A primary primer

Every primary school student should read Charlotte’s Web, and absorb the magic in each word

March 05, 2023 03:44 am | Updated 03:44 am IST

Book cover of Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White and illustrated by Garth Williams.

Book cover of Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White and illustrated by Garth Williams. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

As a primary school educator, I have a wish. A straightforward wish; not a grandiose one that demands that every primary student receives an “A” in every subject. I also don’t anticipate any student receiving all As on the Progression Exams administered in the Cambridge section.

Children now prefer gadgets to books. They are under the spell of technology. Because of their extensive use of gadgets, they are seeking external approval rather than embracing their inner child. Everyone is on edge because of their erratic mood swings. Isn’t that a good excuse to ask for some “quiet time” alone?

So here is my wish: “I wish that all primary school students would read Charlotte’s Web, which was written by E.B. White. Absorbing the magic contained in each word in the book, I want them to become engrossed in the tale of Wilbur and Charlotte. I came across the book when it was decided to keep it a part of the third grade reading programme. I chose to read this book to myself first before sharing it with the class. The book’s title teases you into thinking it is a thriller with suspense and a typical cliffhanger at the end. The book’s true friendship and mutual respect are not immediately apparent from the cover page.

Furthermore, Fern’s patience in caring for Wilbur when he was a runt is unbelievable and amazing. When you read Chapter 4 of the book, you’ll realise that amazing things often occur just when you’ve given up all hope. In terms of being optimistic in life, this chapter serves as a guide. If one is willing to read this book attentively, there are countless lessons to be learned. The book’s core themes of loyalty, friendship, and integrity go beyond mere decoration.

We have become egocentric in the pursuit of modernity and revolution. Above all else, we want to maintain our own importance. Being able to get anything they want at their beck and call has alienated Gen Z and Gen X from the concept of “sacrifice”.

Charlotte’s message for Wilbur helps to protect him.

Charlotte’s message for Wilbur helps to protect him. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

In Chapters 19 and 20, the author demonstrates how Charlotte gave her all to ensure Wilbur won the competition so Mr. Zuckerman could save Wilbur. Charlotte did this by sacrificing everything.

The final chapter of the book demonstrates Wilbur’s development from a meek and cowardly runt into a trustworthy friend who looks after Charlotte’s kids after she passes away. I was reading the chapter with a lump in my throat and a layer of mist in my eyes.

The reason I keep urging people to read this book is that we have forgotten that books are windows and doors to the world, and we can’t keep our kids cooped up in the emotionless world of technology.

I would much rather work with kids who can hold the door open for a teacher carrying a bag of notebooks than all the academically gifted students in my class. I would also love to work with kids who can support a fellow student who is in tears. The values of kindness and respect should always come first, in the eyes of my students. That’s ultimately how they’ll prepare the world for a better tomorrow.


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