It’s the 100th anniversary of Children’s Book Week in the US earlier this month, and the Library of Congress celebrated by offering a free online collection of rare children’s books that first published more than a hundred years ago.
The collection of 70 books includes some that are still read by kids today, as well as lesser-known titles from the Library’s collection of historically significant children’s books. All books in the collection were published in the United States or England before 1924.
When Fritz, the Janitor’s Bad kid,
Went snooping in the basement;
He found a rocket snugly hid
Beneath the window casement.
He struck a match with one fell swoop;
Then, on the concrete kneeling,
He lit the rocket and—she—oop!
It shot up through the ceiling.
Of course, one of the problems with classic children’s books is that they often present storylines, images, gender roles and a lack of racial diversity that are offensive by today’s standards.
But Maria Tatar, professor of folklore and mythology at Harvard, told The New York Times that reading through these old books with our kids can be an opportunity to talk about who is represented and who is not.
In fact, even young children can have those conversations, she said, and part of the adult’s responsibility is to make them happen in a way that’s easy and comfortable for the child. “What better place than a book, a once-upon-a-time,” she said. “This is not here and now, it’s a place we can go in our imaginations, we can think about what if.”
The Library’s collection includes books that teach kids to read and to learn about a variety of subjects, such as maths, science and government. There are also “fun” books of fiction, poetry and fairy tales.