Website Review

Read.gov

Read.gov is a project of the Library of Congress (LOC) Center for the Book. It offers a cornucopia of approaches to reading and readers through a well-integrated interface.

The centerpiece is a set of 30 beautifully scanned, rare classics with a simple, elegant reading interface. Books are divided into categories for children (23), youth (6), and adults (3). Titles include an 1886 volume A Apple Pie, Mother Goose rhymes and Aesop's fables, and The Rocket Book from 1912 about a janitor's son whose rocket shoots up from an apartment basement through 20 floors.

The book Gobolinks, or Shadow-Pictures for Young and Old portrays ink blots. These images, created by dropping ink onto paper, folding it, and pressing the paper to squeeze ink into shapes, are then interpreted and illustrated with poems. Interpretations such as the washerwomen would give way to features from today's landscapes. An interesting activity would be to cover the poems and titles, interpret the images, and then compare things that have and have not changed.

Well known classics include The Story of the Three Little Pigs, the original 1900 version of The Wizard of Oz, a 1911 version of A Christmas Carol, several illustrated poems by Edgar Allen Poe, The Secret Garden, and a 1908 printing of Uncle Tom's Cabin for Children.

Another section offers 20 Author Webcasts, including Jane Goodall, Chinua Achebe, and Tiki Barber.

Meet the Authors invites youth to write Letters about Literature, a contest that seeks to connect students' lives with the work of authors. Children write letters explaining how a work of literature was meaningful to them and these letters and responses to the writing prompts reveal much about contemporary childhood.

Other resources related to children are River of Words environmental writing and the Poetry Out Loud recitation contests. National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped includes a special list of resources for children in Braille and audio book format.

The Exquisite Corpse is a feature based on a traditional parlor game in which storytellers respond to a prompt and writers contribute to a growing story line whose ending is wide open. The story is developing as a quest adventure featuring telepathic twins searching for their parents, who are apparently in need of rescue. A cast of characters appear and disappear to build a set of clues.

The Exquisite Corpse Adventure educational resource center includes access to the episodes, reading selections, discussion questions and activities, and a feature under construction called "Talk Art!" related to the illustrations. The discussion materials are as rich as the story is complex.

Students of children in history and the culture of childhood will find plenty to analyze here. The classic books are illustrative of bygone landscapes created primarily by adults for children. They reveal time-honored tales as well as dominant and alternative historical narratives. They are readable and revealing. A class assignment, for example, could start with the original Wonderful Wizard of Oz, compare it to the 1939 Hollywood version, and then examine changing illustrations through the 20th century as the book was reprinted time and again.

How to Cite This Source

"Read.gov," in Children and Youth in History, Item #445, http://chnm.gmu.edu/cyh/items/show/445 (accessed December 22, 2014).

Read.gov offers a cornucopia of approaches to reading and readers through a well-integrated interface.