Part II: Older Children’s Books and Their Stories

My very first day of teaching was filled with nerves.  There I was, sitting in front of fifteen children, ready to read-aloud a book that was new to me- Swimmy by Leo Lionni.  Thus began my love of children’s books and reading.  My life was about to change.  It was more than the book; it was the full experience with the words and illustrations, and the children.


Suddenly the library and local book store became my favorite stops. I vowed to start my own book collection.  One of my first purchases was Owl Moon by Jane Yolen. Breathtaking!  What does a teacher do when the book is so good that children need more? We created a giant mural, and then we went “owling”- at school, at night.  Parents brought spotlights, and we called to owls in the woods behind the playground. Years later, still parents recalled that remarkable night.

Books started to trigger more than marinating vocabulary.  I bought Caps For Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina.  The children made caps, and we performed a play for the school.  I had never done a play performance with children.  I quickly realized that adding this step made reading even better, not to mention building self confidence.

Fairy tales followed, and the favorites I added to my collection were Rapunzel by Paul O Zelinsky, The Three Billy Goats Gruff by Paul Galdone, and Jack and the Beanstalk by John Howe.  Yes, play performances were stellar.  One line in Jack and the Beanstalk prompted us to write to the author.  Jack’s mother said to Jack, “You stupid boy.”  John Howe kindly replied to the children with a handwritten two-page letter on why he used the word “stupid.”

I couldn’t read enough.  I read all kinds of books.  In time I just knew the good ones, like Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion, King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub by Audrey Wood, and The Three Robbers by Tomi Ungerer.


I cried when reading-aloud books like The Keeping Quilt by Patricia Polacco, Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney, and Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig. Tears are a good thing- they teach love so that children learn to feel for others.

I laughed my head off reading-aloud books like Would You Rather by John Birningham and Rotten Ralph by Jack Gantos.  Belly laughing is a terrific experience with children!

Books became geography lessons.  Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton was the best in learning north, south, east and west- much like her book The Little House was the best in teaching history.  I began to use a big book atlas to expand on learning.  At any opportunity we opened up this marvelous tool to bringing books to life.  It was common to become sidetracked.  Isn’t that great?

Children need to understand emotions.  That’s an important part of preschool.  I discovered There’s an Alligator Under My Bed by Mercer Mayer, Pig Pig Grows Up by David McPhail, Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman, and Humphrey the Lost Whale by Wendy Tokuda and Richard Hall.  Together,  we worry and wonder.

What happened next?  Children wanted to read on their own.  It is a common scene in my classroom:


Today I continue to read these older books (and many, many more), along with new ones that I collect along the years.  There are rhyming books, poetry, books that I sing…

I teach from the heart, thanks to reading-aloud.  In the words to the song, “Make new friends and keep the old.  One is silver and the older gold.”  A book is a friend, whether silver or gold!


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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31 Responses to Part II: Older Children’s Books and Their Stories

  1. srbottch says:

    Jennie, you’re wonderful. Children were so fortunate to have you as their teacher. I enjoy reading you…goodnight. (The man in the moon looked out of the moon and this is what he said, t’is time that now I’m getting up, all children are in bed! )

  2. You said it Jennie! I know I tell you this a lot, and I just gotta say how much I love that you instill a joy of reading into these kids. What a lifelong gift. 🙂 And you bring so much practical creativity to it, like the owling. Thank you, thank you for sharing. Loving and blessings to you and to your kids, Debbie

  3. Just reading the titles of all those books wraps me round in wonderful colors and textures!

  4. reocochran says:

    Your choices are very special and I love the authors you chose to feature, Jennie. Reading with emphasis and dramatic pauses is such a unique quality. Not all can read and capture children’s attention. 🙂

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you Robin. This post was difficult because, how can you pick the best sunflowers in the field? And, how can you spread those sunflowers out over decades? I had to write about the ones I had picked over the years. Giving stories helps bring the books to life. Oh yes, you can envision my reading with all the emphasis and dramatic pauses. Life is good!

  5. What a special post, so fun to know and love every book you’ve chosen to highlight. I also love the picture of your students reading. You’ve certainly set a wonderful example to many, many children over the years. I smiled when I read your last lines. A woman came into my library yesterday with a beautiful pin of two people arm in arm, one silver and one gold. She’d worn it for years, a gift from a friend, but she didn’t know the exact words to–Make new friends…. I was glad I’d admired her pin and asked her about it, so I could share the verse with her. 🙂

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Marcia! What a wonderful story you shared about the pin and the song. Those words just seemed to fit in describing both old and new books. I know you feel the same way.

  6. Sweet one, Jennie…your tears and laughter during read-alouds show kiddos how stories touch all of us – young, old, boy, girl, etc
    BTW: A woman whose blog I follow interviewed a children’s picture book author you might be interested in (you might even know of him already).

  7. Wish I had grandchildren so I could read these all to them. I still might. 🙂

  8. frenchc1955 says:

    You are an extraordinary teacher! These children are fortunate to have you in their lives.

  9. I’ve never met a little kid who doesn’t like books, Jennie. Another great list. I don’t know as many of these and will enjoy exploring them with the grandson.

  10. L. Marie says:

    I really enjoyed your post! What a great teacher you are. You remind me of teachers I had, who helped instill a love of reading within me.

  11. Purvi Trivedi says:

    Jennie, This is a beautiful blog post! I just picked out some of the books you highlighted here to read with my kids. Thank you!

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