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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.

How stories relate to their readers

February 24, 2012

There has been lots of interest in what's next for J.K. Rowling, famous author of the Harry Potter series, though it seems likely that Harry Potter will live on in audio, print, and DVD for the next generation to enjoy.

That's the thing about good stories — they continue to be fresh regardless of when they were created.

Rowling has recently signed a contract for an adult book. There's lots of speculation as to whether or not it will continue in the world of wizards or if it will be something entirely different. Who knows? But since almost an entire generation has grown up with Harry — plus lots of adults — there will be no lack of readers.

Harry Potter has been read by young and old (or at least experienced!) alike.

So what is the difference between a book for children and one for adults? It can't just be the age of the main characters. There are lots of novels for adults that have young characters. Scout's narration in To Kill a Mockingbird begins when she is about 6 years old, while in the easy reader series, Mr. Putter and Tabby, the title character is depicted as an elderly man.

Maybe we spend too much time trying to decide who can decode words and not enough thinking about how a story relates to the reader's experiences — actual or vicarious, social or emotional — and the entire "got to" versus "get to" read/hear/view the story. Let's not forget the ability of a good writer to create characters that readers can relate to. The craft involves taking readers places — and enjoying the journey.


Great work Maria!I grew up listening to my father read me, and my two brothers, "The Lord of the Rings" Series. At the time, it was difficult to understand, but I think it allowed us to rise to the level of the book. Even children can glean value from an appropriate adult book. As an adult, I revisited "The Jungle Book" after my college bookstore mistakenly ordered the book in place of "The Jungle" by Upton Sinclair. I truly enjoyed the rich stories of Rudyard Kipling, maybe more than I had when I was a child.

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"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read." — Groucho Marx