The dominant modern meaning of audience refers to the viewers of an entertainment or readers of a book. According to the OED, such usages date to before 1387 (for a performance) and to 1760 (for a book or writer). Other early meanings including “the range or sphere of hearing,” or being within a person’s hearing, date to before 1393. Derived from the Latin aud_ī_re, “to hear,” the term has a special resonance for children’s literature because the youngest children are not readers but auditors of literature, truly an audience. Indeed, the broad term audience better captures the many ways in which children consume literature—and other aspects of culture—than does reader, the term generally preferred in literary criticism.

This essay may be found on page 20 of the printed volume.

Works Cited
Permanent Link to this Essay