Not so long ago, borrowing children’s books in other languages meant a complicated, perhaps costly interlibrary loan if you weren’t lucky enough to live near a library with holdings in your language … or a costly trip to a foreign language bookshop.
There is now a wealth of digital resources making access to books cheap or even free. The International Children’s Digital Library, a project begun in 2002, aims to “build a digital library freely available to children around the world”, of 10,000 books from 100 countries.
The project, begun in 2002, is “a public library for the world” funded by the United States Federal Institute of Museum and Library Services, in partnership with other organisations.
So far, it has more than 4600 books in 59 languages, aimed at children aged three to 13. The organisation takes the advice of representatives of national libraries and literature organisations in different countries to select books for inclusion. These run the gamut of classic works no longer covered by copyright to contemporary books where permission has been obtained from the copyright holders.
As well as books in English, there are titles in Arabic, Chinese, Persian, Portuguese, Filipino (Tagalog), Hindi, Japanese, Russian and other languages. While the website looks a little dated, it does allow you to search by age group, language and title.
The ICDL also has apps for iPhone and iPad available on iTunes – they’ve had mixed reviews but are free, so worth a try.