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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.

What books do best

March 16, 2012

Books entertain, educate, inform, engage, and more — more than we may realize. Readers meet others and see themselves in them. They may feel validated, see change, or may be changed by a book.

A recent piece by Katia Hetter exploring how children's books help families explore diversity brought this home for me.

Each of the mentioned in this article has withstood the test of time; many of these books help adults tackle difficult ideas, share them, with their children and allow children to see themselves in story.

I think that the range of books may also teach something to adults, helping them figure out what withstands the test of time and multiple readings as well as how books in which story comes first convey often touchy themes or ideas effectively. Readers — regardless of age — are engaged readers.

I may never again read any version of the folktale, "Bremen Town Musicians" — a favorite of my son when he was very young, read literally hundreds of times — with no skipping parts allowed. There are others, however, that held up well — and which we still quote and produced shared experiences to this day.

Farmer Duck is rightfully relieved of his grueling duties and of a slothful human. Ferdinand the Bull is different — but comfortable in his own skin. Max is still loved even though he gets angry. Sylvester is reunited with his parents who never give up. Strega Nona's wisdom can clean up even Big Anthony's mess. And no matter how bad today may be, there's the promise of tomorrow as Alexander figures out.

Books shared often are those in which children may most readily see themselves, their families, and their feelings. They are also the ones that can be happily shared again and again.

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"The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you'll go." — Dr. Seuss