For all of the free literature and essays available online, a surprisingly small amount is geared toward children. Even less is aimed at children who speak foreign languages.
The International Children’s Digital Library offers children ages 3-13 free access to the best available children’s literature in more than 40 languages. Librarians find and digitize books published around the world and present them in their original languages.
The site acts as a meta learning tool. It is designed to be easy for children to use by themselves—by simply clicking “Read Books,” a list of favorite titles pops up—but kids can learn how to search too, by their own age, types of characters, genre, book length, language and geographical region.
The homepage features recommended and popular titles, like Tyrone the Horrible, written in Spanish. Where translation rights exist, the library works with volunteer translators to provide additional language versions.
The library is a project of the University of Maryland’s Human-Computer Interaction Lab and there is a research component to the project. Working with children in New Zealand, Honduras, Germany, and the United States, researchers are looking at how children perceive other cultures outside their own.
The library’s broader mission is to make it possible for children all over the world to learn to use a library system and read a range of quality literature. The interface aims as much at international children as it does immigrant children in American cities and rural areas.
Books are available for free and without an account. An account, however, allows a child to create their own bookshelf of favorites that can be shared with other users. A guide for teachers includes a training manual and tips for how to use the library to teach creative writing, library search skills and foreign languages.