Read 7,000 children’s books for free in this online archive


“The 3 Little Kittens” (1890) (Photo: Baldwin Library of Historical Children’s Literature, Public Domain)
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Children’s literature has a rich history. Books written, illustrated and published for young readers exploded in popularity during the 19th century. They have remained a mainstay in the publishing industry ever since. From primers intended to teach spelling and mathematics to fairy tales, these books can tell historians and modern readers a lot about the mores of a given era. Now anyone can explore more than 7,000 historical titles online through the University of Florida’s Baldwin Library of Historical Children’s Literature.

The online archive contains countless books available for online reading or downloading. Many date from the 19th century, while others were published in the 1950s. Titles range from Pretty little stories for pretty little people to classic Cinderella. Topics range from Bible stories to school subjects to sweet animal tales.

Some may have historical value. For example, the 1946 book My dog ​​Rinty is illustrated with a black-and-white photograph that offers insight into the fictional world of a little boy in 1940s Harlem. Written by Ellen Tarry – a black journalist and author – and Caldecott winner Marie Hall Ets, it tells the story of a young boy named David trying to hold on to a dog that causes all sorts of trouble. He is represented through photographs taken by a radical Russian Jewish immigrant photographer and his wife. Many books like this are out of print, but they represent moments that historians can tap into.

Children’s literature reflects what society wants to teach young people: the values, facts and social norms of the time deemed essential for growing up. In retrospect, these are not always the same modern values. For example, in the 19th and 20th centuries, many children’s books had imperialist and racist themes, stereotyping non-white or non-Western people. Preserving these books and making them available online will help modern scholars study American and British history. If children’s books weren’t such important markers of social mores, there wouldn’t be the current culture war trying to ban books dealing with racism and LGBTQ+ identities. Changes in children’s literature represent broader changes in culture, as well as our hopes for the future.

Book lovers of all ages looking to learn more should check out My Modern Met’s many recommended book lists on topics such as outer space, “how to draw”, art of all kinds , New York, the history of photography and architecture. You can also shop our favorites while supporting independent bookstores with our curated picks at

An online archive contains over 7,000 historical children’s books available to read or download.

Old children's books

“Denslow’s Jack and the Bean-Stalk” (circa 1903) (Photo: Baldwin Library of Historical Children’s Literature, public domain)

These include fairy tales, gardening manuals and picture books.

Old children's books

“The ABCs of Nature” (circa 1884) (Photo: Baldwin Library of Historical Children’s Literature, public domain)

The books are made available by the Baldwin Library of Historical Children’s Literature at the University of Florida.

Old children's books

“Whirligig Pictures” (circa 1893) (Photo: Baldwin Library of Historical Children’s Literature, public domain)

For the past 200 years, children’s books have represented social mores and the hopes of the next generation.

Old children's books

“Acrobatic Animals” (circa 1899) (Photo: Baldwin Library of Historical Children’s Literature, Public Domain)

Old children's books

“New England Primer, Improved” (1815) (Photo: Baldwin Library of Historical Children’s Literature, public domain)

h/t: [Open Culture]

Baldwin Library of Historical Literature for Children: website

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