Jennie Stories, the Early Years


My family log house, early 1770’s

Telling stories is akin to reading aloud. Words come alive when children ‘make the pictures in their heads’.  Listening stretches the brain because language, every word, is suddenly a lit fuse.

When I started teaching, I had reading-aloud in my pocket, but not storytelling.  Well, not stories about me, ‘Jennie Stories’ (that’s what the children call them).  It started at lunchtime, a ‘classroom family’ time at school.  We talk about our families and a million other intimate and close things that bring us together.  One day I told a childhood story…

It was a dawning; all the benefits and power of storytelling were suddenly magnified since the stories were about me, their teacher.  I was real, and through my stories I had the same fears, worries, and silly mistakes.  Children really listened, and that means young brains were in the highest gear.  That translates into learning – of course I continued to tell my childhood stories!

The stories I heard as a child had the same effect on me.  Oh, those wonderful stories and memories!  My grandmother, Nan, was the storyteller.  I remember her stories well, and my own childhood events have become the foundation for ‘Jennie Stories’.

My first childhood memory is the sound of a train.  I was sleeping in the family log house in Lowell, WV.  The house today is known as the Graham House and is on the National Historic Register.  But, back then in the 50’s, my family still owned the house.  The history is thrilling; it is the oldest two-story log house west of the Appalachian mountains, built in the early 1770’s.  My grandmother, Nan, lived in the house until she was married.  She told me many times the story of Indian raids.  On one occasion the children were in the summer kitchen and ran to the house.  The boy did not survive and the girl was kidnapped. It took the father eight years to get his daughter back, trading horses with the Indians. Family stories.

As a child, listening to this story is much like my preschoolers listening to my childhood stories.  I know how that feels, and I, too, make those pictures in my head. 

The sound of the old steam engine train whistling by as I slept at the old log house is one of my fondest memories. When I recently visited the house with my husband, my first visit since 1964, I immediately recognized everything. I ran up the stairs and felt along the wall beside my bed, as there had been holes for rifles to go through when fending off an Indian raid. The holes were still there, just as I remembered, and just as Nan had told me.

Is it the sound of the train that makes my memories crystal clear?  I think so. On the playground at school the far away sound of a train goes by in the morning. Often I have the children listen carefully, and then I tell them about sleeping in a log house and listening to a train.  Stories are the keepers of words and memories.


About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease's bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.
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35 Responses to Jennie Stories, the Early Years

  1. thatssojacob says:

    Yay, first comment!

    Stories are the breath of life – keep posting more Jennie stories and see them revive!

    I have been on a reading and blogging spree, come check my blog out today!

    • jlfatgcs says:

      Many thanks! Stories are really the breath of life. I have posted many Jennie Stories, but this one goes way back. Yup, I will keep on truckin’ with stories!

  2. reocochran says:

    The Jennie stories mean a lot to the little ones who know you. Each of us needs to pass on stories to young people which starts the storytelling process, in their own lives. 🙂

  3. M. L. Kappa says:

    I found the story of the house and the Indian raids totally fascinating. History brought close.

  4. Loved these stories. My grown children like to hear stories of my life too. It’s interesting how much they crave them. That was a very interesting story. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  5. Norah says:

    I enjoyed your story, Jennie. You have a wonderful way with words. I can just imagine the group of children sitting around transfixed by your tales. And these are true! What a wonderful window into others’ lives and times. Magic!

  6. jonna ellis holston says:

    We are ALL lucky to have you to tell the story, Jennie!

  7. You sound like a great teacher! There are few professions as worthwhile. ❤

    • jlfatgcs says:

      Thank you, Anna! It is certainly a profession with plenty of hard work and also reward. I feel like the lucky one! How many people have an opportunity to make a difference? My #1 is reading-aloud. Thanks for stopping by and reading!! -Jennie-

  8. Tanya Cliff says:

    Telling stories is akin to reading aloud. Words come alive when children ‘make the pictures in their heads’. Listening stretches the brain because language, every word, is suddenly a lit fuse.

    If my children had benefited from a teacher like you, we may have never homeschooled. Wonderful post, Jennie!

  9. Storytelling is wonderful for children. It sparks their imagination, helps them with language and vocabulary, communication skills, and on and on. Your story is wonderful….such history there in your former family house. I know you had an extraordinary time going back through it and remembering…. Thanks for sharing!

    • jlfatgcs says:

      You are welcome, and thanks for your insight and comments. Yes, the history is fascinating. My trip back through was just as I remembered…yet I was only 4 years old when those events happened.

  10. Barbara says:

    I’ve just come over from Marcia’s blog, and I’m so glad I did I loved this post. I’m sure I will have fun getting to know you through your words. Just going to make a cup of tea and read more of your stories.

  11. Oh Jennie, I love this. “Jennie Stories” … what a wonderful idea! Sounds like it grew organically with your kids. I really acknowledge you for your creativity and clear gift in connecting with these kids and inspiring their creativity in the myriad ways you do that.
    Blessings your way, friend,
    Debbie ❤

  12. Grandtrines says:

    Reblogged this on Still Another Writer's Blog.

  13. A Kinder Way says:

    The children in your life are very lucky to have you. I’m betting you’re thinking that you are lucky to have them….and that just proves my point. ❤

  14. magarisa says:

    “Stories are the keepers of words and memories.” Ain’t that the truth! Wonderful post.

  15. What a great story and I love that you lived in such a historic log house–wow! I love train whistles in the same way as lighthouse fog horns, both announcing the comings and goings of others.

  16. Look at us….all going nostalgic! Must be something in the air…. Loved the post, love the house, love the stories about the stories!

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