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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.

Children’s choices or adult enthusiasm?

May 27, 2014

Children’s Book Week (CBW) was celebrated earlier this month for the 95th year. It is a festive week marked throughout the U.S. that culminates with a celebration of books voted favorites by children and teens.

The mission of CBW, established in 1919, remains basically unchanged. Its purpose is to contribute to lifelong learning starting with the youngest child. It is administered by the Every Child A Reader(ERAR), the nonprofit established by the Children’s Book Council (CBC).

Since 2008, one of the highlights of the week has been the Children’s Choice Awards Gala, attended by authors and illustrators at a buoyant event in New York City. This year’s finalists and winners were not unexpected but the selection of Rush Limbaugh as "Author of the Year" may have been.

But maybe not so much when given some thought.

Adults are gatekeepers to young readers and their books. They usually write, edit, publish select and purchase most books. And undeniably, children and teens reflect the families and communities in which they live. Even when adults don’t intentionally influence young people, it happens — if only by the material shared.

I’m pretty certain that I influenced the children at the school I visited a few weeks ago when I shared nonfiction Caldecott Medal winner and honor books. Not only was this supported by the lovely thank you notes the children sent to me, but in a project that their art teacher did the following week when students created book covers.

Some of these covers created appeared to emulate books we shared that day I visited. Perhaps the dramatic use of black and white with touches of red in David McLiman’s Caldecott Honor winning Gone Wild (Walker) that inspired several of the students’ handsome and unique book jackets; maybe it was the materials they used in art class.

Whatever it was, it was made new again by the young artist — with a jumpstart from adult gatekeepers.

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"The things I want to know are in books. My best friend is the man who'll get me a book I [haven't] read." — Abraham Lincoln