“The Story of Little Babaji” – a Classic Children’s Book

This week I read aloud one of the children’s favorite books on YouTube.  In order to understand the book and its popularity, first let me back up – a long time ago.

I vividly remember the book Little Black Sambo when I was a little girl.  I loved that book.  Did you?  Do you remember the tigers running around the tree and turning into butter?  This was a classic book.

Fast forward to teaching preschool.  I discovered the book again, but it was different.  The characters weren’t black, they were from India.  That was the way the original story was written, as the author lived in India for thirty years.  Here is a brief description I wrote about the book:

The Story of Little Babaji

Helen Bannerman wrote this story in 1899.  When I was a child, I loved Little Black Sambo, which was an adaptation of this book.  That book was banned, and the original, based in India, was reborn.  Thank goodness.  Not only is it a great story, it is so beloved in my classroom that we host play performances for families.  When a children’s book has a repeating phrase that encourages children to join the reader and say aloud; “Little Babaji, I’m going to eat you up”, it cements their love for the book.

The original book was banned.  It had become a symbol of racial injustice.  Yet, that was never the author’s intent, way back in 1899.  Along came the illustrator Fred Marcellino who understood the story and wanted to bring it back to the original intent of the author.  He didn’t change the words, but he changed the names of the characters to true Indian names – Babaji, Mamaji, and Papaji.

The book is high on my top ten children’s book list.  Really.  My readers know I am picky, so that vote speaks volumes.  Children are always glued to the story.  They love to help me with the chant, “Little Babaji, I’m going to eat you up.”  We have done play performances for families based on this book.  In my decades of teaching, this book is one of the best.  It has withstood the test of time, from being loved to being banned to being redone as it was meant to be.

Schools are closed.  I have set up a YouTube channel (Aqua Room) so I can read aloud to the children.  Here I am reading this book aloud to my preschoolers this week:


Posted in Book Review, books, children's books, Diversity, Early Education, picture books, play performances, preschool, reading aloud, reading aloud, Teaching young children | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 80 Comments

Cyber Dinner is Socializing

How can we socialize today?  This is so engrained in our everyday life.  During this pandemic we need to find meaningful ways to connect with each other.  I am connecting with my students every day on YouTube and email, and I am also having a great time with friends.

Cyber Dinners.

We live far away from good friends, Wisconsin and Massachusetts to be exact.
To keep in touch and get together, we do ‘Cyber Dinners’ on FaceTime.

It’s easy!  We log on to FaceTime at 6:00 PM.  Wine, beer and conversation carry on throughout the dinner.  Oh, the conversation!  Three hours fly by.  We logged off feeling good, very good.

I smile as I type those words.

Who do you miss?  Is it your brother and his family, or your parents?  Is it good friends nearby, or your adult children?  Is it far away friends or a co-worker?

Stay connected.
Now is a good time.
Have a cyber dinner with friends and family.
Everyone feels good.
So, get the ball (cyber dinner) rolling.


Posted in behavior, Expressing words and feelings, Family, Inspiration, Love, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 93 Comments

A “Jennie Story” – On YouTube

This has been a whirlwind of a week.  Each of the past five days I have posted a video of me reading aloud a picture book, and an episode of chapter reading, every day on my new YouTube channel. It is very popular.  Children and their older siblings, parents, and people who heard through the grapevine about Jennie and her reading aloud, are fans.  More importantly, they are listening to the words of great stories.

McKinley asked for a “Jennie Story.”  I tell one every day at lunchtime at school, so of course she is missing hearing this.  We’re trying to keep consistency and familiarity for children in our online distance learning through YouTube, so I posted a story.

“The Spider Story”  It happened like this…

As the weeks go by, reading aloud and also telling “Jennie Stories” on YouTube will be a constant.  Technology is giving me a way to reach children and give them what I do in school.  Words and stories will carry them as we go through this pandemic.


P.S.  The YouTube channel is open to anyone.  Go to YouTube, click on channel, and then type in Aqua Room.  You won’t believe the great books I’m reading next week!  I have so many Jennie Stories to tell, too!

Posted in books, chapter reading, children's books, Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Inspiration, picture books, preschool, reading, reading aloud, reading aloud, storytelling, teaching | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 83 Comments

When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade!

It happened quickly.  Schools closed for two weeks.  Teachers went in on Friday to do a deep cleaning, from surfaces to toys, even markers and the cover of every book.  Over the weekend the closings of public places skyrocketed.  On Monday schools were mandated to close for three weeks.

As a teacher, I need to reach out to children and teach.  But how?  There is little for them to do outside of home.  And then it struck me.

I can read to them online!

Surely there was a way to do that.  I had read aloud the book The Poet’s Dog on my blog.  Maybe YouTube would work for the children?  I watched a tutorial on how to set this up.  On one hand my heart was pounding with excitement, and on the other hand I was filled with terror.  This non-techy person was on the end of the 10 meter diving platform staring at the deep water below.

I did it.  I persevered.  The idea of being able to read aloud to the children was the driving force to make me jump off that 10 meter platform.  I set up a YouTube account.  Children (and anybody) can go to YouTube, click on ‘channel’, then go to Aqua Room.  Voila!

Every day I will post reading aloud one picture book, and reading aloud the next episode in our chapter reading book, Little House in the Big Woods.  Last week, barely five days ago, we left off on page 53.  I picked up where we left off.

Thank goodness I did!  Children were thrilled, and parents sent me photos of their children watching me read aloud. I was flooded with emails.  Apparently many children told their parents they had to go to school and watch Jennie read.


There I am, on the screen.  It seems surreal.  Yet, it is a good way to be with the children and bring books and stories to them.  Here are the picture books I am reading aloud over the next two weeks, with more to come:

Here I am reading The Seven Chinese Sisters, by Kathy Tucker:

Here I am reading a great episode of our chapter reading book:

Three weeks is a long time, especially for children.  Of course we will be bringing more to them online, yet the constant will be reading aloud.  As the weeks go by, you are welcome to hop over to YouTube and hear a good story.  That might be a ray of sunshine.


Posted in Book Review, books, chapter reading, children's books, Early Education, Inspiration, picture books, preschool, reading, reading aloud, reading aloud, Teaching young children | Tagged , , , , , , | 136 Comments

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

charles french words reading and writing



May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields
and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

(Traditional Irish Blessing)

In this time of uncertainty, risk, and danger, please remember our connections, our strengths, and our blessings.

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Posted in Uncategorized | 21 Comments

Rodgers and Hammerstein, My Mother, and Me

It was my tenth birthday.  Ten was the age when we graduated from birthday parties with paper hats and streamers and playing ‘Pin the Tail on the Donkey’. For my birthday I had the choice of taking three friends to Camden Park, an amusement park, or taking one friend to see Oklahoma on stage.  I picked Oklahoma.  I chose wisely.

I never knew music could be so wonderful.  I was swept away.  Suddenly music was more than a song.  It made me want to dance, spread my arms wide, and sing out loud.  It had feeling.  It opened the whole world wide.

Thank you, Rodgers and Hammerstein.  They brought to music what Charles Dickens brought to literature – real people, and a sense of understanding.

Many weekends I spent with my good friend Kirk, who also loved musicals.  We played Rodgers and Hammerstein record albums, dressed up in costumes, and became part of the story.  We sang with abandon.  This would become an important part of my teaching later on – bringing heart and soul into music, and eventually into reading aloud.

I vividly remember The King and I, and also South Pacific.

Like Oklahoma, I saw the stage performances.  Now, I was latching onto specific songs as if they were a lifeline.  “Shall We Dance” and “Whistle a Happy Tune” were powerful songs from The King and I.

The tears came with “Some Enchanted Evening” from South Pacific. It ripped at my heart.  An older man and a younger woman, children he had previously fathered – all come into play with this song.  This was my first introduction into an unconventional love relationship.  Rodgers and Hammerstein went even deeper, with a love affair, racial prejudice, and the issue of social consequences.  That was strickly taboo in the early 50’s.  Yet, it was natural and welcoming in the Broadway show.  When young Navy Lieutenant sang “Carefully Taught”, it was my first introduction to diversity and acceptance.  I have never forgotten.

The first time I saw my Mother cry I was fifteen.  Imagine that.  Even after my Father died, she never cried in front of her children.  She was ever strong.  You can grasp the shock when I saw her cry.  Back then, television aired a movie after the 11 o’clock nightly news.  My sister and I stayed up to watch the movie, Carousel.  Mother must have heard it and came downstairs to join us.  Apparently she had seen the Broadway show and loved it.

The end of the movie is high school graduation.  Bad Billy Bigelow, who was killed in a fight and left behind a young woman he loved and their daughter, is allowed to leave heaven and visit his daughter at her graduation.  He sings to her “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”  My Mother cried.  I cried.  My sister cried.  To this day, this is the song.  It’s more than the tears; it’s ‘Life 101’.

The Sound of Music is probably the most well known and popular of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musicals, and rightfully so.  It is music and a storyline that everyone loves and remembers.  Most people grew up on this movie.  I’m lucky to have grown up on so many more.

Fast forward to today.  Rodgers and Hammerstein did more to teach me about the world, people, relationships, life and death, and right and wrong.  It was the story they told, and of course the music.

I wasn’t a strong reader, so these were often my ‘books’.  When I began teaching, music became an important part of what I did with children.  Not the children’s songs that teachers teach, but real music, from classical to Broadway to soul – the real stuff.  Oh, it has made a big impact.

It was only natural that the passion for telling all the stories Rodgers and Hammerstein told transitioned to my reading aloud.  I grabbed every good book and read it to children in the same way their music did.  I stand, cry, sing, cheer…it’s a long list.  It’s what I do to make books come alive for children.

Thank you, Rodgers and Hammerstein.  You gave me my roots.


Posted in Death and dying, Diversity, Expressing words and feelings, Inspiration, music, Singing, The Arts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 80 Comments

Children’s Words, Trees and a Poem – A Finale

I wrote about our Tree Walk on a windy day in Part 3.  This walk was just one part of the blog post on Children’s Words.  Little did I know at the time that the walk, and their words, would grow.

Explode is more like it.

The tree walk was windy.  After the walk we brainstormed words.  Nothing formal, just words about what they saw or felt.

We asked the children to write a poem, using these words, their words.  The words would remind them of the Tree Walk and bring to life the adventure, once again.  And it did just that!  Words are powerful, especially through poetry.

The trees and leaves are moving.
Leaves are falling off.
Prickly evergreen.
Bare deciduous.
Spiders crawling on the tree.
The wind blows the leaves away.

Wow!  I will never underestimate the power of words and the natural creativity of children.


Posted in art, Expressing words and feelings, Nature, Poetry, preschool, Teaching young children, Writing | Tagged , , , , | 46 Comments