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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.

Books + preschoolers = magic

February 25, 2011

I spent this morning with an astute group of art critics who judiciously examined several picture books, noting specific tools and techniques used by various illustrators. The evaluators were able to gain nuanced meaning from the use of line, color, and even the placement on the page.

Not one of the critics was older than 4 years. You see, I had been invited to a preschool classroom to talk about the Caldecott Medal.

Admittedly, books are an important part of these children daily experiences — but it was the children who decided by voting — that they wanted to study the Caldecott Medal as a class. It also is noteworthy that their teacher is an aficionado of children's literature in a school that believes in — and supports — the power of books.

We talked about how each year a new Caldecott Committee votes for the one book that will get the gold medal and dubs others as Honors.

When talking about Jerry Pinkney's Lion & the Mouse (Little Brown), one child noted that it didn't use words; another boy clarified that there were no words except the animal sounds. But, the first child, continued, "I told the story using my words."

After we read Kitten's First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes, I asked the children how they knew how Kitten felt. It was because of the illustrations, of course. But there is no color, so how did the artist show it? Through the use of line with a dot in the middle. But there is color: grey and white and black….(silly me!)

I continue to be amazed at how much children can see and what they can handle intellectually. It's always fresh, often surprisingly in-depth and unique. But because young children lack the vocabulary or the experience to verbalize what they know or intuit, it's all too easy to forget that they are incredibly sharp.

Talking about books today reminded me.


This is so great! Especially love -- and smiled at -- your lead-in. Thank you for sharing this view from your expert readers. :)

This is so great! Especially love -- and smiled at -- your lead-in. Thank you for sharing this view from your expert readers. :)

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"There is no frigate like a book, to take us lands away" — Emily Dickinson