|A facsimile edition of Mother Goose|
Newbery of course did not write these books; he published them, and their contents were either traditional or contracted out to writers like Goldsmith who earned their living through writing. The stories were highly didactic and emphasized good behavior as the way to get ahead in life. Georgians were a practical lot and seem to have always taught their children that honesty, hard work, and virtuous living would infallibly lead to riches, while naughtiness would inevitably result in a quick and horrible death. (The Victorians softened this up a bit and injected far more piety, but usually left in the death.)
In 1921, Frederic G. Melcher proposed to the Children's Librarians' Section of the American Library Association that they start giving an annual award to the best children's books, and that they name it after the father of children's literature. This would be the first award for children's literature in the world. The official purpose of the award was to be:
"To encourage original creative work in the field of books for children. To emphasize to the public that contributions to the literature for children deserve similar recognition to poetry, plays, or novels. To give those librarians, who make it their life work to serve children's reading interests, an opportunity to encourage good writing in this field."
The first Newbery Medal was awarded in 1922. Other countries have since followed suit with the idea: the UK's Carnegie Medal was established in 1936, and there are many more. The H. C. Andersen Award is the international honor for children's literature, and is given every two years to one author and one illustrator for a whole body of work.