Stretched across the upper part of the doorway was a big spiderweb, and hanging from the top of the web, head down, was a large grey spider. She was about the size of a gumdrop. She had eight legs, and she was waving one of them at Wilbur in friendly greeting. “See me now?” she asked.
“Oh, yes indeed,” said Wilbur. “Yes indeed! How are you? Good morning! Salutations! Very pleased to meet you. What is your name, please? May I have your name?”
“My name,” said the spider, “is Charlotte.”
When I was in second grade, my teacher read Charlotte’s Web aloud to us. It is one of my happiest school memories. As a rule, our teachers did not read to us. We read to them. About Dick and Jane and Sally having fun, fun, fun. Now this was something else. I remember being completely absorbed in the wonder of what seemed to me the best story I’d ever heard. And when she was done, I checked the book out of the library and read it again myself.
Charlotte’s Web is the perfect read-aloud book. Surely you know the story. How a little pig named Wilbur, the runt of the litter, is rescued first by a girl named Fern, and then by a lovely, intelligent spider named Charlotte — Wilbur’s very, very dear friend. How Charlotte spins messages in her webs, declaring Wilbur to be Some Pig, exciting the whole countryside. How Wilbur goes to the county fair, secretly accompanied by Charlotte and the greedy rat, Templeton for one last miraculous display. And how the culmination of the story moves us with its mixture of sorrow and friendship and the on-going nature of life.
Please do not let your only knowledge of Charlotte’s Web be one of the movies made of this book. The language of the story is an essential part of its charm. E. B.
White was one of the most gifted of writers. By reading the story, you not only get to enjoy the gem as it was originally created, but you are exposed to some of the best writing out there, which is a great benefit to your child. The illustrations by Garth Williams are warm and comfy, as you would expect. Children as young as 5 could listen to this one nicely.
Listening to an author read their own story is always a treat, as you hear the tone they had in mind while writing it. Listening to E.B. White read is really delightful. I love his matter-of-fact, New-England-accented style. Here’s a link to an audio version of Charlotte’s Web read by E.B. White. Click on the link, and then click on the green “Sample” icon. Enjoy!