This is a guest post by Sasha Dowdy, program specialist in the Library’s Young Readers Center.
Ever since I was in elementary school, books have been bridge-builders for me. I am not a native English-speaker—my first language is Russian, and my second is Japanese—so as a child, it was a challenge sometimes to connect with the language in my classroom.
Enter “The Wizard of Oz” in the hands of my Canadian tutor. I knew the general story, but it came alive when I started slowly piecing the language puzzle together into portraits of Dorothy and her friends. Not only did I want to keep reading after our weekly two hours were up—I wanted to write my own stories about Oz. My English was still imperfect, but I was excited about it for the first time and anxious to put it to use. How could I resist, knowing that I was acquiring tools to tap into a completely new realm of stories? That’s how I started finding creative inspiration and building small bridges to bring the world of English-language stories closer to my own.
“The Wizard of Oz” is one of the public domain books available on Read.gov that we’re highlighting this month on the “free to use and reuse” feature on the Library’s home page. Each month, the website showcases digitized content from the Library’s collections that has no known copyright restrictions—meaning you can use it as you wish. Imagine the connections you can make with the books we’re featuring this month: all you need is Internet access! Scroll down for more selections.
The 1928 edition of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” is full of the whimsical illustrations we have grown to love. This copy even has a title page signed by Lewis Carroll. The book inspired movies, video games, theater productions and numerous literary works. What role did Alice play in your life?
This 1913 edition of “The Jungle Book” contains vivid illustrations. Bonus content: you can find a New York Public Library stamp on pages 4, 5, and 6—imagine the journey it took to arrive at the Library of Congress! How far have you traveled with your favorite book?
This 1915 edition of “Mother Goose Finger Plays” has photographs demonstrating how adults can put on finger-puppet shows with youngsters while following along with the story. You will find familiar rhymes that have lasted in our memories for over a century!
Print your own pages from the 1907 edition of “The Twelve Magic Changelings” and reenact the stories or make up your own based on the brilliantly colorful images in cutouts of the Town Mouse and the Country Mouse, Robinson Crusoe or Humpty Dumpty.
Relive the haunting of “The Raven,” accompanied by deliciously creepy illustrations from the 1884 edition. The introduction sets exactly the right tone: “The secret of a poem, no less than a jest’s prosperity, lies in the ear of him that hears it.” What better way to start the chills running down your spine?
Visit Read.gov to explore more classics from decades and centuries past. No matter whether you share them out loud, use them as learning materials, draw creative inspiration from them or enjoy them as bridges to other people, times or worlds—they are waiting to be read and loved again and again.
We would love to hear how you connect with these books, so please comment below!