by Ozzie Nogg
Stories written for children are often enjoyed by adults, too, as is the case with Charlotte’s Web, E. B. White’s 1952 classic novel about a pig named Wilbur and his friendship with a barn spider named Charlotte. In 2000, Publishers Weekly listed the book as the best-selling children’s paperback of all time. The appeal and popularity of the story recently led 3rd and 4th grade students from Friedel Jewish Academy to join forces with the Rose Blumkin Jewish Home to form an intergenerational Charlotte’s Web Book Club.
Karen Hook, Activities Director at the RBJH, chaired the program. “Our first scheduled meeting on Feb. 3 was snowed out,” Hook said, “but the Friedel kids and Blumkin Home residents met on Feb. 10 for a ‘getting to know you’ session. The students and residents introduced themselves and also learned about the characters in Charlotte’s Web.” During the first session, Friedel students and Blumkin Home residents paired up to make popsicle stick and yarn spider webs. “We encouraged them to help each other in constructing the spider webs,” Hook explained, “because we wanted to create interaction between the groups, not just have students make something and their partnered resident make something, but to work together instead. The craft time was a great way to get dialogue going between the generations.”
“After the students and residents read Charlotte’s Web together we discussed the relationship between Wilbur and Charlotte,” Hook continued. “The story is so moving, with its focus on the themes of friendship, loneliness, love, survival and loss. Charlotte’s Web is a story for all ages, and our sessions were total fun for all of us.” Paul Maudlin, Friedel Jewish Academy 3rd and 4th grade teacher, facilitated the program with Hook.
On Wednesday, Feb. 17, the group wrapped up the book club when they met to watch the Charlotte’s Web movie together. “We shared popcorn and special pig and spider web cupcakes from Star Catering,” Hook said. “In addition to enjoying the book and the movie, the kids and the residents formed wonderful friendships. Just like Wilbur and Charlotte do in the story.”
According to Maggie Conti, Director of Activities and Outreach Programs at the Blumkin Home, “The idea for the Charlotte’s Web Book Club originated with Zoe Berman, a young activities professional who volunteered at the Home last summer. From an intergenerational standpoint, the Book Club concept was a win-win activity, and we thank Zoe for proposing it.” A grant from AAA and the Cornhusker Motor Club Foundation paid for copies of Charlotte’s Web, including large print copies for Blumkin Home residents. The grant, secured by Beth Cohen, Friedel Jewish Academy Head of School, also covered the cost of the treats.