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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.

Gulping down books

July 16, 2010

We've been on a road trip for a while, combining visits with family and friends with college tours. I'm amazed that my son's time in high school is going by at such breakneck speed. It seems to speed up exponentially once kids begin numbered grades.

And my niece is starting first grade this fall.

What a joy it's been to share books with this just-turned-6-year old child! She's just starting to read independently — and wow! Has she ever taken off — reading well beyond most kids her age.

We went to the library yesterday and I got to help Michaela pick out a few books. She's excited by reading chapter books — long ones. She still examines illustrations closely (as she did when I read Robert McCloskey's classic, Blueberries for Sal, Viking) but is thrilled with finding meaning in language.

She selected an "Arthur" chapter book, Locked in the Library (Little Brown) and a Henry and Mudge book by Cynthia Rylant as well as the Golly Sisters Go West (HarperCollins) by Betsy Byars.

Since her mom limits the number of books she can check out (after all, they visit the library weekly), she asked me to write down the names of the other books that I suggested. These included the first Gooney Bird Greene by Lois Lowry (Yearling) and Sara Pennypacker's Clementine (Hyperion) among others.

I think it's important to help children find books that they can not only have success decoding, but that also complement their interests and experiences. Michaela is likely to enjoy the stories that Gooney Bird tells (all true, by the way, no matter how outrageous they sound), chuckle at the silly adventures of Rose and May-May Golly, and empathize with the situations that Arthur and his pals find themselves in.

And it's only the beginning for Michaela's reading adventures. She'll continue to gulp down books and for a while, I get to be a part of it.

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"When I say to a parent, "read to a child", I don't want it to sound like medicine. I want it to sound like chocolate. " — Mem Fox