Charlotte the spider, Wilbur the pig, and various other barn animals live on a farm where they are lovingly observed by eight-year-old Fern. This classic children’s novel teaches young readers important lessons about friendship, love, and sacrifice.
Below are some reading passages that we have hand picked to supplement this book. Be sure to read the passage summaries and our suggestions for instructional use.
In Clare Mishica’s fable “Zebra and Wasp,” a zebra helps a wasp escape from a spider web.
Read this text after chapter 5, “Charlotte,” to have students think about the ways first impressions can change. In this chapter, Wilbur thinks his new friend is bloodthirsty and cruel. Have students discuss the conversation between Charlotte and Wilbur. Then, have students discuss the interactions between Zebra and Wasp in the passage. Ask students to compare what the various characters think about each other. Ask, “What does Wilbur think about Charlotte when he first meets her? What does the Zebra think about Wasp in the beginning of the story? How does Wasp change Zebra’s opinion about her? Based on the last paragraph of the chapter, how do you think Charlotte and Wilbur’s relationship will change?” Students may share ideas about friendship and first impressions, perhaps making connections to their own experiences.
In this fable of Aesop, a thirsty crow is desperate for a drink of water.
Read this text after chapter 11, “The Miracle,” to have students analyze the ways the characters solve problems and what it reveals about them. In this chapter, Charlotte creates the first message in her web. Have students discuss Charlotte’s idea to help Wilbur. Then, have students discuss Crow’s solution for his thirst in “The Crow and the Pitcher.” Ask students to compare Charlotte and Crow. Ask, “How are Charlotte and Crow similar? What traits do they have in common?” Students may describe characteristics like cleverness, resourcefulness, and determination.
In “The Sheep and the Pig,” retold by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey, a sheep and a pig look for a place to build a home.
Read this text after chapter 12, “A Meeting,” to have students analyze the interactions among various characters. In this chapter, the barn animals come together to brainstorm ideas for Charlotte’s next web. Have students discuss the animals’ contributions to the conversation, especially those from Charlotte, the old sheep, and Templeton the rat. Then, have students discuss the conversations the sheep and the pig have with the goose, rabbit, and rooster in “The Sheep and the Pig.” Have students discuss what the animals’ interactions in both texts reveal about teamwork. Ask, “How does Charlotte decide on the next word for her web? How do the animals build the house in ‘The Sheep and the Pig?’ What do this chapter and the passage tell us about the importance of working together?” Students may share examples of how individual ideas and skills contribute to the whole group, and how working together helps the animals achieve important goals.
In “The Sacrifice of the Rainbow Bird,” a bird brings fire to humans to help them survive the winter.
Read this text after chapter 21, “Last Day,” to have students analyze character motivation. In this chapter, Wilbur has won a prize at the fair and Charlotte is close to dying. Have students discuss Charlotte’s determination to save Wilbur and the importance of their friendship throughout the story. Then, have students discuss Rainbow Bird’s determination to save his people in “The Sacrifice of the Rainbow Bird.” Ask students to compare Charlotte’s and Rainbow Bird’s actions. Ask, “How did Charlotte save Wilbur? How were Charlotte’s actions throughout the story similar to Rainbow Bird’s in the passage? What do their actions reveal about the characters?” Students may draw on themes of friendship, love, and sacrifice and give examples of the characters’ courage in both texts in saving those for whom they care deeply.
In Jennifer Mann’s poem “The Mysterious Egg,” farm animals wait for a mysterious egg to hatch.
Read this text after finishing the last chapter, “A Warm Wind,” to have students analyze word choice. In this chapter, Charlotte’s children are born and Wilbur honors his deep, loving friendship with Charlotte. Have students discuss the descriptions of the seasons changing and the birth of the spiders in this chapter. Then, have students discuss the descriptions of the setting and the animals in “The Mysterious Egg.” Ask students to compare the ways the authors of Charlotte’s Web and “The Mysterious Egg” write about nature. Ask, “What do the authors’ descriptions of nature in Charlotte’s Web and ‘The Mysterious Egg’ make you picture in your brain? How do the descriptions make you feel? What do you think the authors want you to understand about nature?” Students may share ideas about the beauty of nature and the joy it brings to the animals in the texts.