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The International Children’s Digital Library – ICDL– was launched in 2002. It has been billed as the “Biggest Online Children’s Library,” and now has around 2,000 free children’s books, written in 42+ different languages. According to its Web site, the mission of the non profit International Children’s Digital Library Foundation (ICDL Foundation) is “to support the world’s children in becoming effective members of the global community – who exhibit tolerance and respect for diverse cultures, languages and ideas — by making the best in children’s literature available online free of charge. The Foundation pursues its vision by building a digital library of outstanding children’s books from around the world and supporting communities of children and adults in exploring and using this literature through innovative technology designed in close partnership with children for children.”

The ICDL hopes to create a comprehensive library of international children’s literature that will be available on the Internet worldwide. In addition, through research conducted using the Library, researchers hope to learn more about how children interact with digital books and how they learn using the related computer technology.

I discovered this site a couple of weeks ago when asked to do an assembly for our primary school’s annual Book Week. With a group of around a hundred 7-11 year olds, this proved a great tool to be able to bring up a story on the White Board that the whole group could follow, while I narrated. In a school like ours with around 35 nationalities, this is also a great resource for kids to find books in their mother tongue, which is incredibly important for many reasons. Our school library, while containing books in 6 languages, has its limitations. Also it is a great opportunity to see the types of stories written in say Swahili or Tagalog (especially the bilingual ones). The online library can also be accessed for free in 11 languages.

The variety and quality of books chosen is outstanding. For example The Moon-marked Forehead is the retelling of a Persian folktale published in 1382 in the Iranian Calendar. This library is also becoming a repository of folktales and books from many different cultures, ensuring their continuity. They have even opened their first “Branch Library” in Mongolia to ensure that children in the rural areas can enjoy books of their own culture, as well as those from around the world. I believe the ICDL foundation is making a valuable contribution to battling worldwide illiteracy.

There are several different ways to search for books and I found the site very user friendly. Though obviously a great tool for librarians and teachers, this is also a resource for individuals and families – another wonderful opportunity to help share about other cultures with our children.



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  1. Diane says:

    This is a very interesting topic Joanna. I love that this is one way of getting reading material into countries where children need to get there hands on it to improve their growth. To be able to obtain it in there own language is also wonderful. What an amazing website. You must surely enjoy your work with the kids in your school. Our schools also have many different cultures, and one thing which is benefical about all this is being able to learn about other cultures. Something I love.

    • Joanna says:

      Thanks for your comment Diane. Yes, I have spent my entire adult life working in multicultural settings and I just love it. It was fun browsing this site and finding books in Farsi, Mongolian, Swahili etc and then also having a look at the illustrations to have an idea what themes are addressed. There are a number of books from Oceania and whilst most are in English, there are some in e.g. Tongan, Maori etc There are many bilingual books too, the one I read to primary was Spanish/English.

  2. What a cool site! I have glanced at it in the past, but I’ve done no more than glance. Fabulous resource — I didn’t realize there were so many languages and cultures represented.

    Have I ever mentioned how impressed I am with your blog posts? You really get into the heart of whatever you’re blogging about, and your posts are always so valuable and educational. Thank you!

    • Joanna says:

      Hi Beth, as a librarian, i thought you might be aware of ICDL. Our primary teachers are just starting to use it and the students love it… anything digital, right 😉
      Thank you so much for your words of encouragement, Beth. I have some posts coming up next week that I think you will enjoy.


  3. Patricia Tilton says:

    What an interesting resource. Never knew about the ICDL. Can see how valuable it is for your multicultural students. And, it is digital. You really do post interesting information on your site. I love your passion — it is visible in what you share. Thanks for sharing!


    • Joanna says:

      Thanks, Pat. i was excited to see that they see themselves also as a place to safeguard folktales from around the world.

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