Charlotte’s Web or Why I Love Reading

March 4th, 2007

Have you read Charlotte’s Web? If not, you should. If you have, you should go back and read it again.

I read Charlotte’s Web a few times as a kid and right now I am reading the book to my kindergarten class. They are so captivated by the book. My class does not sit still or sit quiet while I read a 5 minute picture book. But they will sit perfectly still for 3 chapters of Charlotte’s Web. Lately, I’ve been striking a deal with the class, during rest time (yes, kindergarteners still get those cute little mats to lay down on for 30 minutes of rest time) they have 2 choices, they can either lay quietly and sleep or lay quietly and listen to me read Charlotte’s Web. Since we began the book, there has been no talking, no asking to go to the bathroom, no bothering the person next to them, nothing but silence and the occational “What’s the rat’s name?” or “How come Wilbur is so sad?”

Now, if this were a “regular” kindergarten class, listening quietly to Charlotte’s Web wouldn’t amaze me all that much, but my class is kids who are not read to on a regular basis, whose first language is Somali, have a very limited vocabulary, and 90% of the time can’t tell me the plot of Goodnight Moon. (In case you were wondering the plot is he’s going to bed and saying goodnight to everything.) But when we are reading Charlotte’s Web, my students remember the names of all the characters, they understand that Charlotte is trying to save Wilbur’s life, they know that Fern comes to visit Wilbur and can hear the animals talk, they understand that Charlotte writes words in her web. And big or old fashioned words like ice box, cellar, trough, gander, predicament, and destiny, don’t even phase them.

I’m not sure what is so appealing to them – if it’s the fact that they are being read to for a half an hour everyday, if they really like the story, or if it’s because it’s a chapter book like the “big kids” read – but a riot almost broke out on Thursday when we closed school before I had a chance to read another chapter. I guess I don’t really care why they like the book so much, I’m just glad they do. I was told at the beginning of the year by a couple of teachers that reading books that “advanced” to my class would be pointless because they wouldn’t understand any of what was being read to them. They may not understand all of what is being read, but they do understand some of it. I”m pretty proud of my kids for trying to understand this book. Really, if you have time, go back and read Charlotte’s Web, but read it from the point of view of a 5 year old who, 3 months ago, only knew 5 words in English.

After we finish Charlotte’s Web, we are going to read Ramona the Pest. Hopefully they will fall in love with Ramona as much as they have with Charlotte.

If we get through both of those books, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe is also on my list of good “read aloud” books. I’ll let you know which one was their favorite.

One Response to “Charlotte’s Web or Why I Love Reading”

  1. jaime on March 6, 2007 4:57 pm

    I LOVED Charlotte’s Web. I also remember being riveted during The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.

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