Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Chapter Book

 The first chapter book I read to my kids is "Charlotte's Web" by E.B. White.

It is a great one to start with for many reasons. First, Wilbur's young and innocent character is right in line with a 4 - 6 year old's mind and he asks the questions and learns about life. The answers are provided by the animals around him, much as a parent, older friend or relative. Second, the farm setting is one that is carried over to so many other children's books and one that kids can relate to with the familiar animals. But, it teaches and describes more than a picture book does. The description of the "summer days" on the farm, the fact that Wilbur loves in manure, .....My daughter interrupts**  me every time I read the word manure to remind me that I am really talking about cows' poop.

**A side note on reading with kids and their inevitable desire to interrupt.  I train my kids to lightly touch my arm when they have a comment or question. I choose when on the page or chapter to pause, then ask them what they want to say. This way, I acknowledge they have an important thing to say, but I also show them how to wait and respect me as I read to a more natural place to stop.

Back to the book, White uses the seasons well too in this book showing a natural course of a year, and all the changes that go with it.

I really like that the book does not shy away from serious topics: death, loneliness (there is a chapter called "Loneliness"), adolescence, true friendship, sacrifice, hard work (Charlotte's Magnum Opus, for example),  compassion (Fern's father letting her raise Wilbur when she begs him not to kill him).

Finally, it is imaginative. Fern's character shows how a child can just "sit on a stool near the fence" and observe all that goes on in the lives of the animals around her and be totally entertained and content for hours and hours.

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