Little House in the Big Woods

“Little House in the Big Woods”,
by Laura Ingalls Wilder

This is our new chapter reading book at school.  When I introduced the book to the children, I talked about all the chapter books we have read up till now – fiction books.  We talked about the difference between fact and fiction, real and pretend.  “Charlotte’s Web” is pretend.  So is “Mr. Popper’s Penguins”, and so on.

And then came the fun part, telling children our new book is not fiction.  “It is a true story!  It happened nearly 160 years ago!”  Yes, I was up on my feet pacing, as if I had found the last unicorn.  Frankly, introducing this to children was better than that.

While “Little House on the Prairie” is by far the most popular book in the Laura Ingalls Wilder series, I am especially fond of “Little House in the Big Woods”, the first book in the series, before the family packs up and heads to Kansas in a covered wagon.  This is the story of Laura and her family.  It sets the groundwork for life in the 1870’s.  The story is told through Laura when she was a little girl.

I stop reading all the time to ask children questions, such as  “Why didn’t Pa just go to the store?”  We have many conversations about the lack of cars, refrigerators, light, and electricity.  There were no roads, and the big woods went on for miles.  Laura and her big sister Mary had never seen a town, nor a store.  As you can imagine, it takes some time to read!  I’m giving children some understanding of life back then- history and geography.

My favorite parts in the book are Pa’s stories, interspersed throughout the book:

Did you know there were panthers in Wisconsin back then?

Children had jobs.  When Pa neglects what he’s supposed to do,
he is alone in the woods at night.  He is scared!
Children love scary adventures.

I have included a video of me reading this at the end of the post.

Doesn’t that tree look like the profile of a bear?
Pa thought it was a real bear.

These stories within the book are the flavor, the excitement, and just what children love.  In some ways, when I read them aloud, I feel like I’m telling a ‘Jennie Story’.  They are much the same.  I guess I enjoy them as much as the children do!

In March of 2020, we closed our doors at school due to Covid.  The first thing I did was set up a YouTube channel so I could continue to read aloud to the children.  They needed normalcy.  They needed their teacher.  They needed me to read to them.  Every school day, from March to June, I posted one picture book and one segment of chapter reading.  We had just started this book, so I jumped in and picked up where we left off at school.  Here is  my reading the part with “Grandpa’s Sled and the Pig”:

After we finished this book, I was able to read aloud the entire “Little House on the Prairie” book.  If you ever want to hear Jennie read, go to YouTube Channel and type in Aqua Room.


P.S.  My grandmother was exactly the same age as Laura’s daughter, Rose, and Rose was her name, too!  Her life in a log house in West Virginia was much the same.  Stay tuned…

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.
This entry was posted in America, Book Review, chapter reading, children's books, Early Education, Family, geography, history, Learning About the World, literacy, reading aloud, reading aloud, Teaching young children and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

83 Responses to Little House in the Big Woods

  1. joylennick says:

    Although I am sure I had at least one teacher who explained puzzling facts to me, I do not, especially, recall it happening. And what a difference it makes! All credit to you, Jenníe. xx

  2. Ah how good for children to know how things used to be. Lovely listening to you read.

  3. Jim Borden says:

    there’s no better gift than getting children excited about the world of reading!

  4. bosssybabe says:

    I love that you found ways to be creative for the children during this pandemic. How selfless and wonderful! 🙂

  5. Dan Antion says:

    Even though you’re reading a book, you make it into a Jennie story.

  6. children are like budding flowers and you are the gardener Jennie

  7. Ritu says:

    Aw this is lovely 💜

  8. This all sounds like the best experience for children. Thanks for sharing, Jennie.

  9. I remember our teacher reading that book to us, sixty years ago…

  10. What a lovely listen, Jennie, and a delightful account of how you continued reading aloud during the school closure. In our town, our library invited community members to record ourselves reading our favorite kid’s books. We now have a wonderful selection for kids to access from home. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. 🙂

  11. beetleypete says:

    Looking at the illustration of Pa and the ‘Bear’ tree, I am struck by how badly miscast Michael Landon was in the popular TV series. 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

    • Jennie says:

      Haha! I assume Garth Williams must have seen photos of Pa, or at least he had a good description from Laura. Nope, not a Michael Landon look alike.🙂 Best to you, Pete.

  12. quiall says:

    You are bringing history alive for children and adults. It is a wonderful way for children to learn.

  13. Darlene says:

    How wonderful. I´m sure listening to you read this wonderful story helped the children get through the lockdown.

  14. I never new it I wasn’t fiction! Loved Little House on the Prairie the TV series back in the day! Lovely reading by you Jennie!

  15. I haven’t read that book. I did enjoy the T.V. series way back when. I think I’ll add this book to my library and read it to the boys.

    • Jennie says:

      I enjoyed the TV series, too. Still, the book is better. Have you read #2 to the boys? Little House on the Prairie? Best to you, Deborah!

      • No, I haven’t read any of the Little House books to them. The last book I read to Littlest was last week…Corduroy. That’s such a lovely book. #1 and I are slowing getting through the Wild Robot. We’ve only got 20 chapters to go! Brightbeak just left for migration and Roz has been woken up by the roof caving in, and she’s lit a fire and made a new shelter. You know what happens next! We’re enjoying this book so much.
        We’re thinking about reading Moby Dick, or Treasure Island next.

      • Jennie says:

        Yes, I know what happens next!!! Honestly, I think Moby Dick is way too hard, especially the way the language was written. Treasure Island is wonderful of course. May I first suggest before that book, Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen? Also, Sign of the Beaver, by Elizabeth George Speare, Bob, by Wendy Mass. Also, the sequel the The Wild Robot is fabulous! Please let me know what you read next, and how #1 enjoys it. I care!

      • Thank you!! I will let you know.

      • Jennie says:

        I’m so glad!

    • Jennie says:

      #3 (Farmer Boy) is about Almanzo growing up in New York (not as good), and #4 is when they move on from the prairie – On the Banks of Plum Creek. It is excellent.

  16. I enjoyed your reading. I’d forgotten how much of a HUGE deal taking the sled out was. We never scooped up a hog, though.

  17. petespringerauthor says:

    I’m a big fan of this book as well, Jennie. All of the discussion is so important, and kids want to talk about the many fascinating things that happen. You’ve got an engaging and expressive voice, which adds to their enjoyment.

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Pete. It is a big switch for children to go from fiction to nonfiction. They love this book, and I do, too. The only downside about doing the YouTube videos is not being able to stop and talk when children have questions. Those discussions are as important as the book, as you know.
      Still, it was a good thing to do when Covid shut us down.

  18. cindy knoke says:

    I so love these books!! They made a happy child. You are an awesome teacher.

  19. Your creativity and wonderful readings are amazing and far-reaching in mentoring the kids. I laud you.

  20. K.L. Hale says:

    This is my favorite, Jennie. I still watch Little House on the Prairie and live only an hour and 1/2 from she and Almanzo’s farm in Mansfield, MO. My little nonfiction book includes a page about her. I read her books to my kids, students, dress as her, and feel my heart lies within her families memories. Thank you for reading to all of us. ♥️❤️🙏🏻

    • Jennie says:

      How wonderful to live so close by! I can feel your excitement and picture all you have done. Is the farm restored and a tourist site? I have tried to Google where the Garth Williams illustrations are. I know that his E.B. White illustrations were given to Cornell University. I would love to walk into a museum and see the Little House illustrations. I’d probably cry!

      • K.L. Hale says:

        Jennie, thank you for your response! Yes, many of Garth’s illustrations are here! It gives me goosebumps! Pa’s fiddle and SO many artifacts. I go several times a year with my friends. And I put on my bonnet and they’re fine with it. ❤️🥰😂 It will be an honor this year as I’ve been invited to be a local author at their Literature Festival in the Fall. They built a new museum two years ago. The farm is restored. But many of their things are still there. Including Laura’s calendar hanging in the kitchen. I’m only 5’4 and Laura and Almanzo were under 5 ft so their cabinets were made to fit. Even Rose’s staircase is so narrow! You can also tour the Rock House that Rose had built for them. And they are both buried in Mansfield. Oh, how I’d love to go there with you! ❤️🥰

      • Jennie says:

        OMG!! I’m going to have a heart attack (just kidding), or at least go into seventh heaven. The children talk a lot about Pa’s fiddle. I play music for them- one of their favorite songs is Wagon Wheel by Darius Rucker. We always talk about the fiddle when we listen to that song. I must find a bonnet to wear at school. Really. How wonderful that you not only have toured the farm and the rock house, but will also be a guest author at their Literature Festival. Please, please take pictures and write a blog post!!

        Which of Garth’s illustrations are there? I can at least dream about them!

      • K.L. Hale says:

        Jennie,…we’d be dangerous together!!! Lol 😂 I love love Wagon Wheel!! I need to buy you a bonnet when I go and just mail it to you! I will take lots of pictures! My Gmail is If you email me I can send you pictures too. Maybe one day I could FaceTime your class WHILE I’m there! Wouldn’t that be cool? As far as Garth’s illustrations I’m not for sure exactly which ones (my memory lol), but they are safely behind glass!

      • Jennie says:

        Yes, we would be dangerous together, in the best of ways! My email is I would be thrilled to pay you for a bonnet! And, yes, a Zoom with the class while you are actually there would be wonderful. Springtime is when I chapter read Laura’s books. By then the children are older and ready for the stories. Maybe next year, spring of 2023? By then we’ll be out of masks and children can understand you. I will be in touch!

      • K.L. Hale says:

        Yes, Jennie! Let’s do it! Prairie partners!! I love it. ❤️ I’m headed to meet former teachers down by the Buffalo River in AR this weekend~no technology, no service! Only the woods and river! I’ll be back in the real world by Monday! Stay safe and blessed. 🙏🏻❤️

      • Jennie says:

        It all sounds wonderful! 😍

      • Jennie says:

        Oh, K.L., what should I call you? K.L.? Or do you have another name you go by?

      • K.L. Hale says:

        My name is Karla. Thank you, Jennie! K.L. is my writing name (Karla Lea 🥰)

      • K.L. Hale says:

        On my main website page~on the right column~there’s a preview of my little nonfiction book! I think you’d be able to see the Laura Ingalls Wilder page!

      • K.L. Hale says:

        Thank you, too! 🥰🤗

  21. swamiyesudas says:

    You are a treasure, Jennie! It was good to see You in action. Love and Regards. 🙂

  22. Wonderful, Jennie! Sharing…

  23. Elizabeth says:

    This is the first time I have thought about that book with newly discovered information from my great-great grandmother’s diary. They homesteaded in Minnesota in the 1850’s and so much of Wilder rings true now.

  24. Hi Jennie, Little House in the Big Woods is my favourite of these books. I like the bits about Christmas, Ma making cheese, and Pa smoking meat. I also like the part about Pa cleaning his gun. A great book and series.

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