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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.

Our Diverse World, Through Books

November 10, 2016

We may never travel far from our own town or city; go to school with people of different backgrounds, have different families, live near a mosque or synagogue, or even eat at a restaurant that serves food from another part of the world.  

But it’s still vital that our children meet and come to know different people from different places. After all, they’re growing up in a world that is more diverse and smaller – much smaller – than ever before. They're seeing lots of images of people from around the world and throughout our country who may look or speak or live differently than they do.

These people, these children, have more in common than we often admit.

The diversity in which our children live is a wondrous thing, too. It gives us all the opportunity to grow beyond often self-imposed borders. Books break down borders of all kinds.


Peter is a child enjoying the outdoors in The Snowy Day (Puffin) and revels when he can finally Whistle for Willie (Puffin), his dog.


What child wouldn’t enjoy gardening with her grandmother even if what they grow are The Ugly Vegetables (Charlesbridge)?


Lester finds that he is Home At Last (Greenwillow) with his new fathers, Daddy Albert and Daddy Rich.


A class of kids explores immigration after their teacher starts with a story of her own. This Is Me: A Story of Who We Are and Where We Came From (Workman) asks young readers to fill a small suitcase of what they would pack in case they had to leave their home.


Though the children and families in these books may not look like each other or the readers who pick them up, they share common emotions and experiences.

All of us have the same basic emotions, feelings, and needs. All families have a story. Most family stories started someplace else. Not only is it adults’ responsibility to recognize this, but to help prepare children to thrive in our beautifully diverse world.

It often starts with a book.


Maria...I'm glad that you are addressing how to use children's books. This is very important, and I have certainly enjoyed the topic. I did my master's thesis on what makes a good picture story book, considering both text and pictures. One of my professors told me one time, when I was rather enthusiastic about a certain book that was quite artistic, that the most important criterion was: did the children love it? I was excited about it for its artistic value, but she was reminding me that this was not the most important consideration.

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"A book is like a garden, carried in the pocket." — Chinese Proverb