recess radio program

02/24/05
The Literature for Children Digital Library
    by Rita Smith

Would you like to read a version of Little Red Riding Hood published in1880? Or perhaps The Union ABC, an alphabet book published in 1865 in honor of the Union victory in the Civil War, is more to your liking. Does the Alphabet of Virtues published in 1856 that promotes adoration of God, benevolence and charity sound intriguing?

Or maybe you would like your child to read a little 8-page children's book called Honoring Parents published in 1851 which tells the story of Willie who honored his mother by heeding her admonitions even when he was out of her sight when he was kind to a schoolmate who had been mean to him. All these titles and many more early children's books are freely available, in full color, on the web at a site called "Literature for Children" located at http://palmm.fcla.edu/juv//.

The impetus for this electronic library was a cataloging and preservation grant funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities with titles drawn from the resources of Departments of Special Collections at several of the State University System of Florida libraries. It is a growing collection of digitized books published in the United States and Great Britain, from the 17th through the 20th centuries. The collection is of significance for researchers who study historical, cultural, social and literary aspects of children's literature but also for anyone, child or adult, who is interested in juvenile literature from the past and who enjoys looking at books that young people were reading as long ago as one hundred and fifty years.

Recently a researcher was hunting for works printed by his great-grandfather's firm during the 1850s and he discovered over ten such books in the Literature for Children archive. "What a thrill it is," he wrote, "to see images of the actual books!" More than half of the volumes in this collection are digital representations of the only known paper copy of the title. A digital image can't quite compete, at least in my opinion, with actually holding one of these unique and rare books in one's hands, but that option is seldom available. This archive opens up the 19th century world of children's literature to anyone who gets excited about old children's books and who believes that browsing around digital stacks and encountering books that their great grandfather printed or their grandmother read as a child is a thrilling way to spend an afternoon. If you would like to spend an afternoon browsing these digital stacks of old children's books, the website again is http://palmm.fcla.edu/juv//.

Copyright 2005 Rita Smith

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Tuesday, 01-Feb-2005 09:57:06 EST


"Recess!" is a co-production of the University of Florida's Center for Children's Literature and Culture and WUFT-FM, "Classic 89."