tet Khit” came out to encourage Myanmar citizens to learn current international affairs. The magazine enables the young readers to have political outlook. Especially, it inspired Myanmar children to have nationalistic and religious fervour. “Tet Khit” brought criticism to the readers’ notice. Regarding criticism, it was obvious to us that “Bagyi Aung Nyar Dae” written by Sayargyi Min Thu Wun deserved a good example. It was a modern short story (at that time) based on Child Psychology and depicted the nature and spirit of a child. Mr.J.S. Furnivall (I.C.S. Retired) criticized the story as follows: –
“The other writers are more conventional in their themes and for European taste pipe too persistently on the pathetic stop. (Bagyi-aung-nya-de) by Maung Wun, for an example, is charming story of a small boy, who fell in love with a statuette and saved up his pice to buy it; but was disappointed of his hope and add another victim to the epidemic of sensibility that rages in this book. So many people are so very miserable with so very little reason that one feels the characters, and perhaps the another would be the better for a tonic …” (Paper Reading Session on Literature for Children, Vol II, Sarpay Beikman.)
Sayargyi Min Thu Wun’s “Bagyi Aung Nyar Dae” attracted not only the children but also even the adult readers in those days. Such a modern short story will surely be all the rage among the children of generation by generation.
A study will show that literature for children that flourished before the World War II generally included folk tales, myths, epics, fables and some modern writings. In other words, folk literature early people that handed down orally from generation to generation was in vogue.

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