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Maria Salvadore

Reading Rockets' children's literature expert, Maria Salvadore, brings you into her world as she explores the best ways to use kids' books both inside — and outside — of the classroom.

September celebration

August 31, 2012

As schools get into full swing, teachers should remind students and parents (and maybe other educators) of the importance of libraries. Every classroom activity can be enriched and enlivened by these rich resources. All that is needed is a library card.

To remind everyone, September is National Library Card Sign-up Month. Though it's an American celebration, other countries recognize their importance as well.

You may remember reports last year about how Egyptian youth protected the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (Alexandria Library). This extraordinary event has been translated into a handsome, engaging, and informative picture book for children as young as six or seven but rich enough to be used with even 4th or 5th graders.

Hands Around the Library: Protecting Egypt's Treasured Books (Dial) by Susan Roth and Karen Leggett Abouraya conveys a sense of story and a child's sense of history as it opens: "Once upon a time, not a long time ago, people in Egypt were sad and sometimes angry because…" The voice of a young narrator successfully conveys fact and feelings as well as a healthy admiration for the library's treasures. She says, "We were free inside the library even when we were not free outside."

And so a human chain protects the library and its gems from unpredictable protesters. Lush collage illustrations incorporate handwritten Arabic placards and gorgeous traditional patterns to capture the events while creating a strong sense of place. Actual photographs of the library and the people — including the narrator and the library director — both of whom figure prominently in the telling — add to the real-life drama.

Notes about Alexandria's library ancient and modern, a brief note about the 2011 revolution and more conclude this compelling book. Don't let the picture book format fool you. Hands Around the Library provides multiple entry points for look at a timely topic, a rich cultural heritage, and much more.

It's also a fascinating way to celebrate libraries and their treasures long beyond September.

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