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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.

How books can open minds

June 4, 2013

During a school visit recently I met classes of 3rd and 5th graders to talk about authors and illustrators, share some of their books and highlight some of their advice for young readers. I talked to the children about what they would do if they were in a position similar to those that book characters were placed.

Some 3rd graders were sympathetic that Daisy's ball was ruined; others thought that she should become angry. Almost all of the 5th graders agreed with Ted Williams' decision to go for the record while some looked skeptical. Everyone, however, appreciated Amelia Bedelia's literal-mindedness.

I'm always intrigued by young people's responses to books. Different readers take away different things from books — though story in fact or fiction has an impact on readers that we don't always see nor do children necessarily have the vocabulary or the experience to express it. It's only when language and understanding converge can the power be expressed.

A young woman named Lisa Bu does just that in a brief but compelling lecture entitled How books can open your mind. Her potent portrait of that power started with a dream deferred.

Lisa's journey began as a child and continues into her (young) adulthood. She's become a lifelong learner because she is a lifelong reader which has allowed her to become an explorer and a thinker.

All the writers that I've met agree that reading broadly, deeply and constantly is key to good writing (and learning and thinking).

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"I'm wondering what to read next." — Matilda, Roald Dahl