The Heart of My Old Books

My dear old books have witnessed decades of children carefully listening to their words.  They have made children laugh, feel scared, ask hundreds of questions, and come to understand the heart of well-written words and a good story.  Words are a treasure.  Today those words fell onto the floor.

“Jennie, the pages fell out.  You need a new book.”

Oh, no!  Never.  Those yellow and brown pages have lived.  My reading their words have made them come alive, over and over again.  Like a grandparent telling a story, their words have sprinkled gold dust onto children.

I just finished chapter reading Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Today I began to read-aloud the next book in the series, Little House on The Prairie.  Laura and her family move from the little house in the woods of Wisconsin.  We loved that little house and her family.  I read:

“So they all went away from the little log house.  The shutters were over the windows, so the little house could not see them go.  It stayed there inside the log fence, behind the two big oak trees that in summertime had made green roofs for Mary and Laura to play under.  And that was the last of the little house.”

I read those words slowly.  I read them quietly.  The little house was saying goodbye.  Forever.  When I looked at the children, every child was sitting up, staring, and not saying a word.  Their eyes said it all.  Or perhaps it was the silence.  With that paragraph, those gold dust words, the memories and stories of all that had happened in Little House in the Big Woods came rushing like a flood.

We stopped.  We talked.  We read more, and a new adventure was beginning.

My old books had yet another day of their words coming alive for children.  I often wonder if those books have eyes and ears, and squirrel away what the children say.  Do they feel what the children feel?  It seems so, because every time I read, there is something new- it’s a sense that I get.  I think the books are wise.  No, I wouldn’t trade old and yellow and brown books with pages falling out, for anything.  Their words are magic.


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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57 Responses to The Heart of My Old Books

  1. srbottch says:

    Your words are magic, Jennie. We are putting doors over bookshelves in an ‘office’ room. I’m sad because they will hide my fav books, my trophies of the mind.

  2. reocochran says:

    The old books, the classics and those we stumble upon in new reading choices all make the best way to enchant and hold those little children’s minds and attention. What worked for us also is meaningful to the newest ones. 🙂 Thanks, Jennie.

  3. Lovedddddd these books

  4. beetleypete says:

    Keep those old books, Jennie. They have magic stored up in those loose pages.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  5. Darlene says:

    Your love of books comes through strong! My books are my best friends too. You should see my copy of Little Women or the Bobbsey Twins. Considering they are 60 years old, they are doing just fine and go with me wherever I go.

  6. The magic is just waiting for someone to open the cover and let it out. Delightful Post, Jennie. ☺☺

  7. You are what brings the magic out of those books. Someone else could read them and they might not have the same magic. You are putting your heart into the reading and that’s what makes it magical. It would be like tossing out a well loved teddy because it was threadbare. No, no, no! I loved reading this bit of magic.

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Marlene. I am putting your words into my heart. You paint a picture of just what I am. Yes, when I read the words, the magic happens, but there has to be wonderful words and great literature for me to read. Threadbare Teddy Bears are the best, much like old yellow pages.

  8. frenchc1955 says:

    Yes, their words are magic. I have used ducttape to repair some books I have used in my classes when they started falling apart.

  9. frenchc1955 says:

    Reblogged this on charles french words reading and writing and commented:
    This post on the magic in books and the inherent value in old books is wonderful!

  10. Reblogged this on By the Mighty Mumford and commented:

  11. Beautifully put. I have shelves of old books and actively seek them out. There is nothing more precious.

  12. The books may age, but the stories never do. That makes me smile. We have many 3-generation books in my house, yellowed, taped, occasionally scribbled on, and well-loved.

  13. ren says:

    re: “I often wonder if those books have eyes and ears, and squirrel away what the children say. Do they feel what the children feel? It seems so, because every time I read, there is something new- it’s a sense that I get. I think the books are wise. ”

    I think you have a true connection to those books.

    I have come to believe, the authors’ consciousness is embedded into their books. How could it not be? This is why certain books may ‘call out to you’. Sometimes a library book will ‘fall off the shelf’ and catch your attention. Books look for us. They are wise.

    So, IF a book absorbs the authors’ consciousness, I believe that your books are filled with your consciousness and that of every child who you introduced the books too.

    Yes, books are wise and alive.
    You can feel it and so can your children.

    Your books will be in a museum one day, in honor of YOU and your children.

    • Jennie says:

      Ren, exactly my book thinking. They do have a life of their own, a heart, and the reader brings those words and feelings to life- thus making magic. I feel so lucky to be that reader-aloud! Many thanks for your thoughts and your lovely, kind words!

  14. Norah says:

    What a beautiful post, Jennie. You bring the gold dust to those children, waving your magic wand of literature, opening their eyes and imaginations. It’s pure magic. The children whose lives you touch are very fortunate.

  15. Thank goodness I have a new (and BETTER) excuse for keeping all of my books! This was a magical post for certain!

  16. reocochran says:

    This was lovely, Jennie. You describe such a magical “pause” where your words sank into those children’s memory banks. “The Little House in the Prairie” was being said “goodbye to.” Not just by the Wilder family but by your students. 🙂
    I just took a lot of glue on a medium paintbrush and stuck a whole section of “The Golden Book of Poetry” back into place. Whew! Little Kyah, six years old in the end of her kindergarten year discovered this and brought it to me worried. She told me (Nana) she didn’t do this! I have an old saying which is, “Honesty is the best policy.” No one gets in trouble for telling me almost ANY thing! 🙂

    • Jennie says:

      I do love those books, and so do the children. The pauses and voices I use when reading give those old books life. I can picture you gluing your children’s poetry book, and Kyah being worried!

  17. Yay for old books! I can just see those kids going home and scolding their parents for trying to recycle a torn book, lol. As E. B. White said: “…books are people—people who have managed to stay alive by hiding between the covers of a book.”

    • Jennie says:

      Marcia, I love this E.B. White quote. Thank you! He is right- I stay alive with my old books. I love my old books. They bring everything to life.

  18. John Kraft says:

    Oh, I wish I could have been in the room to see and hear you read that to the kids.

  19. You are a treasure far greater than your wonderful, animated books “that have lived” Jennie.

    You have a phenomenal way with words!

    Paulette L. Motzko

  20. I would love you to email me that image that you used of “The Little House on the Prairie” and I’ll add it to the reblogs and I did on both and

  21. Oh Jennie!! I love this. What a beautiful moment with your kids. 💜 I agree, I love old books.

    You are such a gift to these kids. (i know I say that a lot and it’s true!) I love reading about the connections you share with them. It’s a joy – and I sorta needed it tonight
    So much love to you all -senhor

  22. Reblogged this on Notes from An Alien and commented:
    The author of today’s re-blog says, “… I wouldn’t trade old and yellow and brown books with pages falling out, for anything. Their words are magic.”

  23. Reblogged this on Sharon E. Cathcart and commented:
    My precious childhood copy of Dodie Smith’s “The Hundred and One Dalmatians” is held together with tape and prayer. I hope to one day read it to grandchildren and have them experience the awe I felt at Pongo and Missus’ great adventures to save their puppies.

    • Jennie says:

      What a wonderful story, Sharon. Thank you! I can picture your beloved book taped together. All the words are still there, and that’s what matters. Your grandchildren will love it, because you will read it with heart and passion. 🙂

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