The Best Book, Every Year


“Jennie, is chapter reading over?”  That was Parker’s worrisome question today. He just wasn’t ready to let it go.  “Can we read more?”  Isn’t that question the Brass Ring?  The one that validates not only chapter reading, but one of the best books, ever?

Children are authentic.  They speak the truth, from the heart.

Every year I start chapter reading with my preschool class on ‘day one’.  And, the first book I read is Charlotte’s Web.  We have had only nine days of school and children are totally hooked.  They adore Wilbur and laugh at the goose repeating words three times.  They trust Charlotte. They have just met Templeton the rat, and learned of Wilbur’s fate.

I am reading to three and four-year-olds about the beauty of life and the fear of death, about morals (and lack thereof), and about friendships (and lack thereof).  That sounds pretty sophisticated for preschoolers, but leave it to the beautifully crafted words of E.B. White.

“The barn was very large.  It was was very old.  It smelled of hay and it smelled of manure.  It smelled of the perspiration of tired horses and the wonderful sweet breath of patient cows.  It often had a sort of peaceful smell–as though nothing bad could happen ever again in the world.”

We often underestimate children.  Their brains are absorbing the world around them like a giant sponge.  Let’s give them the world through words, the best words written.  I tell the children, “The words in the story go into your ears and then into your brain, and you make the pictures in your head.”

That’s just what happens, every day at chapter reading.

I stop when we read a new word, such as ‘gratified’, or ‘salutations’.  Children are excited to learn new words.  I stop when something happens; I certainly stopped when the old sheep told Wilbur he was going to die.  That was a long and thoughtful conversation, including all the different meats that come from a pig.

The beauty of Charlotte’s Web comes from learning about the world, and about every feeling that is important in order to grow into a good person.  Goodness and knowledge, all on a farm.

By the end of the school year I have also read Mr. Popper’s Penguins, The Story of Doctor Dolittle, My Father’s Dragon, Little House in the Big Woods, Little House on the Prairie, and more.  I ask the children their favorite chapter reading book, and Charlotte’s Web is consistently their choice, even though nine months have passed since we read the book.  That says it all.


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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43 Responses to The Best Book, Every Year

  1. Ritu says:

    Oh to be able to read chapter books to my 3-4 year olds!
    Ours don’t sit or half don’t understand English!
    But I do love to share stories with them 😍

  2. sddobrodt says:

    Your post is so true about reading aloud to children. I’m a huge believer in the importance of reading aloud both chapter books and picture books and discussing them as you read. I especially like your explanation about how the children make the pictures in their heads as they absorb the words in the story. I share very similar thoughts with my young classes. Thank you for a very inspirational post!

  3. That’s one of my favorites! Both of my daughters love that book as though it is a philosophy of and for life. Awesome post! 🙂

  4. Tanya Cliff says:

    We often underestimate children. Their brains are absorbing the world around them like a giant sponge.

    That states it beautifully! Wonderful and encouraging post, Jennie!

  5. Yu/stan/kema says:

    Great post. This was my favorite time of the school day- the teacher reading us a book.

  6. Norah says:

    Ah, Jennie, your post brings joy to my heart. You are giving such treasures to your little people – a love of literature that will last them a lifetime. There is no better gift. I love “Charlotte’s Web”. It is a great story. The excerpt you have included reminds me of the beauty and poetry of his language, as well as the understandings of the soul. You are a gift to your children.

    • jlfatgcs says:

      Thank you, Norah. I never tire of reading all those beautiful words each year. I love how the children learn and grow and respond. It is the best! Your comments remind me of a post that has been brewing in my mind; writing about being one with a child. Will keep working on that one! So glad you enjoyed the read.

  7. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, what a WONDERFUL gift you give to your lucky students each school day. And I agree: best book ever– ❤ Charlotte's Web!

  8. magarisa says:

    Your students are so lucky to have you. 🙂

  9. reocochran says:

    Jennie, I like how you inspire others to consider books beyond what many may feel appropriate for the children’s ages. I think this is your “calling” and “mission;” as well as touching children’s lives. 🙂
    Each time I think back to my own children I think how the books shaped their “worldview.” ❤

    • jlfatgcs says:

      Thank you, Robin. I think so, too. If I could do only one thing with children, it would be read aloud, and chapter book that often appear to be too difficult. That was the key reason that author Jim Trelease visited my classroom. Best part of my day!

  10. reocochran says:

    That was such an honor and Jim Trelease put you in his updated book, too. 🙂

  11. Katie Kristine says:

    This story always leaves my heart warm because it was read to me as a child. Great post, well said. Kids are sponges!

  12. Hayley says:

    I used to run a Story Corner club at my old school. I loved exploring the world of books with children and miss that part of the job. I now teach yoga and mindfulness to children, which is another great source of fulfillment for me. How wonderful it is to see the world through their eyes! Thank you for sharing xx

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  15. A Kinder Way says:

    We homeschooled our son and this was one of his favorites. Sharing this post in my posts of note today. 🙂

    • jlfatgcs says:

      Thank you, Nikki! It’s hard to imagine that Charlotte’s Web is among one of the banned books at one time. At the end of the school year, this is the book children pick as their favorite. -Jennie-

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  17. Hi. This is fantastic. I’m going to share it again later in the week. Thank you!!!

    Linked at:

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  19. A wonderful post about this extraordinary book, Jennie.

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