I, Lisa Ripperton, have always loved books! As a child I treasured the few volumes I owned, reading and rereading them. A family copy of the Junior Classics was in the hall bookcase right outside my bedroom door and I spent many hours poring over the pages of those ten volumes. At Christmas I looked forward eagerly to the box of books we received from my Aunt Sarah and to the individual books presented to me by my Granny and Uncle Ralph.
Even as a young adult, I continued to be interested in children's books, but my interest blossomed when my first child was born 36 years ago. I started scouring used book stores and thrift shops for quality children's books. I eagerly devoured any book about children's books that I could find. The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease introduced me to the joys of reading aloud and Babies Need Books by Dorothy Butler pointed me to lots of wonderful titles for children up to the age of 5, my only frustration being that many of the books that she, as a New Zealander, recommended were not available in this country. From Babies Need Books we moved on to the titles recommended in For Reading Out Loud! by Margaret Mary Kimmel and Elizabeth Segel and finally to the books profiled in Books That Build Character by William Kilpatrick and Gregory and Suzanne Wolfe. By that time I had had two more children, so I had a chance to go back and start the whole journey over again!
When my older child was in the sixth grade, I became interested in the homeschooling movement. I was delighted to find so many wonderful books offered in the pages of the homeschooling catalogs. I was also intrigued to find that a number of older books were being reprinted for use by homeschoolers.
About that time I also began making lists of books to add to the classroom libraries of my son's 6th, 7th, and 8th grades at Emerson Waldorf School. When my younger children were in the lower grades I began working on the libraries for those classrooms too. Through this work, as well as through the reading we did at home over the course of the last 36 years, I learned a tremendous amount about children's literature.
One thing I discovered was that many wonderful books for children were published at the beginning of the 20th century and the end of the 19th. Some of these books were still in print, but many were not.
A number of paths converged to make it possible for me to share some of these older books with a broader audience. First, my interest in children's books. Secondly, the software development skills I acquired in 26 years of working in the software industry. Thirdly, the advent of the internet, making it possible to locate books long out of print, and then publish them electronically.
In 1999 I founded the Baldwin Online Children’s Literature Project (Baldwin Project, for short) at mainlesson.com to make some of the best children's books available to all through the internet. Over the course of the next decade I made 473 classic books for children available for reading online through the Baldwin Project. Now those books and more can be read at Gateway to the Classics.
In 2005 my older son and I joined forces to found Yesterday’s Classics, so we could publish some of these titles in print editions. Later we introduced ebook editions of all the titles we had published in print format.
Publication of new ebooks continues to this day with new ebooks released periodically in collections available through Yesterday’s Classics.
One new project I am in the early stages of is the development of a Living Books Library for children near my home in Ithaca. One reason I took on this work was to familiarize myself with the best titles for children published in the last century.
I have three children, all grown. They all started out their formal education at a company-sponsored Montessori day care, then transferred to Emerson Waldorf School for the early grades. My first son attended Waldorf schools through the twelfth grade. The younger two were homeschooled during their middle school years. One continued to homeschool through the high school years, the other attended Emerson Waldorf High School. Two of my children graduated from college, one from UNC-Asheville and the other from St. John’s College. The third has just completed his third semester at Tompkins Cortland Community College.
My own education consisted of public school for elementary, middle, and high school, followed by four years of undergraduate work at Cornell University, graduating in 1972 with a B.A. in Classics. I even did three years of graduate work in Classics at Cornell before I realized that I didn't love Classical Philology enough to devote my life to it. Two years of course work in Computer Science at Clemson University prepared me for a career in the software industry. I left the corporate world in 2003 to homeschool my children, beginning my entrepreneurial adventures a couple of years later.
As a parent of children attending Waldorf schools for many years, I became very familiar with the Waldorf system of education and have great appreciation for it. In recent years I have become enamored of the educational theories of Charlotte Mason, attracted first by the prominence of books in her system of education, and later by her emphasis on children as persons, with her motto being “Education is An Atmosphere, A Discipline, A Life.”
In 2018 I began this blog to inspire readers to build a culture of reading in their homes and beyond, spreading the love of books far and wide.