A New Year of Reading Charlotte’s Web

Every year I start chapter reading with my preschool class on ‘day one’.  And, the first book I read is Charlotte’s Web.  We have barely had three weeks of school and children are totally hooked.  They adore Wilbur and laugh at the goose repeating words three times.  They trust Charlotte. They have met Templeton the rat, and learned of Wilbur’s fate.  When Charlotte’s demise looked imminent in the hands of Avery’s big stick, there were gasps.

I am reading to three and four-year-olds about the beauty of life and the fear of death, about morals (and lack thereof), and about friendships (and lack thereof).  That sounds pretty sophisticated for preschoolers, but leave it to the beautifully crafted words of E.B. White.

Twilight settled over Zuckerman’s barn, and a feeling of peace.  Fern knew it was almost suppertime but she couldn’t bear to leave.  Swallows passed on silent wings, in and out of the doorways, bringing food to their young ones.  From across the road a bird sang “Whippoorwill, whippoorwill!”  Lurvy sat down under an apple tree and lit his pipe; the animals sniffed the familiar smell of strong tobacco.  Wilbur heard the trill of a tree toad and the occasional slamming of the kitchen door.  All these sounds made him feel comfortable and happy, for he loved life, and loved to be part of the world on a summer evening.

We often underestimate children.  Their brains are absorbing the world around them like a giant sponge.  Let’s give them the world through words, the best words written.  I tell the children – with great fanfare and passion – “The words in the story go into your ears and then into your brain, and you make the pictures in your head.”

That’s just what happens, every day at chapter reading.

The beauty of Charlotte’s Web comes from learning about the world, and about every feeling that is important in order to grow into a good person.  Goodness and knowledge, all on a farm.

I had a pleasant surprise; my hardcopy of Charlotte’s Web is of course at school.  As I typed this post, I needed a copy of the book in order to type E.B. White’s words from page 62.  Surely I had another copy of the book here at home.  I did!  As I opened the book, this is what I saw:

Thank you, Gabriel.  You are now in high school, doing very well.  Whenever you visit (once or twice a year), it means the world to me.  And today I found the book you gave me.  You loved Charlotte’s Web.  That book went straight to your heart, and I know your heart wanted to give me something when you left my class and moved on to kindergarten.  From my heart to yours, thank you!


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 Book Review, books, chapter reading, children's books, E.B. White, Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Imagination, Inspiration, Learning About the World, preschool, reading aloud, reading aloud, Teaching young children and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

56 Responses to A New Year of Reading Charlotte’s Web

  1. That is a lovely message to have re-discovered, Jennie.

  2. beetleypete says:

    Great to find that message inside the cover, confirming what you already knew about the value of that book. I must read it one day! 🙂 (I never have.)
    Best wishes, Pete.

  3. The past reaching out to the future, your present.

  4. Darlene says:

    How wonderful to find that lovely inscription! I read from one of my books to a grade one/two class. My books are not picture books and are classed as for grades 3 to 7. So I was worried the story would be beyond this group. Then one little boy put up his hand and said, “I like the words you use in your book. They paint a picture in my mind.” As you say, never underestimate children! I just love them.

  5. Ritu says:

    I love your story telling!

  6. Lifetime Chicago says:

    And this is why there are wonderful teachers like you.

  7. It must be such a special feeling to watch new little faces enjoying Charlotte’s Web year after year. Beautiful passage you chose. Those kids are so lucky to be in your class. Have a wonderful school year! P.S. Have you seen the new Mr. Rogers documentary? I thought of you during it, because of his insightful connection to the very young.

    • Jennie says:

      It is the best, year after year. I stopped to read the passage twice to the children, telling them to listen to the words again and make those pictures in your head. “Can you see the kitchen door slamming shut?” I just loved it, too.

      Yes, I saw the Mister Rogers documentary. Wonderful!!! His wife and the producer of the documentary are the keynote speakers at the NAEYC annual conference. I cannot go. Can you imagine how wonderful that will be?

      And, I had to miss your book event. Hubby had unexpected surgery. ☹️

  8. I love children’s books so much for this very reason! I am certain the imagery and slight mind-expansion is also why they hold a universal age-appeal.

  9. Opher says:

    That was beautiful Jennie. Makes it all worthwhile!

  10. What a beautiful story, Jennie. I’m sure it means the world to Gabriel, that you mentioned his sweet gift.

  11. What a lovely post! One of my all-time favorite books. I read it many times in elementary school. Thank you for sharing, Jennie. 🙂

  12. AJ says:

    I love watching my students respond to this book. This year I need to find a different book that is just as good as I kept some of my students!

  13. Most people underestimate the mind of a child. To see that note every time you open that book would just make your heart melt and brighten the day. Melted mine and brightened my day. 😉

    • Jennie says:

      You are so right, Marlene. Children always seem to be a step ahead of me. I was absolutely thrilled and touched to see that note. And if I’d had my hard copy book here at home, I never would have seen that. Meant to be. Best to you! 🙂

  14. I loved Gabriel’s inscription in the book. You have captured the spirit of that small boy forever.(and maybe his parents too.)

  15. What a warm, lovely post, Jennie. I’m glad you shared it. Hugs.

  16. That’s a real treasure, to find that note. I wanted to add a bit of a tidbit about Charlotte’s Web. When I was teaching, I also read this book to my classes, and one day we discussed how Fern knew what the animals were thinking, feeling, and saying. I asked, “Do you think she REALLY heard them talking to each other, or was she imagining what they might be saying?” The response was immediate and sincere. “Of course she really heard them.”

    • Jennie says:

      Out of the mouths of babes! And when Fern’s parents were having the same conversation John Arable said something like, “Maybe our ears just aren’t as good as hers.” Thanks so much, Anneli. It was a treasure to find that inscription.

  17. L. Marie says:

    What a great discovery, Jennie! And what a wonderful book to read to children. I discovered Charlotte’s Web through a teacher many years ago. I’m so grateful to have been introduced to this book!

  18. A Kinder Way says:

    I love that you return to this book every year. It’s such a classic. I remember reading it to my son when he was little. That message inside your copy….lovely! ❤

  19. This book just never gets old, Jennie. I’m so glad to see it’s still being read to kids.

  20. Dan Antion says:

    It must be an especially good feeling to have former students visit you, Jennie. All the comments in the world can’t top that!

    • Jennie says:

      It really does feel wonderful, Dan. An ‘in person’ visit definitely tops it all. I plan to keep that copy at school in case he stops by sometime this year so I can show him. 😀

  21. frenchc1955 says:

    Jennie, this is absolutely wonderful!

  22. Charlotte’s Web one of my favorites since 1952 when I read it to my little sister. So glad to hear little ones are still enjoying it.

  23. dgkaye says:

    What a treasured memory! 😉

  24. Kally says:

    Your stories, your posts always inspire me so much. You are a wonderful teacher.

  25. What a gift you are giving and have given your students Jennie. This book is one of my favorite children’s stories too.

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