Friday, February 23, 2007

Song Syrup

Some of us explored the International Children's Digital Library for my Collection Development class recently. I'd known about it for a while now but had regrettably never gotten around to checking it out. I'm glad I finally did, since it's lovely and so, so very right. Its mission is simple, noble and the kind of thing that's anathema to an influential branch of the Republican Party that equates diversity with racism and tolerance as capitulation to sin. Still, I'm a fan.

The mission of the International Children’s Digital Library Foundation is to excite and inspire the world's children to become members of the global community – children who understand the value of tolerance and respect for diverse cultures, languages and ideas -- by making the best in children's literature available online.

A classmate brought up an interesting point concerning children and their tactile relationship with books, the sheer joy they experience by being able to hold and manipulate a tangible object. Something, it turns out, adults like to do quite a bit as well. In the digital realm, this gets tricky. ISDL, however, targets children age 3 and up, an age when tactile concerns aren't nearly so potent and commanding. And besides, a lot of today's kids make, I'd hazard to guess, few distinctions between digital and organic text if any. Hidden behind the mission for ISDL you discover that its also acting as a research platform to study and gain a keener understanding of how kids interact with information. This is an equally noble endeavor, and I wondered if it wasn't mentioned in the mission because it's not nearly as wholesome and innocent as inspiring tolerance and respect for our global community. But to their great credit, ISDL encouraged children to create ways to search for books in the Library that were most relevant and exciting to them. That meant being able to search for books with specific character types, books with kids or imaginary creature characters, books with red covers, yellow covers or short books and long books and make believe or true ones. I like that.

The awesome accompanying illustration is by Ali Reza Goldouzian and is taken from the children's book, The Beautiful Pond which was first published in Iran. The accompanying summary for the book reads:

Speckled Frog used to sing differently so the other frogs poured a "song syrup" into her mouth that made her silent. A little fish discovered a flute at the bottom of the pond and brought it to her and asked her to play. Speckled Frog played very well, and everyone in the pond enjoyed her music.

Sigh. If only the Iranians would give up their song syrup and play nice with the rest the world!

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