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.