When Chapter Reading Isn’t Enough

Charlotte’s Web is a book that has a profound influence on children in the best of ways.  Children listen, often silent because of all the wonder that is going into their brains.  The words alone paint a picture that they relate to and understand.  Yes, close listening happens.  Yet, when I read-aloud The Story of Doctor Dolittle, children are actively engaged, asking question after question.  This is a book full of imagination and creativity.  They want to experience this book. Oh, how we talk!


We talk about Chee-Chee and the monkeys in Africa.  We learn about vaccines.  We figure out how the Bridge of Apes is possible.  The Leader of the Lions and the King of Joliginki introduce the subtleties which are most important: goodness, right vs wrong…  then along come the pirates.  Oh, my!

We can’t get enough!  We need more.  So, we play The Story of Doctor Dolittle.  Props and imagination give children the chance to relive the book, over and over again.


Traveling to Africa in a “ship” with Polynesia, Chee-Chee and maps.  The classroom table turned upside down becomes the ship and Beanie Babies become the animals.


Building the castle of the King of Joliginki.  Block building gives children the freedom to build a castle that’s fit for a king.


Building the Bridge of Apes with a Barrel of Monkeys.  Hanging each monkey along a rope is exciting and tricky to do.

In the words of Einstein, “Creativity is Intelligence Having Fun”.  That’s what happens in my classroom.


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.
This entry was posted in Early Education, Imagination, reading, reading aloud, Teaching young children and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

65 Responses to When Chapter Reading Isn’t Enough

  1. Dan Antion says:

    That sounds like a wonderful way to learn.

  2. srbottch says:

    Jennie, your classroom seems to have lots of both, ‘creativity and fun’. Nice work.

  3. Absolutely love this!! How wonderful to incorporate a classic along with creative play and theater. Kids are so lucky to have you as their teacher 🙂 Having such Creativity is truly a gift.

  4. This is so wonderful, Jennie! I love that you let the children be a part of the story rather than make them only silent listeners. This creates a lovely lively atmosphere I would like to be a part of! 😄

  5. This is spot on! You really put lessons in context when the children are participating in the stories. It makes learning so much more meaningful….and fun! 🙂

  6. Such fortunate children. I bet there is no screaming and holding onto mom when they get dropped off. My guess is they love coming to your class.

    • Jennie says:

      You are right, Marlene. The crying happens at the end of the day when parents pick up their children. They don’t want to leave school and go home! I often come home late, like tonight. I was packing up my library books on Africa. A child was helping me and enjoying looking at all the books we read. Suddenly he saw the book on Egypt and talked again about the Sphinx. His mother arrived at that moment, so we spent time about the Sphinx. Of course I suggested they take the book home for the night. You can picture the excitement!

  7. frenchc1955 says:

    This is an excellent example of inspired teaching!

  8. frenchc1955 says:

    Reblogged this on charles french words reading and writing and commented:
    Jennie’s post is an excellent example of the finest teaching!

  9. I wish I was one of these students 🙂

  10. reocochran says:

    This is a lot of fun while learning and expanding imagination instilled in children, Jennie.

  11. sjhigbee says:

    It sounds like a lovely classroom – huge congratulations:).

  12. Daal says:

    if only all teachers were as wise – & fun! – as you 🙂

  13. What a great class! Delving into a classic from so many different directions must make lifelong memories for your lucky kids. I hope many young teachers starting out take note of your wonderful lesson ideas.

  14. Books build worlds! I wish I’d had you in my pantheon of great teachers, Miz Jennie!

  15. Awesome, Jennie. What wonderful ways to augment the reading experience. 🙂

  16. This was one of my favourite books as a child (my best friend and I went as the pushmi-pullyu for Hallowe’en one year), and your post has made me want to revisit it and explore it even more. What a great way to teach!

    • Jennie says:

      What a great story! I’m glad that you enjoyed the post. Nothing is better than a good read that triggers the past. Enjoy reading the book again. You will discover much more than you remember as a child.

  17. Purvi and Saurabh says:

    Imagination, creativity and fun all rolled up into learning! This was one of Aaryan’s favorite months. Each night at dinner he had interesting stories and questions for us. We could see the little gears in his head churning as we talked about Africa and the wonderful new things he learned at school.

  18. This is one of the best blogs for child education I have come across.I started reading childrens books to all three of my children from the day I took them home. Each one of them was always in an advanced reading group in elementry school and their love for reading soared into the future along with them. I now have a nine year old grandaughter in fourth grade reading on a 6+ level and fourteen year old grandson that last year made the Junior National Honor Society.
    Childrens minds are the windows to the future and with teachers like you paving the way there is hope, wonderful hope for generations to come. Thank you for all your hard work and dedication.

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you for your kind words! And, you are absolutely right about reading and the enormous difference it makes. Your children are living examples. I think the majority of my posts are on just this. Working on yet another one! I highly recommend “The Read-Aloud Handbook” by Jim Trelease. The first half is about why, and the second half is book recommendations.

  19. Reblogged this on The Writers Desk and commented:
    A big thank you to all the hard working dedicated teachers that help shape the minds and futures of the children of the world.
    From a grateful grandmother. ♥

  20. This is a wonderful post! I have read both of these books to my sons.

  21. Oh, Jennie, this really brightened my night. What you do with these kids is what life is all about!! 🙂 Thank you. Creativity is a gift of the heart, isn’t it? Bless you and each child that you touch,

  22. Annika Perry says:

    A joyful engaging way to learn – you can see how inspiring this class is for the children! Beaming with excitement!

  23. Tess DeGroot says:

    I read aloud books with the students I work with – students with receptive and expressive language skills. Even if the book is “above their reading level” I find when paired with discussion and hands-on activities they get a lot out of the stories. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

  24. I would have just loved to have had you as my Infant school teacher.. Love Dr Doolittle 🙂

  25. Terrific Jennie.. I still remember my very first teach when I was four years old. I could read quite well before I went to school but Mrs Miller took it to a new level.. I probably would not be a writer today if not for her ability to ingnite our imaginations.. the children are lucky to have had you for a teacher. I will put in the Blogger Daily tomorrow. x

  26. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blogger Daily – 8th February 2017 – Dr. Dolittle, The Turin Shroud, Sexism, Politics and Emotional Beats | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

  27. dfolstad58 says:

    I love libraries and I love your concluding quote.

  28. Reblogged this on Notes from An Alien and commented:
    Delightful re-blog today…

    Reminds us that reading can lead to all kinds of creativity 🙂

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