There is a free online library of children’s classic literature available to you that you may not even be aware of! Dr. Doolittle, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, 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.
For additional advice, ideas, and reading resources, check out:
A Parent’s Role in the World of Words and Vocabulary
Harry Potter Inspires Ideas to Motivate Young Readers
K12 Expert’s Recommended Reading List for Kids (printable)
5 Best Kids’ Books Parents Say Are ‘Must-Reads’