Little House in the Big Woods

I began reading aloud a new chapter reading book, Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  In thirty minutes, I had read only four pages.  Four!  There was so much happening in the story, we had to stop and talk.  That always means learning.  And a captive audience.

Let me back up, as there is much to tell about yesterday…

The day before, we finished reading The Story of Doctor Dolittle.  At the end of the book I closed it and said, “I don’t want the book to end.”  This is what happened next:

Ella said, “Can we read it again and again and again?”

Me:  ” I wish we could, Ella.  Your Mom and Dad can read it to you again.”

Ella:  “But I don’t have the book.”

Me:  “The library has the book.  Mom and Dad can get it at the library and read it to you again.”

Me to all the children:  “Good books are meant to be read over and over.”

Alex:  “What book are we going to read next?”

Lincoln:  “Can we read Charlotte’s Web again?

Allie:  “Yes!  Please can we read it again?”

Noah:  “I love that book.”

This was a perfect conundrum.  Children had to let go of a favorite book that was over.  Then, they wanted to read another favorite book.  Yet, they knew that wouldn’t happen- there would be a new book.  Life lessons, at their best.

I went on to tell the children how much I loved Charlotte’s Web.  Then I told them the news:

“Every chapter book we have read this year has been fiction.  Fiction is pretend, “Once upon a time.”  Jennie stories are fact, “It happened like this.”  Our new chapter reading book is fact.  It’s real.  It happened.”

That opened the door to reading Little House in the Big Woods.  The children were thrilled.  Well, they were more than thrilled.  It happened like this…

In the first pages, we read  that there was nothing but woods.  There were no roads, no people.  There were only trees and wild animals.  And, those animals were wolves, bears, and huge wild cats.  A child asked what was a wild cat (wait till we read that there were panthers in Wisconsin!)  Another child asked about roads.  Just the concept of nothing but woods and animals is not easy for children to grasp.  It became even more difficult in the next few pages.

The little house was made of logs.  “What are logs?” I asked?  Good thing that earlier that day I  had read the picture book, A House in the Woods, by Inga Moore.  Beavers had felled the trees to build the house.  That image helped to describe a log house (wait till I show them pictures of my grandmother’s childhood house!)

Laura called her parents Ma and Pa.  We stopped to talk about all the different parent names we knew- four in all.

Laura woke up one night to see wolves outside the window (that was exciting!)  The next morning she saw deer that Pa had shot, hanging in the big oak tree outside.  That would be meat for dinner.  I closed the book and asked, “Why didn’t Pa just go to the store to buy some meat?”  Ten minutes later we were still talking about how and where to get food.  “What do you think they grew in their garden to eat?”

The conversation was filling young minds with images.  The words in the story were triggering questions and thinking.  Best of all, it is a really good book.  Children are already hooked- and we’ve only read four pages!

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 chapter reading, children's books, Early Education, Imagination, Inspiration, reading aloud, reading aloud, Teaching young children, wonder and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

82 Responses to Little House in the Big Woods

  1. How fun, Jennie. I can just see their imaginations whirring with each discovery about life in the past. Lovely post, my friend. 🙂

  2. Beautiful experience, Jennie. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Léa says:

    An early reader myself, it was vital that I encourage my own children to read. There was no censorship, that was never an issue. However, if I bought the book they wanted, they must be prepared to discuss it. Although I never read any of the Harry Potter books myself, my youngest daughter enjoyed them. At the time they began, I was working with abused children and their families. Often these were homes where books were not valued and these children heard about them at school so they were in demand. Anything that can excite a child and encourage them to read has my stamp of approval. 🙂

    • Jennie says:

      You are so right, Lea. The homes of children who are abused or neglected typically do not have books. There is no bedtime ritual of reading. Books open the world. Good for you that you bought the books your children wanted, and then discussed it with them. Many thanks!

  4. Sue Vincent says:

    That’s exactly why I fell in love with reading as a child…and reading to children 🙂

  5. Darlene says:

    What a wonderful book to share with the children to give them an idea of how life used to be. City kids have no idea where food comes from except the grocery store. Books teach so much!

  6. beetleypete says:

    If they are so inspired, it doesn’t matter how many pages.
    But i can’t help feeling that it is you who inspires them, as much if not more than the books.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  7. These books had a special place in my heart when I was growing up.

  8. Dan Antion says:

    I like how you navigated and moved them onto a new book. It’s easy to stay with favorites (I tend to do that with Netflix).

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Dan. Transitions can be hard for children, and adults, too. Nobody wants to leave comfort and familiarity. I make it exciting, a new adventure. Fun!

  9. Beautiful share… Children falling in love with books! ❤

  10. reocochran says:

    This Laura Ingalls Wilder series was one of my very favorite, Jennie! I liked the ones when she and her siblings were young. You chose a great series to share non-fiction with those young, inquisitive minds. . .
    I am finally checking for missed posts and heading backwards. 🤗

  11. frenchc1955 says:

    Reblogged this on charles french words reading and writing and commented:
    Here is another post from Jennie, an extraordinary teacher!

  12. I love reading about how you inspire those children. It took me many years to find books and they were a life line, We had very little even when my children were very young and often not even proximity to a library. But when I found books we all read voraciously. Every extra cent went to purchase books until I could find a library. I just visited ours. It was a true disappointment. I don’t think children would be inspired to read there. I certainly wasn’t and the selection was paltry. Going to have to go and talk to someone. See Jennie, you have even inspired an old woman. 🙂

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Marlene. Your comments and stories are always an inspiration to me. Really! I’m so glad to hear how you treasured books and read to your children. The children’s room in our public library is enormous. It is a big draw. Do you live in an area with few children? I’m trying to figure out why the library would be a disappointment and have a paltry selection. Yes, please say something! You’ll be helping children. I would talk to the children’s librarian, the head of the library, and also someone at the local elementary school, as to why. Keep me posted. From one inspired woman to another! 🙂

      • The book store is more likely to catch children’s eyes and inspire than that brand new library they just finished. It was my first trip there and so cold and sterile feeling. I couldn’t find any of the classic older stories. Did not feel as drawn to sit and read a book there as when I peruse the children’s section at B&N. I buy books for friend’s children and give them as gifts. I saw nothing at the library that made me want to stop and read. I will be going by again each Wed before our 11 week writing class at the senior center. It’s funny. The senior center across in an adjacent city has a fantastic senior center and the one here feels like a nursing home where you are expected to exit quickly. Same county but obviously something is different about the way they do things.

      • Jennie says:

        Very interesting, Marlene. And sad. If B&N is more welcoming than the children’s room, that’s a shame. The issue might be with the head librarian in the children’s library, or with the head of the library. One of those two doesn’t understand welcoming children and families. I hope you speak up. And, how interesting that your senior center feels the same way, where one in an adjacent town is the opposite. Hmm…

  13. Opher says:

    Fabulous. Instilling that love of reading alters lives.

  14. Ritu says:

    This is just wonderful news Jennie! Way to go opening their minds!!!

  15. Norah says:

    This is gorgeous, Jennie. I can just imagine the animated discussion. It is so important to take the time to discuss in this way. How else will children be able to make sense of the unfamiliar and learn about other situations to add to their learning? You’ve helped me learn too. I didn’t know that the Little House stories were real. I thought them to be fiction. I don’t think they were as popular here as over there. I think I read one and maybe watched a movie or a television series, I can’t remember which, when I was a child.

  16. willedare says:

    Hurrah for your class! Hurrah for reading aloud! Hurrah for asking questions! Hurrah for imagination! Hurrah for libraries! Your posts always leave me feeling optimistic, Jennie. On a somewhat un-related note, I was thinking about the Laura Ingalls Wilder books recently when I saw an excerpt of an MLK jr. interview in which he articulated a few of the MANY ways that recently-freed, formerly enslaved African-Americans have continued to be discriminated against in the years after our Civil War. It made me wonder if all the land in the western parts of the USA — which white folks like laura Ingalls Wilder’s family were able to homestead and eventually claim as their own property (and which was, of course, first bought/stolen from the 1st Nations folks who had been living here for hundreds/thousands of years) was also available for African-Americans to homestead? Not necessarily a topic for discussion in your pre-school classes…but one that we grownups might explore/be curious about as we re-read some of our favorite childhood books!

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you so much, Will! Some African Americans were free men, but not many. Those who were could homestead or stake a claim IF the state was a free state. Of course that all changed after the Civil War and the abolishment of slavery. As I go through the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, I have conversations with the children about Indians. Just as important a discussion.

  17. I love Little House in the Big Woods and all the rest of the books in this series, Jenny. My all time favourite series. There is so much to be learned from this reading experience. I am so glad young children are still benefiting from these incredible stories.

    • Jennie says:

      I do, too. This year’s children seem to be

    • Jennie says:

      Ooops… seem to be even more intrigued with life at that time. The questions are endless (we’re only on page 17 after a week) and the discussions and curiosity are flowing. Isn’t that wonderful?

      • I think that is amazing and wonderful. It is such a rich book. My new book about a little girl growing up in England during WWII is modeled on Laura’s writings.

      • Jennie says:

        Thank you, Robbie. Yes it is wonderful. Your book is When the Bombs Fell? I thought that was modeled after your mother. I’m so glad Laura’s writings were an influence.

  18. I’m with beetleypete! Someone needs to introduce and inspire those kiddos to **get hooked**
    Best wishes, also.

  19. ren says:

    I enjoy being right there with you as you share your wonderful stories. Thank you

  20. pjlazos says:

    How I miss the days of reading books with my kids! Now because they have so much required reading, they don’t want to read during their “off” time. I was a voracious reader as a kid and still am today, but I do remembered a decade or so where I barely read at all. So maybe they’ll come back around. Thanks for this post.

  21. This is such a lovely book to read. The kids are learning so many new things simply by reading!

  22. Tina Frisco says:

    You are a true master storyteller, Jennie. You ignite the imagination with questions, listen for replies, and then loop them back to the story. Brilliant ❤

  23. dgkaye says:

    Brilliant work Jennie. No wonder you only got through 4 pages with all those inquisitive glued to your story. Telling them that a story is true as opposed to fiction may have had them all the more curious about real life in books, not just fairytales 🙂 x

  24. How wonderful! I love it when kids ask questions like these. Happy reading!

  25. Pingback: Little House in the Big Woods – Jennie Fitzkee | Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

  26. athling2001 says:

    Fantastic series of books. Love the way you are including the children in the story.

  27. What a fun class! I’m pretty sure I had teachers like you, but I know that your students are lucky to have you. 🙂

  28. Great for the kids to know that even though they won’t be reading the same books over and over, there are always plenty of new books to look forward to. 🙂

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

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