Reading Aloud to My Preschooler – Thirty Years Later

My first read-aloud for the library this year was scheduled early.  It was only a few days after Labor Day.  I was excited. It was going to be the year of dog books, as I planned to read The Poet’s Dog, by Patricia MacLachlan, followed by Because of Winn Dixie, by Kate DiCamillo.

When I arrived at the library, no one was there!  The head librarian was embarrassed and worried.  Everyone had called in with sickness, vacation, and more.  It was a fluke, and besides, school had only started the day before.

As I was leaving the library, in walked little Colin (a child in my class the past two years) and his family.  Colin was excited to see me.  We hugged and talked.

I know his family well.  More than well.

Thirty years ago his dad, Eamonn, was in my preschool class.  And that’s not all.  When he was a senior in high school, he did his internship with me.  He then became my assistant at summer camp.  Boy, did we have fun!  After college he was my assistant teacher in the classroom for a few years.  When a child in the class had a grand mal seizure, Eamonn stepped in like a trained nurse.  Clearly that was his calling.  His love had always been children, yet he was destined to heal them instead of teach them.  He is now a pediatric nurse at a top Boston hospital.

Back to the library…

“Why are you here, Jennie?”

“It’s the first read-aloud, but no one was able to make it.  I know, it’s way too early to start.  I usually begin the week after Labor Day.”

“What were you planning to read?”

“The Poet’s Dog.”


“I’d like to hear the book.  Would you read it to me?  Please?”

“I’d love to, Eamonn!”

So, we sat together on the couch, and for thirty minutes I read aloud to Eamonn.  My preschooler thirty years ago.  Lump-in-my-throat wonderful.  It doesn’t get any better than that.

Can you tell that Eamonn loved the book?  I think he also liked his preschool teacher reading aloud to him – once again.

Here is my review of The Poet’s Dog:

“Dogs speak words.  But only poets and children hear.”

Those are the opening words in Patricia MacLachlan’s book, The Poet’s Dog.  I have read the book twice, because there are many words not to be missed; words that are pure and don’t need added adjectives and text.  MacLachlan’s writing stands alone in a field of masterful literature.  Her eighty-eight pages are some of the best I have ever read.  In the words of the publisher:

“Alone in a fierce winter storm, Nickel and Flora are brave but afraid.  A dog finds them.  Teddy speaks words and brings them to shelter.  The Poet’s cabin has light and food and love.  But where is the poet?  Teddy will tell the story of how words make poems and connect to those who hear each other.”

Sylvan the poet constantly reads to Teddy.  He reads Yeats and Shakespeare.  He also reads Charlotte’s Web, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and Ox Cart Man.  Teddy learns how words follow one another.

I had no idea that Ox Cart Man, one of my favorite children’s books, is actually a poem.  I scrambled to find my copy and read the words again, this time seeing the words for what they are meant to be – a poem.  When I read the book again to my preschoolers this month, it will be more beautiful than ever.

The Poet’s Dog is a story of adventure, survival, love and friendship, death, reading and poetry.  The beginning is a fishing line that hooks the reader, and the ocean opens to… well, you will have to read the book  The ending is as surprising as ever.

I told a friend and fellow teacher about The Poet’s Dog and quoted to her the first lines, “Dogs speak words.  But only poets and children hear.” Our conversation went something like this:

“I hear my cat.  I know what she’s saying.”

“Then you must be either a child or a poet.”

“I’m a child.  My heart is always a child.  And I love poetry.”

She smiled a knowing smile.  I did, too.


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, chapter reading, Early Education, Inspiration, Particia MacLachlan, reading aloud, Student alumni and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

53 Responses to Reading Aloud to My Preschooler – Thirty Years Later

  1. beetleypete says:

    What a wonderful encounter! Such validation of your teaching too.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  2. Do you know Jennie, this is yet another post of yours which I had to get the tissues out to wipe my eyes and glasses so I could finish reading.. This brought more than a lump to my throat..
    So special… and was that a coincidence? I don’t think so.. Something both of you to cherish as you obviously have a special bond that has lasted throughout the years..
    Just so beautiful to see..
    Love and Special Hugs my friend..
    Sue ❤

  3. John Fioravanti says:

    Beautiful post, Jennie – I was moved to tears.

  4. I really enjoyed The Poet’s Dog, Jennie. How lovely that an adult man would want to be read to by his previous teacher. Amazing.

  5. Ritu says:

    Another heartwarming encounter ❤

  6. Sue Vincent says:

    This put tears in my eyes, Jennie. How beautiful… and you are right about the book too.

  7. frenchc1955 says:

    Jennie, this is wonderful!

  8. petespringerauthor says:

    Your stories keep getting better, Jennie. Running into former or current students is the best! I have to laugh recalling those moments when a young child from my school would see me in the supermarket and call out my name excitedly. Some of the other shoppers have that priceless, “Who the hell is this guy look?” as if they are expecting to see a real celebrity.

    I LOVE the fact that Eamonn asked you to read The Poet’s Dog to him. I can’t think of too many people who would be comfortable enough to do this. I’m not familiar with that book, but I used to read Because of Winn Dixie to my students.

    Thanks for sharing this priceless story.

    • Jennie says:

      I’m so glad you enjoyed this, Pete. Yes, running into former students is the best. The grocery store and restaurants are top of my fun list.

      I know what you mean about Eamonn being comfortable enough to ask me. It both surprised and thrilled me.

      Pete, you positively, absolutely MUST read The Poet’s Dog. Really!!! I even read it aloud to my husband. It’s not just for children. Promise me, okay?

      And, many thanks. ❤️

  9. That’s so sweet. I don’t know if I could have read for the lump in my throat.

  10. Such a ‘close encounter of the best kind’.

  11. Elizabeth says:

    I think we all cherish being read to. I used to vicariously enjoy story time at the library with my daughter.

  12. Darlene says:

    This is so cool. I love The Poet’s Dog and would love it if someone read it to me.

  13. AJ says:

    Awww that is so wonderful!

  14. Ellen says:

    The Poet’s Dog was a book that you wrote about this past winter. I had just recently read it to Benjamin and he loved Teddy. How lovely that you had the pleasure of reading the book aloud to this amazing previous preschooler. It certainly gives new meaning to the words of Dr. Seuss : “You are never too old, too wacky, too wild, to pick up a book and read to a child”…however old that child may be! Thank-you!

    • Jennie says:

      One of my favorite quotes! And a great addition 🙂. Yes, I did post about the book last winter. I’m glad reading to Eamonn gave me a chance to shout out once again. 😀. I’m so glad Benjamin loved the book, and Teddy. What an ending!

  15. mausamk says:

    Jennie, its always a pleasure to read your posts..because they are heartfelt and genuine…please keep writing and sharing your thoughts and experiences..

  16. Reading of your latest encounter with a rapt listener and your review of reading, as well as the review of The Poet’s Dog, I can’t help by regret all of the books I’ve missed out on because I grew up. I may need to remedy that.

    • Jennie says:

      I know exactly what you mean. This takes you back to the sheer joy of reading aloud at any age, and when the book is not your generation…. yes, I know. I ‘missed’ the Ramona books and the Judy Blume books. Reading them as an adult was wonderful. Please, please read “The Poet’s Dog”. My husband reminds me that it’s not just a children’s book. Did you ever read her award winner, “Sarah, Plain and Tall”?

  17. Thank you for the wonderful review, Jennie! I cant say often enough,you are a gem, for all your pupils. 😉 You will not believe, but last week i listened to a discussion of German teaching professionals, and what a surprise now here they also think reading aloud with children is the best ever can be done. What we said always: Germany is over 20 years back to the USA? LoL I think, here we are a century or more back in time. 😉 Michael

    • Jennie says:

      That is so interesting, Michael. So, Germany is realizing the importance of reading aloud. Better late than never! Thanks so much for your kind words. I’m glad you enjoyed the review. 🙂

  18. Really heartwarming!👍😎

  19. dgkaye says:

    What a lovely tribute to you Jennie. You are timeless through generations, ❤

  20. Ren says:

    You are so special and blessed. Happy for you!

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