Rare children’s books digitized by the Library of Congress
Rare children’s books digitized by the Library of Congress The Library of Congress has digitized rare children's books. (Library of Congress/Carol VanHook/Flickr)
Rare children’s books digitized by the Library of Congress
Lexile: 820L

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Franklin K. Matthiews went on a nation-wide tour to advocate for better standards in children's literature. That was in the early 20th century. Matthews was the librarian of the Boy Scouts of America. Relatively few kids' books were published each year at that time. That was partly because printing color illustrations was expensive. Matthiews was a firm believer in the importance of children's literacy. His advocacy led to the launch of Children's Book Week in 1919. It is an annual celebration of books for little ones.

The initiative still takes place today. The Library of Congress honored of its 100th anniversary. It digitized a collection of dozens of children's books published prior to 1924. That's according to Perri Klass of the New York Times. Some of the newly digitized stories are classics that will likely be familiar to modern readers. Examples include an 1888 copy of Rip Van Winkle and a 1911 edition of The Secret Garden. Other books have not stood the test of time quite as well. Before The Cat in the Hat, there was The Cat's Party. It was an 1871 picture book about festive felines.

The oldest book in the digital collection is A Little Pretty Pocket Book. It is considered to be the first book written specifically for children. It was originally published in 1744 by John Newbery. He was a pioneering English bookseller. He is credited with carving out a market for children's literature. The Library of Congress' edition was printed in 1787.

"Well into the 19th century, most of children's literature in America came from Britain," Jacqueline Coleburn told Klass. She is the rare book cataloger at the Library of Congress.

"It wasn't till the 1830s and 1840s that we really focused on producing American books."

When they did take off in the United States, the reading material was often as creative and as fun as the books tykes read today. An 1863 copy of Red Riding Hood was cut in the shape of a girl with wolf wrapped around her feet. The Slant Book was published by Harper & Brothers in 1910. It follows a little boy. He gleefully causes havoc careening down a hill in his pram. The book was published in the shape of a rhombus to convey little Bobby's race down the slope. That's according to Atlas Obscura's Jonathan Carey. 

American illustrator Peter Newell published The Rocket Book in 1912. It was about a "bad kid" named Fritz. He sends a rocket flying through the floors of an apartment building. There's an intentional hole on every page of that book. This is to reflect the rocket's movement through the building. 

"It's so tactile and yet so old," Lee Ann Potter told Klass. She is the director of the learning and innovation office at the Library of Congress.

The collection highlights the joyful commonalities between children past and present. Kids today will surely get a kick out of Fritz's rocket carrying away an old man's wig. But the books can at times feel out of sync with modern feelings. They aren't diverse, and sometimes reflect problematic notions of gender. A Little Pretty Pocket Book is one example. It was once sold with a ball for boys and a pincushion for girls.

"They are historical documents which reflect the attitudes, perspectives and beliefs of different times," the Library takes care to note.

The institution's experts hope that parents will use them to teach their children important lessons. That's instead of shying away from the books' uncomfortable tropes.

As Potter tells Klass, "We're celebrating the fact that these books provide us with the opportunity to have conversations about what is appropriate or inappropriate. That they help us understand a different time."

Source URL: https://www.tweentribune.com/article/tween56/rare-childrens-books-digitized-library-congress/

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Assigned 73 times
What do you think is the biggest benefit of the Library of Congress' plan to digitize books?
Write your answers in the comments section below

  • 26grkino
    11/19/2019 - 10:43 a.m.

    I think the biggest benefit is the books wont rip or be stolen.The old books wont be in the hands of children that might damage the old fragile books. It could keep color in the books so the color wont fade.The workers could make it more divers and modern.Those are all the benefits.

  • 26ymberr
    11/19/2019 - 10:45 a.m.

    I think that this is an important project, because we will be able to learn about history by the way that they wrote. Reading old books can improve our literature
    because right now its all about technology and texting with out proper correction.Reading old books can help us through learning and give us as better understanding about what a subject is about.
    These books will end up helping people in the long run.I think it is good that we learn about old books.

  • 26mlhans
    11/21/2019 - 10:33 a.m.

    I think that digitizing books would be important because it is up to the times but it's old literature. They can still read about older times and it can improve their vocabulary.I also think that it helps children to learn about the different ways that people write. Over all, I think that it is a very useful program.

  • 26alcham
    11/21/2019 - 10:39 a.m.

    I think the biggest benefit of the Library of Congress is it would be easier to access. You can also celebrate the books. The books are educational. Kids might have a better vocabulary when there older.So the books will end up helping people when there older. The library could also tech kids how to read.

  • JonteE-den
    11/22/2019 - 01:06 p.m.

    ''This article is very educational. the article good the read to your self.

  • 26ehprin
    11/26/2019 - 10:48 a.m.

    Creating more copies of older books could teach kids to explore more books. They wouldn't just have sequels or different versions of books... they would have all the versions available for them to read!

  • 26jpquin
    12/03/2019 - 10:50 a.m.

    So kids can read, have fun, get points. Maybe get good grades in whatever subject they read in. They might entertain people or kids. They have things called articles and magazines too. I think a lot of books are cool and should be more recognized.

  • 26bkvees
    12/05/2019 - 10:30 a.m.

    I think it is that you can read them off of your computer at home, if you have a computer or other digital device.

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