Chapter Books for Preschoolers: Charlotte’s Web

I’ve had lots of questions about when to start reading chapter books and what chapter books to start with, so I thought I’d keep a running log of the chapter books I’ve read with L&L:

#7 Charlotte’s Web
by E. B. White

We finished this book a week or two ago, and I have to admit I recommend it, but with reservations.  You probably all know the story of Charlotte’s Web as it has become a classic, but here’s a short synopsis anyway: the book tells the story of a spider named Charlotte and a pig named Wilbur who become unlikely friends.  When Wilbur is understandably upset by learning he will be probably be butchered, Charlotte promises she will try to save his life.  

Charlotte’s Web has become a classic, and for good reason.  The characters seem to really come to life–you feel their joys and you feel their sorrows–and the detailed descriptions E.B. White has written allow you to create the scenes in your mind as you read.  The tale of friendship between Charlotte and Wilbur is truly heartwarming!

So why then do I recommend this book with reservations?  Well, it has to deal with the death parts.  The topic of Wilbur possibly being killed — murdered even, it says a couple of times — is found throughout the book.  While I do think children need to understand where food comes from and such, the age at which they need to understand such things is variable depending on the sensitivity of the child, their personal experiences with and about death/dying, and on your beliefs as a parent.  Plus, this isn’t just any pig we are talking about being butchered; it is Wilbur, the sweet pig your child will come to be fond of, if not love.  And without giving too much away here, let’s just say that someone does die at the end of the story, so there’s that to deal with as well.

I had read the story as a child and knew about the death parts going into the book, yet I was still kind of blown away by how often it was mentioned, and the word “murdered.”  In the end though, we took the book really slowly, talked our way through it after we’d read a part, and both my kids really enjoyed it.  

If you’re ever unsure about a book, read it first yourself!!!  If you’re still not sure, just wait; there are plenty of other great books out there that you can be reading.  

Additional Notes:

  • There is a cartoon version of Charlotte’s Web and a “real people” movie version.  We watched both in the week following the finishing of the book and the kids really liked them.  I would occasionally ask questions during the movies like, “Who do you think that character is?” or “What’s going to happen now?” to test their comprehension of the book we’d read and to get them to actively think and interact with the movies instead of just passively watching.

Disclosure:  I am not affiliated with these products or companies in any way.

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Genny Upton

A former teacher turned stay at home mom to two preschool aged children. Creator (and writer) at In Lieu of Preschool and Parent Teach Play. Currently publishing my first children's picture book!

  • Karen says:

    My three-year-old and I read our first chapter book together – Flat Stanley – not too long ago; now we’re working our way through Emmaline and the Bunny. I find that she is interested for a couple of days (we read 1 – 3 chapters a day, depending on how long they are), and then she wants to take a few days off. She always comes back within a week, though. She also likes to sit with the books in bed after I say goodnight and flip through the pictures. We’re having a great time with chapter books!

  • I love this story! I think JDaniel would ask me to skip the dying part when he knew it was going to happen.

  • Keitha says:

    My son has loved to listen to me read chapter books since around the age of 3. He also enjoys listening to books on tape/cd in the car. When he was 4, we went through our library’s entire cd collection of the Magic Tree House books while driving around.

  • Danielle says:

    We love to read chapter books with our preschoolers. Have you read My Father’s Dragon? It is fun.

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