The International Children's Digital Library

Read Children's Books Online - For Free!

Logo of the International Children's Digital Library
Logo of the International Children's Digital Library. International Children's Digital Library

How would you like to have access to a free online public library of children's books from around the world for kids 3 to 13? You can, if you just visit the Web site of the International Children's Digital Library (ICDL). The Library's books include books selected and digitized by The Library of Congress, as well as children's books selected by international librarians and new books from publishers and authors.

Billed as "A Library for the World's Children," the International Children's Digital Library was established in late 2002. By early July, 2012, there were 4,643 children's books, written in 61 different languages, available online on the ICDL website. According to Timothy Browne, ICDL Executive Director, "The ICDL Foundation's goal is to build a collection of books that represents outstanding historical and contemporary children’s books from throughout the world, and make them freely available on the Internet.” (12/30/06 ICDL press release). The emphasis is on sharing books that help children learn about life in other countries and cultures and that help them to understand and appreciate the diversity in our world.

Use Your Computer - No Separate eReader Required

Unlike other books you can access online, no eReader is needed. You don't download the books. You simply search and select the books you want and read them online.
There are books for young children for adults to read to them and books for independent readers to enjoy on their own.

Finding and Reading Children's Books on the ICDL Web Site

Since the ICDL was first established, a great deal of work has been done to ensure that the site is easy to navigate. The Library Help page provides tips on the types of searches you can do (simple, advanced, location and keyword) and also explains how you read the books.
I was impressed with how specific you can make your search in terms of age range, fiction or nonfiction, book length and much more.

While doing a search, I was delighted to find that one of the books in the International Children's Digital Library is my favorite illustrated edition of The Secret Garden. I also found The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum and a number of Mother Goose books (read my article to find out why Mother Goose Rules!)

While you don't need to register to select and read books, there are some benefits. Among other things, you can select the language you want to use. As of summer 2012, books are available in the following languages (listed in order of library users' preferences): English, Spanish, Arabic, Persian, Chinese (Simplified), French, Mongolian, Chinese (Traditional), Croatian, Portuguese, Hebrew, German, Filipino, Russian, Thai and Italian. You can also set up, and select books for, your own Personal Bookshelf. If your child starts a book but stops reading before the end of the book, he can return to the ICDL later and pick up where he left off.

Additional Resources for Parents, Teachers and Librarians

The ICDL Using the Library page provides information on a variety of library-related activities. These include tips on holding a Digital Story Time for a group of children and creating a Savenger Hunt to help kids learn their way around the site.

The ICDL Exhibitions section of the site lists thematic collections of children's books from around the world, information on each book and a number of related activities. The Exhibitions include: Celebrating Differences, Clearing the Hurdle! (overcoming difficulties), Everyone Needs Water and Water Needs Everyone, Forever Friendship, Seasons of Change and Strong Women and Girls Help Make the World Go Round.

The ICDL is also a rich resource for scholars and researchers studying children's literature and the use of technology in making it available internationally.

In addition to enjoying all of the resources offered by the International Children's Digital Library, remember that your own local library has a lot to offer and you can save money at your public library.