The University of Florida Baldwin Library of Historical Children’s Literature has a digital archive of 6000 children’s books from the 19th and early 20th century, all free to read online. A redditor discovered the treasure and shared it it Reddit’s Books community. Fans of history and children’s literature will be delighted to click through the pages of titles such as Aesop’s Fables, The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe and Grimm’s Fairy Tales – and share them with their kids.
Screenshot: University of Florida Baldwin Library of Historical Children’s Literature
A note for parents looking for some charming books for story time: Most of these won’t be the happily-ever-after tales your children are probably used to. One redditor wrote that the first book they read in the archive was about a young girl who loved to pick flowers: “One day, she went outside to pick flowers and got very sick from something. She then died. Her dying wish was to plant flowers. Her parents did so. But her father died as well. At least the flowers bloom every spring. Man, children’s tales in 1850 were very different.”
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read dark stories to your kids – you should! Some of the saddest stories can also be the most wonderful. But do talk to them afterwards. Let them share what makes them sad or scared, too. Tell them that bad things happen, but they are not alone. And watch how stories can connect us, even the ones that are 200 years old.