Becoming Inspired to Write

The days have been hot and humid, not the best for writing.  Today I had a huge dose of inspiration.  I played with E.B. White’s Underwood typewriter.  Really.


I was so very careful.  Of course I didn’t hit a key.  What I did was even better; the keys on the typewriter are slightly indented and round, perfect for a finger.  I fingered the keys, running the tips of my fingers in circles on each key.  I was soaking in all the words E.B. White had typed.


This typewriter typed “some pig”, “terrific”, and many more wonderful words.  Did I find those letter keys?  T-E-R-R-I-F-I-C?  Of course I did.  Can you imagine the feeling of touching the words E.B. White wrote?

There’s more.

E.B. White read aloud Charlotte’s Web.  His original recording, chapter by chapter, was made on record albums in a boxed set.  I had no idea.



I opened the box and read the labels on the albums.  Each record side has two or more chapters.  This boxed set was a gift from E.B. White to his grand niece.  He is Uncle Andy to her.

“Jennie, you’re crying.”

“I guess I am.”

“He wrote me a letter when he sent the recording.”


“Do you see where he started to sign it E.B. and then crossed it out, remembering it was for his grand niece?  Will you read the letter aloud to me?”

I noticed the signature.  Very cool!  And, I read the letter aloud.  Gifted writers use few words to convey many thoughts.  This letter is a case in point.  And, when was the last time you used the word ‘dispirited’?  What a lovely letter to Lindsay from her Uncle Andy.

When a new school year begins, I start chapter reading on ‘day one’.  Every year the first book I read is Charlotte’s Web.  It is always the favorite.  I have written many blog posts on Charlotte’s Web and on reading aloud.  This is the most important thing I do in teaching.  Having the opportunity to touch E.B. White today inspires me to write. Oh, does it ever!  It also gets me excited for the new school year and reading aloud Charlotte’s Web.


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, Inspiration, reading aloud, reading aloud, Teaching young children, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

77 Responses to Becoming Inspired to Write

  1. Opher says:

    What an experience Jennie!! Visiting a writer’s environment is awe-inspiring.

  2. What a thrill to actually touch the typewriter on which such great works were written! I had no idea that Charlotte’s Web was an early audio book.

    • Jennie says:

      That’s exactly how I felt. It was as humbling as it was thrilling. I should have looked on the record box to see if the year it was released was listed. It looked to be ‘60s era. His voice is as gentle as he was. BTW, I Googled White and Strunk’s book. The illustrated version has a Bassett hound on the cover.

  3. Ritu says:

    How wonderful 💜

  4. quiall says:

    The spirit of his words
    rests gently on his keys
    now the spirits passed to you
    to speak his words with ease!

  5. How marvelous to have touched those keys!

  6. Dan Antion says:

    That was a wonderful experience, Jennie. I’m sure this year’s ch as pretty read of Charlotte’s Web will be one of the best ever. I hope it can be in person, but enjoy it however it goes.

    • Jennie says:

      I hope beyond hope I will be reading in person. If I was able to read the Little House books on YouTube, then I can read Charlotte’s Web. Thank you, Dan. It was a wonderful experience.

  7. beetleypete says:

    I can picture your sheer delight, Jennie. 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

  8. Surely the recordings are preserved in some other form than those records? If not…
    Such a revelation and connection – when you touched those keys – and the letter?! Wow, a newsy family update really, methinks? ‘Dispirited’ indeed!
    Stay safe, Jennie. I know the pull to touch and teach and just love on your kiddos is strong – you stay stronger!
    Virtual hugs –

    • Jennie says:

      Hi Laura. Yes, I believe the recordings are preserved in other formats. Hearing E.B. White read his book was not what I expected, yet I should have. He reads aloud like the person he is (was), gentle and humble. I must have rubbed my hand over the cover of the box five times before I could even open it.

      Yes, touching the keys was nothing short of heaven. And the letter was definitely newsy. The words were… perfect. He had ‘the gift’. I am keeping my fingers crossed that we can start school in the classroom. I need to touch and love the children. They need to see me with a big smile and open arms. Thank you, Laura.

  9. What a wonderful, heartfelt post, Jennie. I just love it. “Can you imagine the feeling of touching the words E.B. White wrote?” How beautifully expressed. Sharing. Hugs on the wing.

  10. frenchc1955 says:

    Jennie, This is simply wonderful!!!

  11. frenchc1955 says:

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

  12. niasunset says:

    This is so beautiful…. I wished to play with this old typewriter… I started to write with one of them. But in here this one is so precious. Of course inspirational… Thank you, Love, nia

  13. This post reminded me of my father who used to repair typewriters just like this one. Lovely post, and what a treat it would be to hear the recording of the first chapters of Charlotte’s Web. This book was always a favourite of my classes too.

  14. Great inspiration, Jennie. Super post too, Thanks.

  15. What an absolute thrill!! I’m most envious. That old typewriter and the records just bring us back to simple life. There was never enough white out for me on a typewriter but I LOVE the old ones. I can feel your giddiness here. Just the lace all around would inspire me to write.

    • Jennie says:

      It was such a huge thrill!! I remember using liquid white out all the time, and then it came in strips that we put behind the key. This old typewriter was a jewel for so many reasons. I was in heaven. The lace was perfect, wasn’t it? Thank you, Marlene! 🙂

  16. Beautiful post, Jennie. I love the book Charlotte’s Web. What an amazing story about the old typewriter and the records. I started with type writers but not as old as this one. Thank you for the post.

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Miriam. It is such a classic book. I read it to my students every year. The old typewriter was a treasure to discover. E.B. White’s voice on the records is quite soothing, which was lovely to hear.

      • Yes, Jennie, especially reading Charlotte’s Web. The voices for the movie were soothing also.
        Do you have the type writer?

      • Jennie says:

        Yes, they were soothing. No, I do not have the typewriter. It belongs to E.B. White’s great niece who lives nearby. She is the family member who truly cares and has many of his items. She often speaks to libraries and organizations. The letters and photos she has are priceless.

        Interestingly, he donated the majority of his collection to Cornell University, his alma mater. His great niece was invited to Cornell for a four day visit and presentation. I wish they had given her one of Garth Williams’s illustrations.

  17. Oh so wonderful, Jennie! 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing…

  18. Wonderful, Jennie. I felt like this when I visited the Bronte Museum last year. Very inspiring.

  19. One of my favorite books ever and always a joy to see it one your blog, Jennie. Great picture of you with the typewriter. Are you going to be teaching remotely? Or in the classroom? Stay safe, my friend. ❤

    • Jennie says:

      One of my favorites, too! Thanks so much, Diana. I’m glad you enjoyed it, and the photo. We still have no idea what will be happening with school. I think we’ll open, but details can’t be determined until the early childhood powers that be make decisions. As of now, there are 10 children allowed in a group, and no mixing among groups or teachers. Stay tuned!

      • Schools aren’t opening in Portland, and though I know that makes things hard on my daughter as far as work goes, the overall feeling is relief. I hope your school district makes wise decisions. ❤

      • Jennie says:

        That’s good news, and the feeling of relief says it all. Every school district is doing something different. Some are all remote, some are hybrid, and some are delaying school till mid September. Preschool guidelines are under the umbrella of EEC, Early Education and Care. It’s a double whammy, because we have to follow the state guidelines, and also those for EEC – who has not announced guidelines yet.

      • If we had all just shut down for 6 weeks in March/April….

  20. reocochran says:

    Jennie, I love this post about E.B.White! I knew you might like to visit my FB page that a long conversation came up about BOOKS!
    It started with “Where the Sidewalk Ends.”
    My friend, Merril D. Smith mentioned the Eric Carle Museum and YOU came to mind.

    Hope all is well with you, your family and students from the Aqua Room.
    xo Love, Robin O. Cochran 👯‍♀️

    • Jennie says:

      Hi Robin!!! I’m so glad to hear from you here on WP. I love seeing your posts on FB, although I’m not a faithful or regular FB person. I will definitely visit your FB page!!! Oh yes, books and the Eric Carle Museum are high on my list. “Where the Sidewalk Ends” is still poetry I read to children. I hope to learn about your friend, Merril.

      I am fine. Spring was tough with distance learning, as that is not a good choice for young children. Zoom was hard. We don’t know how school will look for the fall. The guidelines for preschools and early childhood centers have not come out yet. It is crazy times right now.

      How are you and all those grandkids? How is Randy? Miss you, my friend! 🙂

  21. Elizabeth says:

    I can imagine the thrill of the keys being worn down. Before the Portland Oregon library made the unforgivable mistake of covering the marble steps with carpet I thrilled to find the indentations of thousands of feet walking up the staircase I was on.

    • Jennie says:

      I know exactly how you feel. Those indents on the keys were history. And worn marble steps are the same. The marble steps in the main academy building at Phillips Exeter Academy are deeply worn, and for good reason. I think walking those stairs for four years must be a history lesson in itself for students. I wish everyone could see the value in history (plus art, music, and literature.)

  22. What a wonderful experience, Jennie! That typewriter is neat.

  23. dgkaye says:

    Wow, I could feel your excitement Jennie. Touching the keys of the author whose book you chapter read to the new kids every year. Fantastic! 🙂 xx

  24. What a thrilling remembrance, Jennie! I love those old typewriters. Honestly i think i did a better writing using one of these old machines. Thank you for sharing these wonderful impressions, and enjoy your day. Michael

  25. Oh Jennie! What hallowed moments . . .and it couldn’t happen to a more deserving heart!

  26. Darlene says:

    How special! I am so envious. It is inspiring to be in the presence of greatness. I remember how I felt when I touched the little table Jane Austen wrote on. If it was only a pinch of her genius transferred to me, I wanted to write and write.

  27. SJS says:

    This is so very beautiful and deeply inspiring. Thank you for sharing it with us!

  28. Léa says:

    Jennie, how exciting for you. I can just imagine. While I found the Bronte Parsonage and Victor Hugo’s home to be interesting, It was the atelier of Cezanne that made the hair on my arms and back of my next stand up. I felt as if he would walk in the room at any moment… I’ve no doubt you will always treasure that experience and I’m so glad you had the opportunity.

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