History Through a Classic Picture Book – The Little House

Last night as the sun was setting, the house next door was getting sleepy.  Just look at those window eyes closing and getting ready to say goodnight.  They reminded me of a favorite picture book, “The Little House” by Virginia Lee Burton.  It is as wonderful today as ever.  The window eyes on that little house are endearing.  More importantly, the book sparks an understanding of history and generations- a great way to teach children.  They love this book!  I did too as a child.


Whenever I read aloud the classic children’s book, “The Little House” by Virginia Lee Burton, it turns out to be an unexpected history lesson.  This wonderful book begins with a charming little house on a hill, living through days and nights and the seasons.  She loves the countryside and the changes.  The early illustrations capture all the images of the seasons.  At this point in the book children are hooked, because they love the little house.  As I turn the pages they know summer follows spring, then autumn then winter.  Each page is predictable.

The next page was the game changer.  A road is being built by the little house, yet the children couldn’t see what was happening on that page.  How could they not see?


I went back and forth between the previous page and this page, asking plenty of questions.  Were they so focused on the house that they couldn’t see ‘the big picture’?  Once the children saw what was happening, the story changed; there was much more than just the little house.  We talked about steam shovels and trucks, and the smoke from the steam roller.  From this point forward, every page in this book shows a significant change, and we jumped in with both feet.  The tenement houses were built, and that was the trigger for history.  We talked about the buildings; they were different.  Then a child commented on the cars passing by.  Yes, they were different, too.


The cars started most of the conversation.  I told children that my grandmother drove those cars and my mother was a little girl riding in those cars.  Generations are a concrete way to teach history to young children.  It’s their closest element to an abstract concept.  Children identify history through their parents and grandparents, and a few lucky ones may have a great grandparent.  It starts with something close to home, like a car, and that can be the catalyst to talking about history.  That’s exactly what we did.  The next page, and the next, and so on were steps in history.  Trains and subway cars were a natural curiosity, since children were captivated by cars.  Then came the twenty-five and thirty-five foot buildings.  We talked about Boston and about Groton, and who has the tall buildings.  We even imagined how high twenty-five stories would be.

Of course we never forgot about the little house, especially when she was moved from the city back to the country.  This was perhaps the most exciting page; it sparked great conversation.  Children asked how they did that, moving the house, and also asked how deep the hole was, and if the house was okay.  This is the pinnacle in education.  This page is all about math, science, engineering, kindness, history, and language.  I think that’s why children like this page.  There is so much to talk about and so much to learn.


The rest of the book is wonderfully predictable, as it should be.  After all the lessons and learnings and dialogue that transpired while reading this book, the little house comes to rest at a new place in the country, much like where the story began.


When I was in first grade, this was the one book I remember my teacher reading aloud.  Frankly, that is my strongest memory of first grade.  Now that I am the teacher, I have a greater understanding of how a picture book can teach history and beyond.  That’s what I do.


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, children's books, Early Education, history, Inspiration, picture books, reading aloud, reading aloud, Teaching young children and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

87 Responses to History Through a Classic Picture Book – The Little House

  1. beetleypete says:

    I never saw the book as a child, but I love those illustrations, and the happy face on the little house at the end.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    • Jennie says:

      It’s interesting how books are often native to a country, even the classics. I think The Tales of Peter Rabbit is an exception. I’m glad you enjoyed this, Pete. Best to you.

  2. ibrahimmohamedsaboon says:

    it’s really nice. I wanna go to Virginia I wanna see how it looks like

    On Fri, Aug 27, 2021, 12:01 PM A Teacher’s Reflections wrote:

    > Jennie posted: ” Last night as the sun was setting, the house next door > was getting sleepy. Just look at those window eyes closing and getting > ready to say goodnight. They reminded me of a favorite picture book, “The > Little House” by Virginia Lee Burton. It is as won” >

  3. Ritu says:

    What a great way to instill the interest in history from a young age 😊

  4. Such a wonderful, timeless classic.

  5. Darlene says:

    I love this book too. My parents bought a house in the city, in an area that was being cleared for a new development, and had it moved to the farm. Mom loved having a city house on the farm and i think the house was very happy to as we filled it with laughter.

    • Jennie says:

      What a wonderful story! I bet that that house was happy! The book must bring back great memories of all your parents told you.

      • Darlene says:

        I didn´t live in the house as I had already left home. But my children and I had many happy times there. Great memories. The book reminds me of the house, especially how it was transported to the farm.

      • Jennie says:

        I just love your story, Darlene. Even if you didn’t live in the house, the memories and good times are what’s most important. Oh, how I wish I could have ten minutes with Virginia Lee Burton to tell her what a difference her book has made for so many people. I will do that after I pass and meet her.

  6. Dan Antion says:

    What a wonderful story to share, Jennie. I love that book.

  7. What richness a teacher can bring to the reading experience! Wow!!

  8. quiall says:

    Engaging children is so important. Evolution can start out so frightening and be so disruptive but it is necessary and it is wonderful to see the positive side. Children need positivity

    • Jennie says:

      Yes, and yes! To open the whole wide world to children and give them a positive experience is what I love to do. Good books are a great start to make that happen.

  9. I don’t know this book, but the little house is lovely, as is your teaching.

  10. I love these vintage style paintings. They are bringing a lot of fun, beside the story itself. Now I know where our urban planner got the metaphor of house facades as faces. She said this during a session, and somehow the audience in ourcommunity was remembered on their own faces. Lol Have a beautiful weekend! xx Michael

    • Jennie says:

      She was a great illustrator of children’s books. Yes, house facades as faces are such fun. Looking at the windows on my neighbor’s house is delightful. Happy weekend to you, Michael.

  11. A sad situation that is still repeating itself as cities take over our quiet town life. This book is a good way of bringing that concept to the children’s level of understanding.

  12. petespringerauthor says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen this book. I love how you showed the process of student engagement. I can hear the excitement in their voices and see the focus in their eyes. The analogy that popped into my mind is teachers are like fishermen. We bait the hook and then get a fish on the line. The rest is history as we enjoy reeling them in.

    • Jennie says:

      I’m glad you can hear their excitement. We teachers really are fishermen; we bait and hook. It’s all about the bait (like this book) and how we draw in that hook. I think I need a fisherman t-shirt. I love being a fisherman!

  13. beth says:

    oh, I love this book –

  14. What a great story, Jennie. I’ve never read this one.

  15. damielolah says:


  16. I remember this book from my days in kindergarten. We boys talked about the steam shovel and the steam roller building the roads and how sad the house was in the city. Thanks for the memory

    • Jennie says:

      You remember, which is a testament to a great book. Yes, the boys love the steam shovel and steam roller. The whole concept of country to city evolution is pretty sophisticated. To do that in a picture book is remarkable. When I was in first grade I remembered the house; I love(d) that house. You’re welcome for the memories.

  17. What an amazing book! There is obviously so much great material to teach. Your students are so lucky. Especially that they have a teacher that knows how to take a great book and run with it. 🙂

    • Jennie says:

      It’s one of the best books. I’m constantly amazed at how much there is to teach. Give me a good book and I will run with it! Thank you, Marlene.

  18. Luanne says:

    There were three books that were animated on captain kangaroo that made such an impression on me. One was Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel. Another was stone soup. And this was the third one. Wonderful books!

    • Jennie says:

      YES!! I loved Captain Kangaroo, and he picked three winners.

      • Luanne says:

        I was only exposed to high quality picture books through that show. At home, I had plenty of books, but the picture books were mainly from the grocery store, i.e. Golden books. But it could be why I started reading chapter books, like the Bobbsey Twins when I was five! Never thought of that before . . . .

      • Jennie says:

        You’re probably right! Here’s to Captain Kangaroo. 🙂

  19. One of my favourite books ever.

  20. Pingback: History Through a Classic Picture Book – The Little House – Nelsapy

  21. This really does sound like a delightful picture book, Jennie. I’ve never heard of it before and I’ve never seen it locally.

    • Jennie says:

      It is sad that the best children’s books often don’t make their way outside of their country. The Tale of Peter Rabbit is an exception (thank goodness.). This book is delightful with remarkable illustrations and an underlying story of country transitioning into city. The adorable house is the constant that holds the story together. If I had to pick only ten books from my library, this would be one.

  22. Norah says:

    I don’t know that book, Jennie, but it sounds gorgeous. The discussions you have around it are what’s most beneficial of all. I think you’ve written about this book before?

  23. Pratik says:

    Nice painting. Till now I remember this type of drawing.

  24. srbottch says:

    I remember reading that book to our children. It’s a wonderful story covering the gamut of emotions, the story itself and the memories of reading to our kids. Thanks for posting, Jennie b

  25. Annika Perry says:

    Jennie, what a precious book and I’m smiling at the beaming house at the end! Never come across the book before and thank you for your beautiful presentation of what I feel must be a classic!

  26. bosssybabe says:

    Teachers and literature are so important and influential at that young age. It’s amazing you have such a vivid and fond memory of it 🙂

  27. dgkaye says:

    I’d never heard of that book Jennie. But yes, you do it so well. ❤

  28. Pingback: History Through a Classic Picture Book – The Little House – The Student

  29. jryb29 says:

    Fantastic! The book looks like it could really get one thinking about things

  30. Thanks for sharing, Jennie.
    I am soon becoming a trained teacher too. I’ll keep this in mind ☺

  31. asa says:

    Wanderful post, Jennie! I love the warm inviting tone and the aesthetic in which you delayed your message. Beautiful delivery.

  32. Pingback: History Through a Classic Picture Book – The Little House – boomet.Com

  33. Laiba Sohail says:

    Students enjoy the lesson more when the teacher teaches it with personal interest…I have met so many teachers who didn’t know how to communicate the lesson effectively and it made their class so boring…that indeed is a bad fate to have for any student…glad your students are not Ill fated…💓

  34. That is such a good book. thank you for sharing

  35. writerclan1 says:

    Lovely! Looking forward to reading more of your blog at greater length.

  36. Richmond Extra says:

    Well posted, loved it🤭😍😍😍

  37. nitinsingh says:

    from india , never hrd about this book but looks good

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