In 1952 my own mother was still a young child. I'm not sure if she read "Charlotte's Web" which author E.B. White published when my mother was chasing after her three older sisters through the family's apricot orchards in central California. She told me all kinds of stories, like the time she ate too many green apricots. But she never read to me "Charlotte's Web."

It was Mrs. Couch, my second- and third-grade teacher in the small mountain school of Alpine County, California who first read the book out loud to me...and to my 14 other classmates. Even now I can close my eyes as if I were seated in my wooden and metal desk, and hear Mrs. Couch reading about the most motherly spider ever, Charlotte.

To me, Charlotte was the kind of mother-hen (except she was a spider) who watched out for those younger and more vulnerable. She cared for little Wilbur, the pig. I think any child can relate to Wilbur, who was naturally happy and unsuspecting of why he was being raised on a farm. He missed his own mother, but Charlotte served as a kind and compassionate substitute. She also saved his life, knitting words into her web to describe Wilbur in an effort to avoid impending pig-doom.

Books like this have heart, and children need adults to take time to read to them out loud. You might think that such a book as "Charlotte's Web" is too long to read to a second-grader, but consider the healthy impact of doing so--chapter books not only build vocabulary, they spark imagination and encourage children to read more. Because of this book, I became a voracious reader and ultimately a prolific writer.

All because someone read to me about a motherly spider.

E.B. White not only authored such children's classics as "Charlotte's Webb" and "Stuart Little," he also co-wrote (along with William Strunk), "The Elements of Style." This "little" book often open on my desk, has served as my constant companion to master style. Indeed, it is a smaller book than "Charlotte's Web," but definitely beyond grade-school comprehension. It is dense and vigorous--the best book on what is correct, acceptable and distinguishing in writing. Every writer should own a copy.

Another chapter book series that I read after my introduction to "Charlotte's Web" was the "Little House on the Prairie" series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. What is interesting to note, is that artist, Garth Williams, illustrated the books of both Wite and Wilder.

While the goal is to read, "Charlotte's Web" has been made into a movie. Twice. The first was an animated feature from 1973 and the second a 2006 adaptation. Be sure to read the book first!

You'll see in this movie trailer just how special and motherly is Charlotte.

Did someone read chapter books to you as a child?

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If you like children's books, consider writing a review like this one. Visit our Books for Kids Contributor. What was your favorite children's chapter book and why?

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  • AmyLOrr Apr 04, 2014 @ 7:46 am
    Such a wonderful review! My copy of Charlotte's Web is looking at me right now, battered from where it was read and loved so much :)
  • ByCharliMills Apr 05, 2014 @ 3:58 pm
    Thank you! And happy to hear that you have a battered copy, meaning it's been well-read.
  • mbgphoto Feb 13, 2014 @ 10:09 am
    This is my granddaughters favorite book. When she was smaller her father read it to her at bedtime.
  • susan-zutautas Feb 10, 2014 @ 3:34 pm
    I was in the 2nd grade too when my teacher (cannot remember her name) read Charlotte's Web to us.We all gathered together in a circle on the floor with our legs folded in front of us. Funny I can remember this as if it were just yesterday. In the past year I watched the movie but books have a magical thing about them over movies I find. You get to use your imagination so much more with a book.
    Great review!
  • Sylvestermouse Feb 05, 2014 @ 10:53 am
    What a fabulous review! You always write and review with a new perspective. I love that! This is no exception. I suppose somewhere deep down, I knew Charlotte was being "motherly", but I never really put it in those terms before. Most Excellent! I also found it interesting that you pointed out the illustrator was the same for Little House on the Prairie. I had not realized that, but I have always loved the illustrations in both books / sets!
  • Deborah-Diane Feb 04, 2014 @ 3:32 pm
    I loved "Charlotte's Web" and read it to my children.
  • eilval Feb 03, 2014 @ 12:33 pm
    An excellent read and classic - should be part of a child's family library !
  • ByCharliMills Feb 03, 2014 @ 8:32 pm
    Agreed! There are great modern stories and they pair well with classics like these for offering a well-rounded view of values and the world.
  • takkhis Feb 01, 2014 @ 10:12 pm
    I read this book a long time ago and indeed children can learn something good from this book. Great review!
  • ByCharliMills Feb 02, 2014 @ 1:51 am
    A good book like this takes us back in time, doesn't it?
  • sierradawn Jan 27, 2014 @ 2:38 am
    Both Charlotte's Web and Little House On The Prairie were books that my mother read chapters from at our bedtime story hour. Others were: Tom Sawyer & Huckleberry Finn, Bambi, White Fang & Call of the Wild, and all of the Thorton Burgess animal stories. This was a beautiful review of Charlotte's Web!
  • ByCharliMills Jan 29, 2014 @ 4:12 am
    Because of Charlotte's Web I did go on to read Little House series (several times, actually). Wonderful books that were read to you!
  • RubyHRose Jan 26, 2014 @ 10:14 pm
    Oh yes, yes, congratulations! I agree, this review of Charlotte's web is the best. Brought back a bunch of wonderful memories of when my kids also introduced the movie to me. None of us grew up on a farm, but we knew of older people who did and were fascinated by their stories too. I love spiders to this day because of Charlotte!
  • ByCharliMills Jan 29, 2014 @ 4:11 am
    What a way to change a child's view of spiders! Thank you!
  • eva_writes Jan 26, 2014 @ 2:36 pm
    This sounds like a very cute tale. I didn't know it, thanks!
  • ByCharliMills Jan 29, 2014 @ 4:10 am
    Even as an adult, this is a joyous read.
  • LynnKK Jan 26, 2014 @ 12:33 pm
    Congrats on being featured in Kab's Spotlight -- http://rocketsquids.squidoo.com/success-stories/spotlight-four-reviews-i-believe-2
  • ByCharliMills Jan 29, 2014 @ 4:09 am
    Thanks! That was a cool surprise!
  • LynnKK Jan 24, 2014 @ 4:00 pm
    "Some pig," indeed. I remember my aunts reading me "The Wind in the Willows" as a very young child. My mom read to me as well. Love Charlotte and Wilbur and even that sour rat!
  • ByCharliMills Jan 29, 2014 @ 4:09 am
    Mrs. Couch changed my world by reading to me.
  • Wednesday_Elf Jan 24, 2014 @ 1:06 pm
    Charlotte's Web is a classic and should be in the library of ... and read to... every child. And I enjoyed reading your wonderful review about it.

    I also want to comment about "The Elements of Style." When I left for college to major in Journalism, my grandfather gave me this book to take with me, and it has been a treasured part of my home library for over 50 years. He couldn't have given me a more perfect gift.
  • ByCharliMills Jan 29, 2014 @ 4:08 am
    That is so touching! I still have a spelling dictionary someone gave me as a kid when she found out I wanted to be a writer! It's more than the book--it's like a nudge of encouragement or a vote of confidence. Thanks for sharing!
  • leahjsongs Jan 23, 2014 @ 12:07 am
    My favorite chapter books were the Anne of Green Gables series and the Little House on the Prairie books, and of course like every other girl in my generation, Nancy Drew :)
  • ByCharliMills Jan 29, 2014 @ 4:06 am
    I missed Anne of Green Gables, somehow, but my children's babysitter read the books and would tell me all about the character and her antics so I feel as if I did read them. And, oh, Nancy Drew--of course!
  • 3QuartersToday Jan 22, 2014 @ 8:38 pm
    My Mother read Charlottes Web to me when I was in kindergarden, one of my first memories.
  • ByCharliMills Jan 22, 2014 @ 9:57 pm
    What a splendid memory!
  • grammieo Jan 22, 2014 @ 8:26 pm
    Great review, I love this story ! Congrats!
  • RenaissanceWoman2010 Jan 22, 2014 @ 8:10 pm
    When I was a second grade teacher, I made a big production out of reading Charlotte's Web to my class each year. I had a giant spider web draped over the reading area. We made origami pig puppets. I had a special, dramatic voice for each of the characters. My favorite time of day was just after lunch and recess when I would read to the children. They always found the book mesmerizing. And me? Well, it will always remain one of my ultimate favorite books because of these memories. I love that you chose to review Charlotte's Web and share how the book impacted you as a young learner (and now as a voracious reader and writer).
  • Ruthi Jan 22, 2014 @ 6:28 pm
    Oh, how I loved Charlotte's Web! This is one of those books I have read dozens of times throughout the years, to and for myself for one reason or another, and with a child or children. I believe the world a better place for those who cherish the life of this book. That said, I am thankful this is the book you chose from my review list, Charli, as you are sharing the 'motherly spider' and her message of Love worldwide.
  • MarcellaCarlton Jan 22, 2014 @ 4:58 pm
    It is so important to read to children and likewise to have them share a book with you! If you can read you can learn anything. I think my first book was Charlotte's Web, for a chapter book. I learned to read by doing my sister's homework upside down. It doesn't matter to me if its backwards and upside down or just regular I can read it.
  • RoadMonkey Jan 22, 2014 @ 3:03 pm
    I saw Charlotte's web on DVD before I ever read the book, it's GREAT story! I hated people reading to me - they were too slow! We used to have to read books aloud in school and I would always be reading under the desk top, ahead of where the one reading out loud was. With 20 or so people having to have a turn to read out loud, I usually got quite a way further through the book! That applied both in primary school and in secondary school. Mind you, I quite enjoy listening to "A Book at Bedtime" on the radio if I am in bed early enough. Yet, funnily enough, I read to all my children and now to my grandchildren.
  • favored1 Jan 22, 2014 @ 1:30 pm
    This is one of the books of the reading lists for my students. Even the older kids got into it with their mobiles.
  • DeniseMcGill Jan 22, 2014 @ 1:03 pm
    You are absolutely right about mothers/educators reading to children. It did that very thing for me. My mother was a voracious reader and lover of books and would often read aloud to us. But I also had an 8th grade English teacher who would choose a book to read aloud for about 20 minutes a day. Together they developed a love of books in me, and I read aloud to my children all the way through high school. Now my son is a writer of several young adult books. A proud heritage.
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  • ByCharliMills Jan 22, 2014 @ 12:06 pm
    I'll have to check it out...loved telling ghost stories as a kid!
  • partybuzz Jan 22, 2014 @ 10:09 am
    I'm a couple years older than your mom, and I read this book in about the 4th grade. It's still one of my favorite books, and I did read it to my children and grandchildren. And, watched the movie with them also. :)
  • ByCharliMills Jan 22, 2014 @ 12:07 pm
    I'm so glad you read to your kids and grandkids!
  • Woody45 Jan 22, 2014 @ 9:10 am
    Thank You. You brought back some memories. The end of the book really got to me when I was a kid. a true classic.
  • DaisyDixon Jan 22, 2014 @ 12:23 am
    Loved your review, this is one of my favorite childhood books!
  • ByCharliMills Jan 22, 2014 @ 12:08 pm
    Thanks, Daisy! I hope you read it to your little ones!
  • Susan52 Jan 21, 2014 @ 10:57 am
    I read chapter books to my kids, but I don't remember anyone reading them to me (although I certainly was read to when I was tiny). Great review, very nicely done!
  • ByCharliMills Jan 22, 2014 @ 12:09 pm
    Mrs. Couch was such a blessing. She read to us every day and they were all chapter books.
  • kiwinana71 Jan 20, 2014 @ 10:22 pm
    Nice review, I think I should read this one myself, you have made it look very interesting. No my mother never read to me back in the 1940's, sure wish see had, I feel I missed out, but I used to read all the fairy tales books myself as I grew up.
  • DaisyDixon Jan 22, 2014 @ 12:23 am
    This is definitely a great read. There is just something magical about this story :)
  • ByCharliMills Jan 22, 2014 @ 12:11 pm
    I love how Charlotte was so grounded yet caring.
  • ByCharliMills Jan 22, 2014 @ 12:11 pm
    My mother didn't read either, but I think any adult that takes the time to read to kids will make an impact! Which was your favorite fairy-tale? I can remember having a Walt Disney series of books. I loved "Sleeping Beauty."