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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.

Traveling with books

June 22, 2009

We just got back from a family vacation to Ireland. It was my teenaged son's first time out of the country and the first time for his parents since their son was born.

Not surprisingly, we packed lots of books. I'm still reading for an award committee, so most of my books were for young readers.

My husband chose to take two novels for young readers by Richard Peck:A Year Down Yonder and A Long Way from Chicago (both Penguin). Both books are very funny family stories that feature the one of a kind Grandma Dowdel. And while they could be read independently by children in grades 4 and above, they make very funny read alouds for the entire family to share and discuss.

My son packed an enormously long adult fantasy with lots of battles, not unlike Tolkien.

Even without the delays caused by weather, there's plenty of time to read while traveling. I got through a couple of books en route to Shannon, another one on the return trip, and a couple in between. My husband finished the Peck novels and started in on what I'd finished reading.

And in Ireland, we visited lots of book stores, always checking out the section for young readers. I'm not sure why I was surprised but the connection between what American kids read and what is obviously popular in Irish villages from Ennis to Kenmare are amazingly similar.

We saw American writers and Irish (and other English language) writers that are widely read in the U.S.: Eoin Colfer, Kate Thompson, there was good old Harry Potter (with the UK cover) and even the Percy Jackson books by Rick Riordan. Fantasy seems to be ever-popular.

But for younger readers books were much concrete; there was Jane O'Connor's Fancy Nancy books and lots of easy nonfiction.

It was interesting to observe a young mother calm her travel weary toddler by pulling out a book and reading it aloud in a soothing voice. You could hear the grumps going out of the child.

Books sure calm me, too. I'm glad they travel well.

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"I used to walk to school with my nose buried in a book." — Coolio