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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 do you explain the unexplainable? It's impossible for adults to fathom what happened in a quiet Connecticut town, much less try to articulate to children why or how it could have happened.
I don't think there's anyone who hasn't been moved by the news. But beyond the debates around mental health issues or gun control laws, I've been stymied as to what can be done more tangibly.
Is there anything we — adults and children alike — can do that is concrete, doable, something lasting, to honor and remember the children and their teachers?
Then I got an e-mail from a longtime friend. Mimi Kayden, who has spent many years in children's publishing, wrote:
"I know that we all feel terrible about the children in Newtown and would love to do something. Suppose people who wanted to do something each picked a book that a first-grader might like and donated it to a library — Newtown or any other library — in the name of one of the children who died. Let them pick a name [or a particular interest]."
The children lost were like children everywhere. Maybe children and adults, who want to do something, could find a book together that everyone might enjoy and give it to the library of their choice in memory of a special child:
A football book or a sports biography for Jack Pinto who was a huge New York Giants fan. A princess book for Charlotte Bacon — she enjoyed wearing a new pink dress and boots. Maybe a book of art or a handsomely illustrated book in memory of Olivia Engel, a budding artist. A book of colors to honor Josephine Gay or Dylan Hockley's affinity for the color purple.
The publisher of The Kissing Hand (Tanglewood) by Audrey Penn recognizes that their book has been successfully used by adults to help young children make transitions. They are giving each child in Newtown, Connecticut a copy of the book for their own.
Let's give the children in Connecticut and everywhere we live books, too: books to share, to remember, to honor 20 young children and the adults who were lost that December day.