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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.

From page to stage and beyond

April 10, 2013

There's nothing new about translating children's books and traditional stories into other mediums.

Who's not familiar with the Disney film adaptations of Cinderella, Snow White, and The Three Little Pigs? Live performances in children's theaters have often used children's books in their productions as do venues for families. It seems, too, that children's stories are becoming a staple of the Broadway stage.

I was reminded of the power of a good story well-told — or retold — when a friend of mine raved about the performance of the Broadway adaptation of Raul Dahl's book Matilda (Puffin). Peter and the Starcatchers (Disney) by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson appeared on Broadway last year.

Kids don't need a stage to create their own dramas, often reenacting a book spontaneously. Kindergarten children in a school I recently visited dramatized The Three Billy Goats Gruff using their voices, a large blanket (for the water) and hats (to help the uninitiated tell the difference between the Gruff brothers, of course). Their performance — creative play really — got more dramatic with each reenactment.

There's a fair amount of research that highlights the benefits of creative dramatics and the arts in the lives of young children. Perhaps just as important, the arts and drama help children learn and grow without even realizing that it's happening.

Adults are wise to share books and stories, allowing the page to go to the stage — whether the stage is a classroom or living room.


My son, now 22 years old, loved to act out fairy tales when he was younger. Just a few weeks ago he gave a presentation at the Popular Culture Conference in Washington, DC comparing Hans Christian Anderson's "Little Mermaid" with Disney's film adaptation of the fairy tale. His work was originally written for a project in college. You just never know where things will lead!

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"You may have tangible wealth untold. Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold. Richer than I you can never be — I had a mother who read to me." — Strickland Gillilan