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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.

A time to remember

September 10, 2009

The anniversary of 9/11 is here. The impact continues to be felt in subtle and not so subtle ways. One day changed our society and frankly, our world — the world of our children.

Older children and adults can grasp — to some degree at least — what caused these changes. But young children don't have the reservoir of experience to make sense of it.

When 9/11 first happened, my son returned to books in which the weak were able to gain power over stronger forces. To him, books provided a sense of control.

Books can also pay subtle homage to an event without confronting it head-on and may even help young children develop — or deepen — their emotional reservoir.

I still like Mary Pope Osborne's New York's Bravest (Knopf). Though he lived in the 19th century, Mose Humphreys is a larger-than-character whose courage lives on — just as the contemporary fire fighters to whom the book is dedicated. Not only do readers glimpse a real life hero through an old-time hero but presents another time.

Philip Petit was a daredevil who broke the law to walk between the Twin Towers back in the 1970s. His very real activities inspired Mordecai Gerstein to create The Man Who Walked Between the Towers (Roaring Brook). The stunning views will take your breath away and won this book the Caldecott Medal.

A less place-specific book about coping with an unexpected crisis is presented for young children by Jean Gralley. The Moon Came Down on Milk Street (Holt) tells the story of how a community comes together to return the moon to the sky in a simple rhyming text. People everywhere make a difference.

Like an earlier date, 9/11 is one that will live in infamy. For more books about 9/11 and children, visit Kay Vandergrift's (Rutgers University) site.

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"To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark." — Victor Hugo, Les Miserables