Children Don’t Forget

I wish I could remember everything important, like the titles of all the books I intend to read this summer.  I can recall stories galore of yesteryear, with crystal clear pictures in my head.  The present often seems cloudy in comparison.   Children remember everything.  The tiniest detail is there beside them, for the longest time.  Isabelle is a case in point.

My library read-aloud group started the year reading Diva and Flea, by Mo Willems back in September.

It is the story of a dog and a cat, living in Paris.  Of course it is so much more, as Mo Willems weaves stories of growing, bravery, and fear throughout the book.  He also paints a verbal picture of life on both sides of the tracks. Does having all the conveniences and necessities dictate a better life?  Better hold on and read the book!

Since the backdrop for the book is Paris, French words are among the text.  Diva is a gardienne’s dog, and Flea is a flâneur.  I often stopped my reading to talk about the words.  That was fun!

Flea did have a fixed occupation, however.  He was a flâneur.  A flâneur is someone (or some cat) who wanders the streets and bridges and alleys of the city just to see what there is to see.  A great flâneur has seen everything… Flea was a great flâneur.

The children loved the book.  Adults enjoy the subtle humor of Mo Willems.  Win-win all around.  We continued the year reading The Wild Robot, by Peter Brown (a favorite) and The Story of Doctor Dolittle, by Hugh Lofting.  By the time June rolled around, reading Diva and Flea seemed like years ago.

On the last day of our library read-aloud last week, this is what Isabelle’s Mother showed me (it is in two parts):

The school assignment was to write the answer to a question for each day of the week.  Monday’s question was, “If you could be a cat for one day, would you like it?  What would you do all day?”  Isabelle answered:

“I would like to be a cat for one day.  I would flâneur all around.”

Wow!  Flâneur all around.  Imagine that; written nine months after reading Diva and Flea.

In the words of Mo Willems, “The biggest discoveries start with the smallest steps.”  I give children many, many small steps- especially through reading aloud.  They discover the world in avenues that often surprise me.  It is wonderful.


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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62 Responses to Children Don’t Forget

  1. Afzal Moolla says:

    simply wonderful. thank you for sharing!

  2. beetleypete says:

    I know many adults who would struggle with the concept of a ‘flaneur’. (More than I care to mention) So, for her to use this in her reply is simply stunning. No other word is good enough.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  3. Dan Antion says:

    Great post. I would love to be my wife’s cat for a day. I would enjoy being pampered.

  4. That is so wonderful. From what you’ve shared about Isabelle previously, I’m not entirely surprised. Jennie, are you still scheduled to be honored at the state house next week? Is it open to the public? Any online information? I searched once but couldn’t find anything. I’m filling in for our library director and have extra hours next week, but if I can figure it out it would be such fun to travel south and witness your event. You can email me privately if you have any information to share. Thank you!

    • Jennie says:

      Thanks, Marcia. Isabelle is amazing. She will be in my group again next year. I can only imagine what may happen! Yes, the big event to present our quilt at the State House is on Thursday @ 3:00 PM. I just started getting emails from the big wigs for last minute information. It is not all me, but about the children, and of course Milly the Quilter. I expect 70-80 people, mostly children and their families who were part of the quilt. I think I will bring along the classroom book we made that started the whole thing. I hope to read it aloud to the Governor. It would be wonderful to see you, Marcia!! Oh, it will happen at the Grand Staircase. Pretty cool!

      • Hi Jennie, In case you don’t see my email, unfortunately it’s not going to work out for me to get into the city, but I’ll certainly be thinking of you and Milly and the kids. I hope to visit the quilt on display some time. Congratulations again!

      • Jennie says:

        Many thanks, Marcia. I just replied to your email. You are the best!

  5. Micki Peluso says:

    Great post!! I wish I had that child’s memory lol. I took 2 years of French and did not know what a ‘flaneur’ was.

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you! It was such a good word in the book, yet I also don’t think I could have remembered after so many months. Glad you liked the post! 🙂

  6. Wow… as you say to remember Flaneur after nine months meant that story really ignited her imagination.. wonderful.

  7. John Fioravanti says:

    This is what happens when you pair a special student with a special teacher – it is spectacular!

  8. Do they have help with the writing? I couldn’t even imagine writing at that age! Nor will I remember the word next week ;( To be young again.

    • Jennie says:

      It boggles my mind, Marlene. Isabelle is in second grade. I’m not sure I could write those words when I was that age. My opinion of the secret? Reading aloud. It exposes children to the written word, and all those millions of words are in their head. That is the best foundation for learning, including writing.

      • Maybe that’s why my children are so much smarter than I am. I read to them until they could read to me. Then we read back and forth. My daughter was reading at a 10th grade level in 4th grade. My son way ahead of her. Me, I failed 3rd grade, almost twice. But I made up for it later. Once the kids came, so did the books. Libraries until I could afford to purchase a few. We moved so often and always by the pound. Lots of books were left behind for others to enjoy. I have always thought books and the ability to read them is the greatest gift we can ever have. Words! I learned another today and that made it a special one. flâneur 🙂

      • Jennie says:

        Words! You are right. That is exactly why your children did so well. My dream is to convince every parent and teacher the same thing. Now, that could change every child, and the domino effect would be remarkable. If I plug away, one child at a time, I can still make a difference. I love your story, Marlene. The library and moving by the pound. Thank you for sharing! You’re the best!

      • You are very welcome. I do wish I’d had grandchildren of my own. My last husbands grandchildren called me the book grandma. They knew they were going to get books for every occasion. I think most of them read now too. The youngest stepdaughter when I got her at the beginning of 7th grade, turned out to be functionally illiterate! My daughter and I made short work of that and turned her into a reader as well as her children. I’m with you 100%. Books can change the world and if you read, you can do anything!

      • Jennie says:

        That is the best story! “The Book Grandma”. Wow! To think of the many words and books you have given to others, like your 7th grader. You have made a difference. Just wonderful!

  9. reocochran says:

    To remember a French word and how it was spelled takes a genius. Was this Isabelle who remembered her three-year old friends in another country? I have no idea how to spell words like this a week later. You are an amazing teacher, maybe a magician, too. 🎩

    • Jennie says:

      Yes, this is the same Isabelle. She is a bright one. I wonder if remembering a French word because it was different came into play. Also, good literature makes a huge difference (as you know). Do your Grandies like Mo Willems? This book is a winner! Read it aloud. Perfect for first and second graders (and for us who can enjoy his humor). Many thanks, Robin!

      • reocochran says:

        No, I haven’t read his works and thank you for introducing Mo Willems to us! You may be right, unknown words become significant since they are extra special! (This is a great answer to the “magic!”) You’re the best teacher (I feel) I know! 🙂

      • Jennie says:

        Yes, the unknown sticks. Definitely a great answer to the magic! Mo Willems wrote Knuffle Bunny (award winner) and the Elephant and Piggie books. Thanks for all your kind words, Robin!

      • reocochran says:

        I was just being “me” and honestly am very impressed with your reading choices and how open you are to the children. I can tell you follow their lead a lot, while guiding them sometimes, too. It is a wonderful balance you continue in your classroom.

      • Jennie says:

        You are right, Robin. I do follow their lead. Emergent curriculum. I think it’s the best way. Many thanks

      • reocochran says:

        I can tell which in turn helps them to have more confidence and security. Thanks sent back to you. The lovely chat we had was fun and special, Jennie.

      • Jennie says:

        I loved our chat– always do!

      • reocochran says:

        I always do, too! Hope your 4th of July is special! xo

      • Jennie says:

        Happy Fourth to you! 🇺🇸

  10. MC Clark says:

    Oh, this is precious! Thanks for sharing, Jennie.

  11. Di says:

    Hello Jenni,
    Your posts always brighten my day. This is another very special story life with your young students. Thank you so much. What will I do over your summer break??
    Best wishes from Di 💐🌟

  12. ren says:

    Such a wonderful sharing, thank you….and when I enter the room to play with the 18 month old, their eyes light up as they run around the play room, locating and bringing me, all my favorite toys….toys we have played with and enjoyed, together. I watch as they do that with other people and their “favorite” toys.

    Yes, children are little elephants in disguise…they do not forget

  13. Ha ha. That is so cool, Jennie. Kids are little sponges. Keep filling them up. 😀

  14. Norah says:

    This is wonderful, Jennie. Children are amazing, and your post once again demonstrates the importance of reading aloud from a wide variety of material to enrich their lives. Enjoy the break!

  15. L. Marie says:

    How delightful, Jennie. I love Mo Willems’s books. I’m so glad the children learned new concepts through one of his books.

  16. I enjoy reading your posts so much. What a wonderful attitude you have. Your love for opening up the world to small children is truly amazing. Kudos Ms. Jennie, Kudos. Hugs.

  17. srbottch says:

    You keep confirming my great respect for someone who reads aloud. One of my favorite stories that I actually write is, “Today, I Smell Gingerbread”. It’s about the aromas in the house at holiday times. Check it out in my blog and let me know if it paints lots of colorful images. I bet the kids would love it, even if I mention ‘beer’. 😉

  18. It’s really marvellous, Jennie! What a kid! Especially in our times I often come along children who don’t even remember what we did last week. It’s a wonderful achievement of you both! 😄

  19. Great post. I often find that while teaching ESL to kids, it’s difficult to know just what they manage to remember then, all of a sudden, they start to introduce words mixed into their native language. Magical.

  20. Reblogged this on Notes from An Alien and commented:
    Completely *Delightful* re-blog today 🙂

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Alexander. Recently I had the pleasure of meeting the author and illustrator at a book signing event at the Eric Carle Museum. I still had the photo on my phone, so I showed it and told the story. They were thrilled!

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