I never realized how much wisdom can be found in children’s literature until I became an elementary school teacher.
Every year for the past ten years or so I read one of my all time favorites Charlotte’s Web out loud to my class. If you have never read this story it is about the remarkable friendship between a spider and a pig.
I love to imitate the voices of the characters as I read this beloved tale. Glancing up from time to time, I marvel at how focused the children are and I often wonder how they are visualizing the scenes and characters in their minds. Their laughter or giggles at the antics of some of the characters are music to my ears.
The chapter called “Last Day” always chokes me up during the scene when Charlotte dies and I always have a hard time reading those lines aloud. The children are taken by surprise and all sit very still and look at me unsure of how to react. Some smile sweetly, some even walk up to give me hug as I dab the swelling of tears from my eyes. They offer words of comfort such as “It’s only a book, it really didn’t happen.” “It’s okay to feel sad.” I smile and assure them I am ok and I can see the relief on their faces. I think it leaves a good impression though, that it is ok and yes, even teachers cry.
Throughout the story the author, E.B. White, offers many delightful and insightful quotes that speak to me now ~ I never noticed when I was a child. I have to share a few of my favorites:
“Children almost always hang onto things tighter than their parents think they will.”
“You have been my friend,” replied Charlotte. “That in itself is a tremendous thing…after all, what’s a life anyway? We’re born, we live a little while, we die…By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that.”
“THE BARN was very large. It was very old. It smelled of hay and it smelled of manure. It smelled of the perspiration of tired horses and the wonderful sweet breath of patient cows. It often had a sort of peaceful smell—as though nothing bad could happen ever again in the world.”
“Most people believe almost anything they see in print.”
“The night seemed long. Wilbur’s stomach was empty and his mind was full. And when your stomach is empty and your mind is full, it’s always hard to sleep.”
As I read aloud the final lines of this wonderful story: ” She was in a class by herself. It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.” I am usually fortunate enough to look up just in time to see the smiles emerge as the children break into the sweet sound of applause. It thrills my heart when this happens and it gives me hope that they will always remember this sweet story and these most precious days of their lives.