Effects of the Invention of the Printing Press on Kids

Written by teressa rose ezell
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  • Introduction

    Effects of the Invention of the Printing Press on Kids

    Johannes Gutenberg's invention of the printing press in 1440 created vast changes throughout society. As Steven Dutch of the University of Wisconsin points out, with the advent of the printing press and movable type, literacy increased, information and ideas were spread more rapidly, spelling became standardised, and even the concept of "facts" was changed so that the new reading public expected consistency and accuracy. As society changed as a result of the invention of the printing press, the lives of children changed as well.

    The invention of movable type had effects on children and adults. (Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

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    Accessible Education

    Prior to the invention of the printing press, education was reserved for the wealthy upper classes. With the advent of movable type, however, textbooks became available to the middle classes as well. Learning to read was no longer limited to private tutors drilling privileged students using the wealthy family's hand-lettered Bible. Secular texts on a variety of subjects became widely used, and students and scholars alike benefited from access to a uniform body of knowledge and research. In addition to textbooks, the printing press made art books and printed sheet music possible, thus bringing additional enrichment to children as well as to adults.

    Because of access to textbooks, education became accessible to more children. (Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images)

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    Political Effects

    Since the invention of the printing press, flyers and handbills have helped bring political causes to the public's attention. In the same way that the printing press helped spread academic knowledge beyond the privileged classes, printed materials proved instrumental in mobilising social reformers during and following the Industrial Revolution. In 19th century America, multiple reforms were instituted to protect children from long, gruelling hours of factory labour.

    Printed handbills helped bring social reforms, such as child labour laws. (Creatas/Creatas/Getty Images)

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    The Protestant Reformation

    An article published on the website of the University of California, San Diego, states that "[t]he real innovation in culture, related to print, is in the Protestant Reformation, at the beginning of the sixteenth century." The reforms of this religious movement brought significant changes in the lives of children. Some Protestant churches moved the age of the ritual of baptism to 12, rather than immediately after birth, and the sacrament of confirmation was changed to 12 or 14, depending on the denomination. This change made the children themselves responsible for their decision to become members of the Christian religion in general and their parents' denomination in particular. In order to prepare for this decision, children were required to study the Bible and the catechism. Additionally, various church communities began to place a greater emphasis on children's family environments.

    The Protestant Reformation brought changes within the church regarding children. (Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images)

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    Continuing Effects

    Access to the printed word is so much a part of our culture that it is hard to imagine a world without books, newspapers, magazines, scholarly journals, advertising and other printed material. Even in learning environments that now include computers and other digital learning resources, the invention of the printing press still has a significant impact in the lives of children. Research conducted by Reading is Fundamental revealed that "...children's book lending and ownership programs... have positive behavioural, educational, and psychological outcomes." According to the same study, children with access to printed books enjoy reading more, and read more often, and for longer periods.

    Access to printed books positively affects children's reading skills and enjoyment. (Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images)

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