This article examines the concepts of public and private in the late Ottoman Empire and the early Turkish Republic through the worlds of child readers. It interrogates the shifting lines of demarcation between public and private against the background of children learning to read and being exposed to an increasing array of written material, some of it supplied by the state and some by the private sector. It begins by delineating the relationship between public and private in this period before turning first to the contexts in which this reading took place and then to the content of these new reading materials. Drawing on evidence from a range of children's reading matter and childhood memoirs, I argue that the experience of reading served to blur the distinction between public and private and to contribute to the reconfiguring of the realms of public and private space. In short, reading—and the many and sometimes mixed messages it provided to children in this period of flux—helped to effect the transformation of the categories of private and public life and to unsettle the notions of physical and mental space of young readers.

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