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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.

Unsettled times for children

May 15, 2008

The adult world has a way of creeping into children's lives. I meet children and young people whose lives are impacted by the issues adults like to think are exclusively adult problems. But that just isn't true.

A recent report released by First Focus discloses that an estimated two million children will lose their homes during 2008-09 as the mortgage crisis continues. The report goes on to suggest that the impact will be felt in school and elsewhere as these children will demonstrate behavioral problems, health difficulties, and lack of readiness to learn.

The report specifically finds that these children are "only half as likely to be proficient in reading as their peers" (which puts them at risk of dropping out of school).

I wonder how reading and books can be used by teachers and parents to help equip children emotionally — children who are directly experiencing this and children who know others who are.

Beverly Cleary's poignant but funny book, Ramona and Her Father (HarperCollins) in which Mr. Quimby loses his job and times are really tight comes to mind immediately, as does Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting (Clarion). In this picture book, a boy and his father live in an airport as they have no permanent home.

A girl goes from living in a comfortable home to living in a car — and dealing with her conscience — in Barbara O'Connor's affecting and funny How to Steal a Dog (Farrar).

And I wonder if the orphan protagonist in The Invention of Hugo Cabret (Scholastic) could be considered homeless?

Let's hope that books, reading, and maybe the shared experience they can create will lend some relief if not support to children and their families in these unsettled times.


Do you find books help them cope with all the changes in their lives?

I work in a Title I school - 94% free & reduced - up from 89% at this time last yaer. Our families are moving out of Florida -- no work. Some are having to return to Mexico, Guatemala or wherever -- no "day" work any longer. Our kids are so sad to leave -- but what choice do any of them have?

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