E.B. White’s Grandniece – In My Classroom

It happened like this: And as you know, those are the beginning words to a really good story.  So, hold on to your hat.

Last spring I learned that E.B. White’s grandniece was giving a presentation at my local library.  I had no idea there was a family member living nearby.  This was thrilling news, good news.  Unfortunately, I was travelling at the time of her presentation.  That was sad news, bad news.  Talk about highs and lows.

When I visited the library after my travels, the head children’s librarian was beside herself to tell me about the event.  She was even more excited to tell me that E.B. White’s grandniece wanted to meet me.  Me!  In the words of Charlotte, I was HUMBLE.

And so we met.  She (Lindsay) is wonderful.  She showed me memorabilia that took my breath away.  My favorite photos were Andy (E.B. White’s nickname) typing at his boathouse where he wrote, and swinging on the real rope swing in the barn at the farm in Maine.

Our conversation went something like this:

Lindsay:  “When do you read aloud Charlotte’s Web?”
Me:  “Just before rest time.”
Lindsay:  “Do you read every day?”
Me:  “Absolutely.”
Lindsay:  “And when do you start reading the book?  Later in the school year?”
Me:  “I start on day one.”
Lindsay:  “Day one?  Really?”
Me:  “Oh Yes!”
Lindsay:  “I’d love to hear you read the book.”

And so she did!  This week.  She arrived with a big poster full of photos (me included) and memorabilia.  The children were fascinated as she told stories about her Uncle Andy (E.B.).  Did you know that he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President John F. Kennedy?  And wouldn’t you know that the chapter we read that day was Wilbur receiving a medal at the fair.  Very timely, and surely meant to be.

And then it was time for chapter reading.  We turned off the lights, and for nearly thirty minutes we were engrossed in listening to the words of Charlotte’s Web.  We answered questions and talked about who we liked in the book, and also who we didn’t like – Templeton.  We remembered that Charlotte’s egg sac contained 514 eggs.  Lindsay so enjoyed the reading and the conversation.  It was wonderful!

Of course the children made her a gigantic thank you note.  I received a lovely note that said:

Dearest Jennie,

Terrific, terrific, terrific fun today!!
I enjoyed every minute!
The children are precious!!
You are SOME READER!!!!!


So nice!  And the references to Charlotte’s Web are perfect.  I feel HUMBLE and RADIENT.  In the words of the goose, thank you, thank you, thank you Lindsay.


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

89 Responses to E.B. White’s Grandniece – In My Classroom

  1. srbottch says:

    Wunderful! Wuunderful! I’m so happy, happy, happy to see Charlotte’s Web get so much attention and the joy it brings to you, Jennie, and your ‘gang’. 😁

  2. Darlene says:

    What a wonderful visit to your classroom. Another great connection for you. xo

  3. Opher says:

    I am so jealous!!

  4. Ritu says:

    Absolutely wonderful Jennie! I am so pleased you were able to experience this with her!!!!

  5. Wow! What luck you have, Jennie. I loved that book (reading it to the class). What a thrill to have Lindsay there in your class. I wanted to add a little anecdote about a discussion my class and I had about the book after we finished it. I asked them if they thought Fern could really hear the animals talk or was it just in her mind (because no one else could hear the conversations in the barnyard). I thought they would say, “Yeah, she just imagined what they might be saying. She had a good imagination.” But no. Without hesitation, they said, “Of course she could hear them,” and, “They were really talking to her.”

  6. What a fun time, Jennie. Thanks for sharing.

  7. You deserve every wonderful and memorable experience that comes your way. You are one amazing lady and definitely my personal heroine. I would love to be even a bit like you! You have made so many children happy over so many years. I cannot think of anything that any of us could do that would be better!!!

  8. Oh, Jennie, Your story warmed my heart! What a thrill, as well as an honor! I’m so very happy for you and the children! – Susan

  9. frenchc1955 says:

    Jennie, this is wonderful, and you are a deserving and excellent teacher!

  10. frenchc1955 says:

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

  11. Dan Antion says:

    What a wonderful opportunity, Jennie. I’m so glad you were able to meet Lindsay and to have her visit your classroom. That had to be a special treat.

  12. Holy craziness…will your ever expanding world of unexpected connections never cease???
    I certainly hope not!!!
    Fan – tas – tic!
    ps- kudos to that grandniece for keeping their family legend alive and still active/involved as part of the fabric of the American narrative.

    • Jennie says:

      Well, if you didn’t cover a host of important topics here, Laura! Yes, holy craziness at these unexpected meetings. Who knew? And they are definitely fantastic. As to the grandniece, she travels all over to keep the memory of E.B. White alive. If that isn’t the fabric of the American narrative!!

      She told me so much about her Uncle Andy. He married an older woman, the love of his life. When he wrote Charlotte’s Web, he was writing about himself, as he was truly Wilbur, and about his wife, as she was Charlotte. Isn’t that wonderful? I never knew that before.

  13. AJ says:

    That would’ve so amazing!!!

  14. Meg says:

    Have just reread your other E.B.White posts as well, Jennie. How marvellous that this post came together, just like another of your students’ wonder-filled patchwork quilts! Thanks again

  15. Norah says:

    How wonderful, Jennie. What a great experience for you and the children. It is wonderful to see the love you have of Charlotte’s Web, and share so generously, being recognised by those for whom it means so much. I think maybe you should also be awarded a medal. Your promotion of children’s literature and the importance of reading aloud is second to none. Your influence goes way beyond your own classroom family.
    The other day on Facebook (I can’t recall in which group), someone asked what year level Charlotte’s Web was suitable for. Some answered year four or above. I suggested any year (I’ve read it to a few age groups) and told them that you read it to your Kindergarten children. I suggested they check you out on Facebook. I hope they did. 🙂

    • Jennie says:

      You certainly made my day, Norah. Thank you! I often think about the world outside my classroom, and how reading aloud has made a difference. I think the reason I began blogging was my passion to ‘spread the word’. I do hear from others, in person and in writing. And, that just fires me up to keep going, keep doing what I do. Many thanks for your constant support!

  16. beetleypete says:

    Always a joy to see you make these connections, and to read how much they delight both you, and the children.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  17. I am as tickled as a champagne punch for you and agree with every word Anne Copeland said! I am so delighted for you and the children. It takes me a while here as I read so many of the comments as well. I just love coming here.

    • Jennie says:

      You do read the comments, Marlene. That’s such a nice thing to do. I should be as good as you are at doing that when I read. Thank you so much! I’m so glad you like coming here!! 😀

  18. magarisa says:

    Wow! That’s wonderful!

  19. Lovely Jennie. Many years ago I read Charlotte’s web by torchlight late one evening when I should have been asleep. I still remember being so upset by the ending that I went downstairs and cried to my parents. Not sure if they realised who Charlotte was but I will never forget that night. It is a lovely story.

  20. Maren says:

    Hi! Very interesting to see! 🙂 Thank you for sharing this! Have a nice evening and a great week! Best wishes from holidays in south tyrol ! Bye, Maren ❤

  21. sjhigbee says:

    Another wonderful teaching experience, Jennie. Your children are so very lucky to have you…

  22. mitchteemley says:

    You are SOME TEACHER!

  23. roninjax says:

    You’ve given your life to guide the children over the years. Wow, such accomplishment and knowing how you shaped so many lives. Well done!

  24. what a wonderful thing to happen ! and it couldn’t happen to a nicer person! You are such an inspiration! I loved this post-just radiant! love Michele

  25. Is it too late to be in your class?

  26. L. Marie says:

    How wonderful that Lindsay could come and experience what your students experience. And what a delightful book to read aloud. I agree with KC Redding-Gonzalez. How wonderful to be in your class!

    • Jennie says:

      Awww… thank you Marie. It was wonderful, indeed!

      • Dear Jennie, Thank-you for this post! I loved his writing….my mother grew up as best friends with his neice Peggy White, the muse for his books. They were even roomates for awhile in Chicago…Peggy’s father was Stanley White, a professor of landscape architecture. I have photographs and letters…hoping to put them together sometime.

        The themes in Charlottes Web are so important.

      • Jennie says:

        Dear Luna, Thank you so much. And, what a terrific story! That is a very special family connection. I’m so glad you told me. I really do hope you put those photographs and letters together. Do you know Lindsay? Her grandfather was Albert, one of Andy’s (E.B.) brothers.

      • And I misspelled niece! Oops! I love that you were able to bring the author to life by meeting a member of his family! What a joy for your lucky students! I would love to have been there!!!

      • Jennie says:

        It was a joy on so many levels. Thank you, Luna.

  27. Sarah says:

    Such a wonderful and special experience, Jennie! You and the children were very lucky! And I love those photos she shared with you, there’s always something wonderful to see pictures of writers at their work. 😄

  28. What a lovely visitor to have, Jennie. So exciting to see this memorabilia.

  29. dgkaye says:

    Another exciting connection for you Jennie. You’re becoming a legend! 🙂 x

  30. Annika Perry says:

    Jennie, a magical day for you all … children and adults alike! Your joy shines through and the love of books and the enchanting hold of Charlotte’s Web is portrayed throughout the post, words, and pictures! Brilliant and so happy for you all.

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you for your kind works, Annika! It was a magical day indeed. Good books bring so much to children, and I get to be the keeper and messenger to bring those books to life. 🙂

  31. What a treat, Jennie, for your students, for you, and for Lindsay. When I was in third grade (I think) we had an assignment to write a letter to a favorite author, and of course, my letter was to EB White. I received a form letter reply, but treasured it all the same. These encounters with authors and the people who knew them are so memorable. You have a lucky bunch of kids there. 🙂

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Diana. Yes, these encounters may be unexpected and random, yet they leave a mark / memory with children. Isn’t that wonderful! I love your story. Do you still have that letter that you treasured? When your grandson is old enough to hear you read the story aloud, he will flip over that letter. 😀

  32. GP Cox says:

    My county’s school system has started reading, “Maybe Something Beautiful” by: F. Isabel Campoy & Teresa Howell. I immediately thought of you and wondered if it might be something you’d read to your children.

  33. What a great experience for your young class. I hope they remember it later in life when it’s time to read “Charlotte’s Web” to their kids.

  34. dweezer19 says:

    How marvelous! 👏🏻

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