Great Public Domain Books for Children: Introduction

Illustration for A Child's Garden of Verses
by Jessie Wilcox Smith, 1905

Books that are in the public domain are free to read, share, and reprint, and since the advent of the internet we've entered a golden age for accesing public domain works. Websites like Project Gutenberg, Internet Archive, and the Online Books Page from the University of Pennsylvania allow anyone with access to an internet connection to read some of the greatest works of literature ever written, right in their own homes or local libraries.

However, despite the ease of access to public domain material, some readers--particularly young ones--may be put off from reading these works. The sheer volume of books in the public domain can be overwhelming, and older books for children can sometimes be tedious or didactic. But there are so many excellent books for young readers in the public domain that are just as fresh and captivating to modern readers as they were to audiences of a hundred years ago, and it's well worth seeking them out.

In this article, I've gathered some of my favorite public domain books for picture book and middle grade readers. They're a wonderful place to start if you're new to public domain books, and I hope that these selections will demonstrate how lively classic works for children can be.

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