When my best friend Anne and I traveled to Washington, DC in 1997 to visit our friend Jamie who was working there as an intern at National Geographic, we spent an afternoon at the Library of Congress--admiring the architecture, taking the tour, prowling the gift shop (I think of that trip every time I hang the Library of Congress ornament on my Christmas tree), and most important, absorbing the presence of so many books so well organized and well preserved. What a mecca for bibliophiles, educators, writers, librarians (all of which I am now)!
Now you too can revel in the Library of Congress' amazing collection from the comfort of your own computer--and use their resources as you expose your kids to different languages! From the rare book collection, here are entire works of children's literature, digitized for your pleasure, so you can read them page by page on your computer screen. You can even print them!
Available are classics (The Secret Garden, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz), nursery rhymes (Mother Goose), poetry ("A Visit From Saint Nicholas"), fairy tales (Hans Christian Andersen), and plenty of works I've never heard of, such as the 18th century's Little Pretty Pocket-Book, Intended for the Instruction and Amusement of Little Master Tommy and Pretty Miss Polly and The Square Book of Animals from 1900. The site even offers a few children's books in French (Vieilles Chansons pour les Petits Enfants, Fables de la Fontaine, a translation of Poe's poem "The Raven" illustrated by Manet) and German (My Very First Little German Book--"Wo ist meine Katze? Ich weiss nicht. Ich habe Milch fur sie. Sie trinkt so gerne Milch.")!
The illustrations are often exquisite, and the old-fashioned lettering and yellowed pages are evocative of a time when books were more precious and, perhaps, more treasured by children than they are today. All kids should have a chance to see tomes like these--online or in person--regardless of what language(s) they speak--and see what children's literature was like before Captain Underpants.