Charlotte's Web

Saturday, September 28, 2013

     This web was in front of my house this morning.  My husband, son and daughter came running into the house to tell me that I just had to see the spider web that was outside.  It was like Charlotte, herself, had spun that web with love.  The glorious masterpiece was a sight to behold, until my four year old walked right through the few supporting strands that connected it to the ground, and in a second the web was gone.  I actually, in a moment where reality blurred with literature, almost forgot that it wasn't Charlotte and I started to tear up a bit.  The moment faded as quickly as it had begun, as my son shouted, "Let's ride bikes!" and started running to the driveway.

     This moment happened a week after I walked into Mrs. Flowers' room and she happened to be reading Charlotte's Web.  I really do love that book.  I had thought of it this summer, when trying to prepare for my close reading workshop.  In my research, I found many references to how important it is for readers to use their prior knowledge and their emotions when reading.  It is very hard to have an emotional response to a book without using your own text to self connections.  If we take text to self away, will anyone still cry over Charlotte's Web?  Will the common core make us all clinical readers, where our own response is not important?  Text dependent questions could take the emotion out of everything.

     I have come to the conclusion that we need to make a connection to the events that are happening in the book, and the emotions that we can relate them to.  Students don't need to tell us, in great detail, all about how they saw a spider web, too.  They need to know how it felt when their pet died.  They need to know how if felt when they were totally alone and friendless on the playground.   They need to know how it felt when someone else cared about their success.  Because, if they did, they would cry while reading that novel.  They would fall in love with a great book, and that love will last beyond Read Aloud time.

     I came into Mrs. Flower's class, and she asked if I would read a chapter to her class so that she could see how I discuss theme.  I was reluctant, because they were nearing the end of the book, and I always cry.  She reassured me that they were still at the fair, so there would be no tears.  But, as we read about how Wilbur and his family felt about the pig next door winning, and how Charlotte had just laid eggs and was now exhausted and sickly, and how Fern had moved on from her primary concern of Wilbur and his life, the themes of life and death and friendship were abundant.  Those third graders and I had a great conversation about more than just the book.  I was blown away with the maturity of the conversation we had.  And then, I got to the part where they made the announcement that there was a special prize for Wilbur and they started to pack up, and knowing that Charlotte couldn't come with to see it...  I had to pass the book to Mrs. Flowers to prevent the tears from flowing.  I held it together, and told the kids that good books make you FEEL.  If the books they were picking for Read to Self did not make them feel anything, they should find something different the next time they book shopped.


     Books can change your life if you let them.  They can reflect your life in many ways.  I am a better person because of the lessons I learned as a kid through novels like Charlotte's Web.  Thank you to my own teachers for those experiences, and thanks to the 3rd graders who reminded me of it again.

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