Free Online Children’s Classical Literature via Project Gutenberg
Did you know children’s classical literature is available for free on a web site? Dr. Doolittle, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and The Velveteen Rabbit and hundreds more are available to the public as free downloads via Project Gutenberg.
Project Gutenberg is an online resource, housing more than 45,000 eBooks, including a sizable library of children’s classical literature by some of the world’s most beloved authors. The stories can be downloaded to read on your computer, an e-reader, or other mobile device and some of the stories can be downloaded as audio books.
As a reading specialist, people often ask me my opinion regarding the intersection of technology and reading. While not all technology is good technology, all reading is good reading. I’ve told parents whether their children are reading the cereal box, a letter from Grandma, or a comic book, it doesn’t matter – they’re reading. Our job as educators is to encourage that and provide students with access to what they love to read, and if what they love to read is available on an e-reader, then so be it.
What I love about Project Gutenberg, though, is that it not only encourages us to read, it encourages and supports cultural literacy. Cultural literacy is a phrase coined and explained in detail by E.D. Hirsch, Jr. in his book Cultural literacy: What Every American Needs to Know. It is the ability to understand and participate in America’s shared culture. When you have cultural literacy, you know that “Thor” is the god of thunder from Norse mythology and not simply a character in the latest Avengers movie. Cultural literacy includes knowing about many texts that are available via Project Gutenberg. Alice in Wonderland, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, The Jungle Book – these are books from the 19th century and not just movies from the 20th century!
All reading is good reading, whether you’re turning pages or clicking “next.” I encourage you to visit Project Gutenberg’s website and choose a classic tale to read with your children. Not only will you improve their reading comprehension, you’ll also improve their cultural literacy.
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Kristen Kinney-Haines is director of primary literacy for K12. She has worked with the company's Phonics and Language Arts programs since 2001. Dr. Kinney-Haines is responsible for the creation and development of MARK12 Reading, K12's first remedial product, as well the second generation of K-2 Language Arts and Phonics. Previously, she taught kindergarten and first grade in Upstate New York and Special Education in Northern Virginia. Dr. Kinney-Haines holds a bachelor of science degree in Education from the State University of New York at Geneseo, a master's degree in Reading from Nazareth College, and a doctorate of education in Curriculum and Instruction from The George Washington University.