I am in awe of the soldiers and sailors who are back in Normandy today, 75 years later. I always bring patriotism into my class, and a certain page in a picture book that I read all the time helps me bring D-Day into the lives of preschoolers.
This is the cemetery in Normandy. D-Day. It is a page from Peter Spier’s book, The Star-Spangled Banner. I have been reading this well-loved book to children for decades. The words read, “Oh, thus be it ever when free men shall stand.”
Whenever I got to this page in the book I would talk about Arlington Cemetery in Washington, DC. Then I saw the movie “Saving Private Ryan” and I immediately recognized the scene in Normandy to be exactly this illustration. I nearly jumped out of my skin. After that I had a whole new understanding and respect for this page, this cemetery.
Here is what happens when I read this page:
I stop. I don’t say a word. Children need to look and take in the images.
“Jennie, is this a sad page?”
“Yes. It’s a sad page.”
“What are those white things?”
“They are crosses to mark the graves of the soldiers who died.”
“This is a cemetery. It’s in Normandy. Many brave young men died here. They were fighting for our freedom.”
More silence. I knew they were absorbing my words and the illustration. Their heads were spinning.
“Do you see the American flag? It is flying halfway down the flag pole. That’s called a flag flying at half mast. In a cemetery or a national place, flags are halfway down when it is sad. And Normandy is a sad place.”
We talked about the crosses, and the ones with stars. We pulled out our big map book and found Normandy. We imagined the trip there by boat.
I told children about the boats that landed, how they had a “tailgate” that dropped down so the soldiers could go ashore.
Most importantly, we talked about doing what is right, even if it is hard and you’re scared. Peter Spier understood this. His book of the song is a classic!
What a way to make those children appreciate xx
It is a wonderful book, Ritu. Do you have cause to talk about D-Day at school today? Thinking of both our countries on this day. ❤️
Alas we aren’t even in school today as it is still our mid term Break!
Wonderful that you’re on break, but that’s a shame to miss the date. There are 5 or 6 D-Day survivors who have made the trip back to Normandy this week. Big news over here. I imagine England is following a similar story.
I was watching it live this morning!
Yes! Watching it now before heading to school. 🙂
Enjoy your day Jennie!
Thanks, Ritu! Will do. 😀
What a wonderful way to learn.
At the National D-Day Memorial
You are!?! How wonderful! I hope you write a blog post about it. I’ve been following the news about the handful of men who returned to Normandy this week.
I’ve seen many of those veterans at the French dedication this morning.
so kindly and beautifully taught
Thank you, Beth. Wonderful book, beautifully illustrated. Your kinders will love it!
Our commemorations here have been extensive, Jennie. Watching the men in their 90s return to Normandy was incredibly moving. Well done to you for helping the children to understand.
Best wishes, Pete.
I am watching the event live now before heading to school. Wonderful! Thank you, Pete.
Yes its a powerful day and hard to grasp even as an adult. Lovely piecee Jennie
It is very hard to grasp. Thank you, Geoff!
Have you ever visited Normandy? It is impossible to describe the atmosphere in the cemeteries, and impossible to visit without experiencing almost overwhelming emotion. The big American cemetery in your picture is near Omaha Beach, but there are many other cemeteries throughout the region. Perhaps the most shocking to visit are the German ones, where many, many of the graves contain three to five bodies of unknown men. Too traumatic for the pre-schoolers, but so important for us to know about and remember.
I have never had the privilege of visiting Normandy. I can only imagine how deeply moving that experience would be. I knew of the other cemeteries, but I did not know about the German cemetery. Yes, it must be shocking. Thank you so much for your comments!
A perfect way to commemorate this special event.
I think so, too, Darlene.
Well done. Thank you.
You are welcome, Flower.
It’s hard and sad to have to tell children about war.
Yes, it is. With children, it’s how you say what you say. Simple words, and listen to children’s questions. Thank you, Anneli.
Thank you for teaching them this very important lesson,, Jennie.
This is a tough one, Dan. Simple words, plenty of listening to children’s questions, and simple answers. Still, they need to know.
Touching post, Jennie.
Thank you, John.
I love how you teach, Jennie and don’t shy away from the difficult subjects…It is so important that we remember just what sacrifices were made for us… A lovely post 🙂
Thank you, Carol. I don’t shy away from tough subjects. Today’s chapter reading, “Little House on the Prairie”, Ma said “The only good Indian is a dead Indian”. I read those words (gulp) and stopped to talk. How else will children learn if I don’t talk about it? And the same holds true for having a small understanding of D-Day. I appreciate your comments!
I am sure your children leave you with a good understanding of whatever has cropped up while they are with you, Jennie and go forward better for having such a wonderful teacher 🙂 x
Thank you, Carol! 🙂
This is wonderful Jennie. I also love that book!
Thank you, Becky. It is one of my favorite books. Very well-loved!
I think that’s a hard concept for any child to comprehend. You do a wonderful job helping them to understand.
It is a very hard concept for children to understand. If I can teach them what a military cemetery is, through the picture, and talk about freedom and soldiers who have died for us… well that’s a big start. Thank you, Marlene.
I have read a number of posts about D-Day yesterday and today. I have learned a lot of new things, Jennie. I didn’t realise that over 9 000 American soldiers died during that historical event. Definitely important to remember.
It was tragic yet very important. I thought about your mother as a little girl when I wrote this post, Robbie
How lovely, Jennie. That makes me feel happy.
I’m so glad, Robbie.
A wonderful way telling such important things to the preschoolers. Great work, Jennie! The book seems well made for this too. Not to dark coloured, but with the needful information brought to imagery. Michael
Yes, the book really works, Michael. It is bright and colorful, inviting children to look and ask questions. Many thanks!
So glad you took time to explain the significance of these events, Jennie.
By the way, you won a book on my blog. Please stop by to confirm.
Thank you, Lana. And, I won a book?? Wow! I am way behind on blog reading. I will confirm.
Thank you for bringing patriotism into your classroom , Jennie.
It’s my pleasure, Steve,
The children are so lucky to have you teach them what’s important about the country they live in 🙂 x
Thank you, Debby. 🙂
I commend you Jennie on your love of teaching and bonding with your students. You are so special for all!
Thank you for your kind words!