D-Day and Young Childen

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.”

Long silence.

“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!

Never forget.


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.
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54 Responses to D-Day and Young Childen

  1. Ritu says:

    What a way to make those children appreciate xx

  2. Norah says:

    What a wonderful way to learn.

  3. GP Cox says:

    At the National D-Day Memorial

  4. ksbeth says:

    so kindly and beautifully taught

  5. beetleypete says:

    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.

  6. TanGental says:

    Yes its a powerful day and hard to grasp even as an adult. Lovely piecee Jennie

  7. 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.

    • Jennie says:

      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!

  8. Darlene says:

    A perfect way to commemorate this special event.

  9. Well done. Thank you.

  10. It’s hard and sad to have to tell children about war.

    • Jennie says:

      Yes, it is. With children, it’s how you say what you say. Simple words, and listen to children’s questions. Thank you, Anneli.

  11. Dan Antion says:

    Thank you for teaching them this very important lesson,, Jennie.

    • Jennie says:

      This is a tough one, Dan. Simple words, plenty of listening to children’s questions, and simple answers. Still, they need to know.

  12. Touching post, Jennie.

  13. CarolCooks2 says:

    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 🙂

    • Jennie says:

      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!

  14. This is wonderful Jennie. I also love that book!

  15. I think that’s a hard concept for any child to comprehend. You do a wonderful job helping them to understand.

    • Jennie says:

      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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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

  18. L. Marie says:

    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.

  19. srbottch says:

    Thank you for bringing patriotism into your classroom , Jennie.

  20. dgkaye says:

    The children are so lucky to have you teach them what’s important about the country they live in 🙂 x

  21. I commend you Jennie on your love of teaching and bonding with your students. You are so special for all!

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