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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.

Library of the mind

August 20, 2010

Do you remember a book from your early childhood? Which one? Why do you remember it?

I remember The Poky Little Puppy (Golden Books) and others fondly; I also remember my mother's soft skin and gentle fragrance as I snuggled next to her while she read. Was it the book (older than I am but still available)? Could it have been how it was shared?

A documentary due out this fall entitled "Library of the Early Mind," will explore children's literature and what it means to young children. A number of well known writers and illustrators (Mo Willems, David Small, and Lois Lowry to name just a few) give insight into their work in a trailer, certainly piquing my interest and getting the thought processes going — doing, I suppose, just what it's meant to do.

What is the lure of books? Why are they critical to a child's development? Why do some books stand out for young readers — even into adulthood? In other words, what is it that makes a book memorable?

Maybe those books that work on many levels, that touch authentic emotions, are the ones that are most memorable. Maybe it's simply in the sharing. Anita Silvey explores the impact of children's books in Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Children's Book (Roaring Brook). The title suggests what the book posits.

I don't know if there is a definitive answer but part of the fun is in thinking about it. It is also in reading, and above all, creating opportunities for books to make memories with and for children.


I love this trip down book-memory lane, Maria! My earliest memory is of my dad reciting nursery rhymes with me and my siblings right before bedtime. He did it in a very interactive way ... each kid could choose a rhyme and we would chime in on refrains. We could choose to say it really fast or really slow. I remember thinking carefully about my choice and invariably I'd choose "Hickory Dickory Dock," my sister would choose "Bo-Peep" and one of my brothers would often choose "Little Jack Horner" or "Little Boy Blue." Now I can see how my dad (who was not a teacher or reading specialist)was empowering us to play with words and make them our own. At the time, it was all just a lot of fun.

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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