What Happens at Chapter Reading

My copy of Little House on the Prairie is so well-loved that two entire sections of the book have fallen out.  No matter; the words are all there.  I wouldn’t trade that book for anything.  When I finish reading each day, I stand up and go to each child on their nap mat and show them any illustrations.  As careful as I am, those two sections often fall out onto the lap of a child.  The children seem to understand that they represent the many years of children before them who heard the same words and reveled in the story.  I think they feel included in that special group.

Chapter reading is more than the words we read.  In our last chapter, Laura continues to ask about wanting to see a papoose.  Ma talks about Indians.  Her words clearly indicate that she does not like Indians.  This is what happened:

Allie:  “Jennie, what’s an Indian?”

Lincoln:  “It’s somebody from another country.”

Me:  “Yes.  That’s true.  Jaina’s family is from another country, from India.  Jaina, please come here.” 

Jaina stood up and came over to me.  I smiled at her and pulled her close.

Me:  “Jaina has beautiful black hair and dark skin, just like people from India.  Ella does, too.  And, just like the Indians in the story.  But the Indians Ma talks about are Native American Indians, not Indians from India. Did you know that Native Americans were the first people in America? That is something!”

Long pause.  Children were processing all of this.  Jaina and Ella had families from India, but they were not the same Indians in the story.

Me:  “Sometimes people are scared of somebody that looks different.  Maybe that’s why Ma doesn’t like Indians.

Lucca:  “Like Gloria!  Just because she looks like a witch, it’s not okay to call her that.  That’s mean.”

Me:  “Yes, Lucca.  You’re absolutely right.  Gloria likes to wear black, has wrinkly skin and gray hair.  She wears a pointy hat, too.  But we all know she’s not a witch.  Lucca, that is so nice.  Come, so I can give you a hug.”

Lucca, wrapped in a big hug:  “She’s shy, too.”

Low and behold, today’s chapter was “Indians in the House” and it helped to cement yesterday’s conversation.  Two Indians came into Laura’s house, and she was scared.  They were different, with darker skin and feathers in their hair.  Yet, their eyes sparkled at Laura.  The illustration, like Gloria, helped children to see the differences.  Don’t judge a book (or person) by its cover.

And so it went.  I knew this spontaneous conversation was far more important than any planned lesson in diversity or acceptance.  You see, the real learning begins with the child.  We just have to be aware and seize those moments.  This happens all the time during chapter reading.  It is wonderful!


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.
This entry was posted in books, chapter reading, children's books, Diversity, Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, history, Kindness, reading aloud, reading aloud, Teaching young children and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

65 Responses to What Happens at Chapter Reading

  1. Super lesson, Jennie.

  2. lbeth1950 says:

    Very gd way to lead in.

  3. I love Luccas response. 😉

  4. Ritu says:

    Wonderful Jennie! How many children do you have in a class? X

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Ritu. 🙂 I have 15 children every day, and typically 20 each year (some children are only MWF or TTh).

      • Ritu says:

        Okay. I have two sessions of 20 kids – mornings and afternoons. It’s hard work. Three hours isn’t long!

      • Jennie says:

        20! Do you have one or two assistant teachers? Our state rules say 1 to 10 ratio, but we have classes of 15 with two teachers. Yes, three hours is not long enough!!

      • Ritu says:

        We have one teacher and 2 assistants. Ratio here is 1 to 8 for assistants and 1 to 13 for qualified teacher for our age group.
        It’s still hard with all our special needs and language require, to give the children all the attention we need to… I feel they aren’t ready for real school half the time…

      • Jennie says:

        I know exactly what you mean!

      • Ritu says:

        Just looking at my new September intake lists too now and it’s going to be interesting…! I can’t even pronounce some of the names!

      • Jennie says:

        Oh, no. My class will be on the young side, with a number of siblings of former students. I can’t think too much about that till this year is over. Do you have the summer off? Or, at least part of the summer?

      • Ritu says:

        We get 5 to 6 weeks from end of July until begining of September off. But we can’t do the home visits then do they will be happening now too… We always go and meet the children at home in their own environment before they start to introduce ourselves and we are learning about the family then too. Xx

      • Jennie says:

        Home visits- that is such a good idea! I’m glad you get some well deserved R&R. 🙂

      • Ritu says:

        It’s enlightening in good and bad ways. We get to see living conditions and a child’s manner before they get to us which helps us get ready for resourcing come September! I’m already counting down to July!

  5. beetleypete says:

    The power of Gloria aids understanding once again. She is a valuable life example for sure.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  6. Bernadette says:

    Spontaneous learning is always the best lessons. That is why I believe children shouldn’t be over scheduled.

  7. Dan Antion says:

    What a wonderful opportunity to teach such an important lesson – good job Jennie – I think we’d all tell you to come up so we could give you a hug!

  8. I love little house on the prairie, Jennie. This is the book I had in mind when I wrote my Mom’s story. I love the story about the Indians and the papoose. What a lovely learning experience for your learners.

    • Jennie says:

      I thought about you and your Mom as I read aloud the story. Yes, it is a wonderful book. Today was even more powerful, with Pa digging the well and the candle. Thank you, Robbie. I know your book will be terrific, being inspired by Laura Ingalls Wilder. 🙂

  9. Oh what a fabulous conversation and I adored Little House on the Prairie on TV.. 🙂 So wish there were a Million more teachers like you Jennie.. The world would be so much brighter.. xxx

  10. Darlene says:

    It is wonderful how you make the most out of these teachable moments!

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Darlene! 😊 They just happen because of what children ask, or what was read at chapter reading. Today was gigantic, stay tuned for
      Part II. 😀

  11. I love those stories- glad to see they are still being taught.

  12. Those special moments during chapter book reading (or any read alouds) happen all the time and they are truly wonderful! – Susan

  13. Tina Frisco says:

    What a great lesson, Jennie. The children will remember this for a long time, and hopefully for the rest of their lives ❤️

  14. A lovely lesson for us all, Jennie. And there’s nothing like a book so well loved that it’s coming apart! Hugs!

  15. Lori_Lounge says:

    I use to love reading Little House on a Prairie. How do you pick out the books for the children to read with there being so many. Or is it already listed in the lesson plan?

  16. Reblogged this on Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life and commented:
    Time for me to call it a night. It is always a good day when you learn something new, as do the children in Jennie Fitzkee’s class. Always a pleasure to read her posts… Little House on the Prairie was one of my favourite stories as a child. #recommended

  17. Patty says:

    Reblogged this on Campbells World and commented:
    Oh this is so beautiful it gives me huge huge goosebumps.
    I hope yall will read and share.
    I hope one day some teacher has a copy of my Bubba Tails From the Puppy Nursery At The Seeing Eye and that she/he has it so long that sections of the book fall out.
    This is lovely.

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you so much, Patty. I hope someday a teacher has a well loved copy of your Bubba Tails and sections fall out of the book. That would be wonderful.

  18. Lovely post, Jennie. Books are wonderful opportunities to teach and you demonstrate that with every post. I love the kids’ curiosity and insights. 🙂

  19. Norah says:

    Wonderful, Jennie. Yes, learning does begin with the child and it is important to seize the moments as they arise, just as you have described and shown.

  20. Love how Gloria came to mind for Lucca. 🙂

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