Service Puts Best Books at Children's Fingertips

Article excerpt

Byline: Sarah Long

She was so excited that she was carrying around a computer just to show off the project. She asked me if I had a moment. We stepped out of the meeting and she gave me a flyer about the International Children's Digital Library (ICDL) and proceeded to access the project Web site on her computer and show me how it worked.

Ann Carlson Weeks has seen a lot in her library career. I first knew her as the executive director of the American Association of School Librarians. Then she became the director of school libraries at the Chicago Public Schools. Several years ago, she joined the faculty of the college of information studies at the University of Maryland. Now she is participating in the International Children's Digital Library, an incredible effort of the University of Maryland and the Internet Archive to digitize 100 children's books from 100 cultures and make them available on the Internet.

It will take five years and cost more than 5 million dollars, but the benefits are pretty obvious: giving children around the world access to the best in children's books from around the world. Just think of it - children can read good books in the language of their choice wherever there is computer access.

Teachers will have access to books for both integrating good literature into the curriculum and finding books describing customs and telling the stories of other cultures. Libraries will be able to offer books in many, many languages, not just the few they can afford today.

Many children will be able to read the same book at the same time - limited only by the number of computer terminals available. …