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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.

Holding on to your kids' favorite books

March 15, 2013

My husband and I are empty nesters now. Our son is in college though he comes home for the occasional weekend, holidays and breaks. His room is gradually evolving, from that a child to one more fitting of a young man.

One thing hasn't changed though: his shelves (and shelves) of books.

A recent post by a Vermont bookseller in Publishers Weekly said, "… judging from the number of young adults (in their 20s and 30s) coming in to the store searching for long-lost treasures their parents threw away, those books [childhood favorites] might be worth hanging on to."

And from her perspective, the impact of e-books may mean fewer physical books and a tougher time finding hard copies of old treasured books to share with another generation.

So what should we keep and what could we give away? There are books from his picture book era: Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are (HarperCollins) was (and who knows, still may be) my son's top book — and one that is likely to be available in perpetuity. But there's also a little known book which is no longer in print called The Old Woman and the Willy Nilly Man (Putnam) by Jill Wright with Glen Rounds' illustrations.

Nick had good taste, and lots of his very favorites are still available: Shortcut and Bigmama's (both Greenwillow) by Donald Crews are still around (and I hope will be as long as Sendak is). So is Brown Angels: An Album of Pictures and Verse (HarperCollins) by Walter Dean Myers — too terrific to ever be out of print.

His favorite novels are still on store shelves, too, from CS Lewis' Narnia (HarperCollins) series (with renewed interest due in part to the action-packed film adaptations) to Harry Potter (Arthur Levine/Scholastic) (did interest ever wane?) plus probably most of Walter Dean Myers' young adult novels.

If you're in a similar situation, let me know how you handle it. Any advice as to how to decide what to give away will be most welcomed. We could sure use the shelf space!


this is so timely for me - my girls are now 11 and 7 and I have a basement to clean out. I've kept almost every single book they have up to now. Trauma from my childhood too - didn't my mother know her daughter would grow up to be a children's librarian????I'm thinking of asking the girls which ones mean the most to them now, in hopes that those are the ones they will search out when they're older.

I kept many of the books I loved as a kid -3 or 4 boxes worth- that traveled with,e from apartment to apartment. I'm now sharing them with my daughter. ( She just finished reading my old copy of The Wolves if Willoughby Chase). There is something truly special about sharing not just the story but the actual book with your child. "When I was your age, I read and loved the very same book and now we share that experience".

AND if you hold on to your kids' books, you can share them with your grandchildren some day!!

I agree with Jen. My mom threw away a cherished copy of Amelia Bedelia and to this day I cannot find the version of the one I once owned. It's a book I wish I had so that I could read it to my own children now.I understand space constraints, but throwing away or donating all of a child's books to me is on the same level as throwing out all of their artwork. I just can't bring my self to do it. Instead I've set aside a few cherished pieces and kept the books we've read hundreds of times. They can decide if they want to donate those books when they have their own children I think.

My daughter is only 3, but I can tell you that I was one of those people whose parents threw away (or lost in a move) many cherished books from childhood. It was utterly devastating for me, like I had lost many old friends. Keep as many as you can, I say.

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"Reading is not optional." —

Walter Dean Myers