Emotional Reading Comes First

Reading-aloud is emotional in my classroom.  Thank goodness!  I belt it out, read with a voice, and stop to talk. I cry and laugh, and so do the children.  How best can children learn all that is really important?  With every picture story and chapter book I read I have a racing heart, because I have to read the words just like they were written by the author- with passion.

When I read Charlotte’s Web, children are drawn into every emotion; worried, sad, curious and more.  I am, too.  They love this book because it hits the heart.

Hits the heart.  That is the most fundamental component of character building. And character– the development of goodness and kindness, doing what is right, being brave and true and selfless–   is far more important than learning letters and numbers when children are young.  I do this with reading-aloud.

Children become the characters in books and take on the emotions that come with it.  Emotional reading is the real teacher, and children become authentic learners. When that happens, it sticks.  Sydney is proof:


She chose to read Charlotte’s Web to her baby dolls.

Often it sticks like glue for years, even decades.  Lucca is three-years-old and she is read to every night.  I discovered her parents were, too.  When her father came into the classroom and spotted Gregory the Terrible Eater, he asked, “Did you read that book?”  “Yes”, I said.  He picked up the book, lovingly touching the cover and said, “Really!  My mother read that book to me all the time when I was growing up.  I loved that book.”


Lucca’s dad: Look at that big smile!

Emotional reading gives important and everlasting gifts.  I often speak about how the number of words a child hears is directly attributed to academic success.  When those words are from good literature and have the power to bring children into every character, then they’re learning heart, not just words.  I will forever cry out loud when I read about Jack the dog crossing the creek in Little House on the Prairie.  I will forever laugh out loud when I read Mother Bruce.  I will forever be scared and angry for the baby dragon in My Father’s Dragon.  I don’t just read words, I read the voice within those words.  Collectively we stop to talk and question.  We learn about humanity.

That is why emotional reading comes first.


About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty-five 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 was a live guest on the Kelly Clarkson Show. I am highlighted in the seventh edition of Jim Trelease's million-copy bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital, and the Massachusetts State House in Boston.
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35 Responses to Emotional Reading Comes First

  1. Excellent and vital post, Jennie.

  2. srbottch says:

    Terrific, Jennie. You’re wonderful. I had a 7th Gr English teacher who read Evangeline (nit sure if it’s correct title). She cried at a certain part and we thought it was funny but my sister had the same experience with the same teacher 4 years earlier. Real emotion coming through her

  3. frenchc1955 says:

    Reblogged this on charles french words reading and writing and commented:
    Once again, Jennie demonstrates why reading is so important, and in this post the value of emotional reading!

  4. Oooh. Little Charlotte’s Web readers! Of course, I love this post. I was struck by your line “the development of goodness and kindness, doing what is right, being brave and true and selfless– is far more important than learning letters and numbers when children are young.” When I worked as a counselor with struggling preschoolers, I always told parents who worried about the academics that a successful life required the ability to get along with others, to be kind and caring, not on the ability to identify the color blue, which would come with time anyway. 🙂

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Diana. This post had been brewing, and as soon as I read yours on writing with emotion, I knew I had to write about the source. Glad you enjoyed the read. Yes, if I could carve that line of important words onto my tombstone, I could rest easy. Happy Thanksgiving!

  5. Lynn Kessler says:

    This is beautiful, Jennie!

  6. Beautiful post. My older sister read to me so much and we are incredibly close. It’s something we both remember. Several years ago she sent me a new copy of my favorite book from my childhood. She said she knew it by heart because I wanted it read to me all the time.

    I’ve also kept the books my son loved the most growing up. Several my husband and I can still remember by heart as well.
    Books are huge part of our lives and I’m so thankful for that. ❤

  7. reblogged this Jennie! 🙂

  8. What a beautiful read. Thank you so much for sharing 🙂

  9. This is why I love Christmas… my opportunity to poison the minds of children with gorgeous picture books and classic literature to open their dreaming worlds!

  10. renedith says:

    Such a heartfelt post. Brings memories of my mother reading to me, over 50 years ago. My favorite childhood book, “Raffie Giraffe” (spelling?) is no longer in print. 😦 Although I no longer recall my mothers voice, I can still recall the ’emotional reading’ she shared with me.
    Thank you for this post. Very touching, moving…ren

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you for your kind words and delightful story, Ren. I love “Raffie Giraffe”, too! What an important memory. I’m so glad you liked the post.

  11. Reading is a lot more difficult than people realize. You have to put inflection into your words…it helps if you can somehow stop focusing on yourself and get caught up in the story. The children then get caught up in it, as well.

  12. You must be a wonderful reader, Jennie. I’d love to watch a video of you in action. When we hired our new children’s librarian, we had each candidate read the same picture book aloud to us. Surprising how the different levels of performance really stood out from one to the next–it’s an art!

    • Jennie says:

      That’s so nice, Marcia. Thank you! Well, it is hard for the humble-old-me to agree, but yes, I do a great job reading aloud. It makes a world of difference. Jim Trelease loved it when he watched me, and that is as good as it gets. A video? What a cool idea. My technology skills are far less than my writing skills, but maybe a future blog post to highlight how to read a book?

    • Jennie says:

      And yes, it is surprising at the different levels of reading-aloud performance.

  13. Grandtrines says:

    Reblogged this on Still Another Writer's Blog.

  14. pmuzumdar says:

    Reblogged this on A Penny for my Thoughts and commented:
    Reblogging: Emotional Reading Comes First

    This is so true! Reading, imagining the characters in the stories, hearing the story being read to you with varying pitches and tones. Nothing grows a child’s mind and their emotional growth more. Love this blog.

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