Isabelle’s Story

I read-aloud at the library; great literature and a captive audience of children. Isabelle is part of my book group that includes first and second graders.  As the year has progressed she has grown from shy and quiet to relaxed and chatty.  Isabelle has never missed my reading aloud.  I have a theory about that, but I’m jumping ahead.  This is Isabelle’s story:

Our current read-aloud book is The Story of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting.  This week we read about travelling to the sick monkeys in Africa.  When I read the sentence, “They always had plenty to eat and drink, because Chee-Chee and Polynesia knew all the different kinds of fruits and vegetables that grow in the jungle, and where to find them…” Isabelle said, “I ate wonderful fruit in Bali.”

I knew Isabelle had lived in Bali.  But, this was different.  The way she said it, talking about the fruit, was a child remembering something important.  I knew there was more, much more.  So, I interviewed Isabelle.  Pen and paper in hand (Isabelle thought that was very cool), I simply asked, “Tell me about Bali.”  These are her exact words:

“I went to my first preschool there.  There were three sets of twins, Milo and Pablo, Rocco and his brother, and I can’t remember the other names.

Snake fruit is curvy and thin and sweet.  It has a red end that looks like a snake tongue.  Star fruit is yellow and shaped like a star.  You have to peel the skin off.  It tastes so, so good!  There’s an orange type with a cold, cold, cold taste which makes it taste like ice cream.

Annaque was my first best friend there.  Our house had an upstairs with lizards that would fall from the ceiling.  The ants would carry the dead lizards away.  The alive lizards would eat the ants.  Downstairs had a lot of bugs.  Both the lizards and the bugs stole our food.”

At this point I cannot write fast enough, and I am the one making comments.  The tables are turned; Isabelle is the storyteller and I am her captive audience.  And yes, all of her story is true, like the monkeys and the forest… well, you have to keep reading.

“Very rarely we got a monkey in our house.  We gave it fruit- it wanted fruit.  It loved bananas!  Sometimes it played in the bathtub and messed up the bed.  There was a pool outside.  Everyone has a pool.  Monkeys drink pool water.

A Monkey Forest was there.  It had monkey statues, real monkeys, and apes. There were a few snub-nosed monkeys, a few red-faced monkeys, and a lot of chimpanzees.  They didn’t name it “Ape and Monkey Forest” because they thought apes were monkeys.

Annaque’s house was in the monkey forest.  She had a full house, an upstairs and a downstairs.  She brought monkeys to me for me to pet.”

Really?  Yes, really.  I am listening to every word, and my imagination is in a monkey forest, and a big downstairs with lizards and ants, alive and dead.

“There are a lot of Blessings in Bali.  A lot.  They took rocks and put them with flowers to make Blessings.  Giving thanks.”

A crystal clear memory and detailed descriptions, with language and vocabulary that are remarkably impressive for a child.  Isabelle is a lover of books and reading.  My theory?  Reading-aloud has made the difference.  It is far more than pleasure and imagination; it is the single most guarantor of academic success in school.  Isabelle is well on her way.  I am so glad she told me her story!


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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63 Responses to Isabelle’s Story

  1. Dan Antion says:

    I love her descriptions. Such vivid memories and such apprecistion of the things around her. Good work. I’m glad she’s comfortable telling her stories.

  2. Darlene says:

    What an incredible experience for a child. How well she told her story too. Children gain so much from travel. We took our daughter to England when she was in second grade and what stories she told when we returned. Her teacher said it was the best education she could ever get. Of course, books can do the same thing.

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Darlene. Did your daughter write down her memories of England? That would be a treasure for generations. And her teacher was right. I wish I had more of my Grandmother’s stories. Books can certainly do the same.

  3. Cecilia says:

    What a great story – for a child, amazing. Thanks for sharing. Have a great weekend!

  4. John Kraft says:

    There is a book in her future. A true story about living with the monkeys and the creatures.

    Thanks for sharing.

  5. What a wonderful and descriptive story she told of her life in Bali. I wonder about how other children would interview? I’ll bet she was please that you took the time to listen as well as write what she had to say. What a gift for both of you.

    • Jennie says:

      Thanks, Marlene. It was a wonderful for both of us. I will see Isabelle on Thursday, give her Mom a copy of the blog post, and see what Isabelle might have to say. I definitely think she was pleased! I just know when there’s an interview brewing in someone. 🙂

  6. “There are a lot of Blessings in Bali. A lot.”
    Thank you, Isabelle for letting me know about those blessings…especially about all that yummy fruit!

  7. frenchc1955 says:

    Reblogged this on charles french words reading and writing and commented:
    This is an excellent example of extraordinary teaching!

  8. Hayley says:

    And I am glad you shared Isabelle’s story! What a delight!

  9. Norah says:

    What an amazing story with experiences so different from my own and from many of the children in her new school. I’m sure those children would be delighted to learn so much from Isabelle. How wonderful for her to have you acknowledge her and her story. Thank you to both of you for sharing it with us.

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Norah. I’m so glad I asked Isabelle to tell me her story. I look forward to our read-aloud on Thursday so I can give her a copy of the story. Amazing, and like you I hope she can share them with others.

  10. beetleypete says:

    Isabelle should be encouraged to write too. Her story would make a fascinating book about living in a different pace, in a very different culture. She has real talent as a story-teller too. The lizards and ants fascinated me!
    Best wishes, Pete.

  11. Isn’t that wonderful and fascinating. I was riveted by Isabelle’s descriptions. Please let her know that I was captivated by her story and now want to go to Bali to see the monkeys and lizards for myself. 😀

  12. What a wonderful story, Jennie. You unlocked such a rich a beautiful experience and it was a pleasure to read it

  13. MC Clark says:

    What a wonderful, heart-touching story! Isabelle sounds like a natural storyteller, and every young storyteller needs someone in their life to encourage them to develop that talent. I would imagine you’ve influenced many a young mind, Jennie.
    Thanks for sharing.

  14. What a wonderful story Isabelle told. Such a rich recall of tastes and I could see the Lizards eating ants and the ants carrying away the Lizards.. 🙂 Such a beautiful story teller.. And I agree, reading aloud and books help in such confidences to speak and share..
    🙂 Lovely post Jennie.. 🙂

  15. Remarkable and wonderful!

  16. God Jennie, this is an amazing story. Isabelle is a beautiful little girl, and the detail about the monkey (and the blessings ❤ ) is truly breathtaking. I'm sure that your caring of Isabelle and her ability to read books had a part in her development. Thank you for sharing! Love and blessings to you and to Isabelle too. ~Debbie ps – is that you in the picture with Isabelle?

  17. The most vivid memories I have as a child were the ones created while living in Okinawa and in Taiwan as a military brat. They are so packed with detail and people and places, sights, smells, and sensation that I long ago surrendered all my other memories and consider those two countries to represent my childhood. There is where I learned to see, experience and love the world. And as an adult, I hold the highest respect for the Japanese and Chinese people I encountered who taught me a thing or two about the importance of other peoples, cultures, religions and countries. The most beautiful thing was that they did so simply by being themselves… they never intended to teach me a thing. And yet they did. And I am grateful for those simple lessons every day.

    • Jennie says:

      KC, I love your story. Thank you! It is truly wonderful and important. I hope you have written down the details, including the most important part- how they taught you by just being themselves. That in itself is a great thing. Many, many thanks for your thoughts and story. Heartfelt and deeply important.

  18. And I am elated you told her story and your story to me so I can tell the world on Totally Inspired Mind and Children Are Our Future Now!

  19. ren says:

    …and I am so glad you asked Isabelle, her story.
    Thank you for another wonderful journey….

  20. reocochran says:

    The story could be made into a book, Jennie! Wow, that she knew monkeys and apes are different, fruit names along with the lizards and ants part was also cool!
    Jennie, the open conversation and comfortable atmosphere were beautiful! I love you being the secretary and taking notes. ❤

    • Jennie says:

      Thanks, Robin. You hit the nail on the head, on all counts. I am still amazed, myself. Yes, it could be a book 📚.

      • reocochran says:

        Isabelle even remembered the other children’s names. My grandson, Micah, is 8 and often says, “There’s that guy who was in my class last year, Nana.” (Maybe it’s because he’s a boy?! Just kidding!) I liked the idea of a book with children’s drawings not a professional illustrator.

      • Jennie says:

        It is remarkable that she remembered the names of the children. Perhaps because they were twins? Just a guess. Micah is much more the norm! I like your book idea, too!

  21. At such a young age, she’s quite eloquent! You’ve not only allowed her to re-live the amazing memories from Bali but you’ve given her the gift of your attention and interest. Sweet joy for you both, Jennie. xo

  22. What a wonderful story and life experience for Isabelle. So great that you thought to interview her. The more times she shares her memories, the more the details will stay with her. Some adults feel they shouldn’t mention exotic adventures, afraid they’ll appear to be boasting. Others do mention them but they land on deaf ears. I’m happy she felt comfortable enough to tell you about the fruit she ate in Bali and that you cared enough to listen.

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Marcia. You hit the nail on the head on all counts. When I see Isabelle this week, I look forward to giving her a copy of the interview. I want to reaffirm how important it is that she told her story. I’m so glad I asked, and listened. It was wonderful.

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  24. A.S. Akkalon says:

    What a wonderful story from Isabelle, especially the part about the lizards and the ants. It’s little details like this that make foreign countries and experiences come alive for the people reading the stories–and if the writer doesn’t know the details she can’t fake them.

  25. John Fioravanti says:

    Isabelle is clearly a gifted child, Jenny – thanks for sharing her story. I agree with your belief about the importance of reading in a child’s life. I taught high school students for 35 years and discovered through discussions with the best writers in my classes that they were all avid readers. What you’re doing in your program of reading to children is helping to instill within them a love for the written word and for story-telling. Kudos, Jennie!

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, John. You are so right. Love for the written word, whether reading it or hearing it read aloud, is the most important thing I do in teaching and makes the biggest difference. Oh, we talk and cry and laugh together. It’s wonderful. Charlotte’s Web, and more. Perhaps one of my students will grow up to be like you.

  26. Thanks for your personal marvelous posting! I definitely enjoyed reading it, you’re a great author.I will be sure to bookmark your blog and definitely will come back sometime soon. I want to encourage one to continue your great job, have a nice day!
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