News Feature

Originally published in The Weekly Packet, May 17, 2018
Brooklin School featured in PBS’s ‘Great American Read’
E.B. White project grabs national attention

by Anne Berleant

E.B. White, arguably Brooklin’s most famous resident, was recognized by PBS when Charlotte’s Web was selected as one of the 100 America’s “best-loved novels.” The Great American Read program and challenge kicks off May 22, and if viewers tune in they will see some young and perhaps familiar faces giving a shout-out to the classic children’s’ story.

The Brooklin School devoted the first four weeks of the school year to author White and his books, chronicling the different class book readings and projects on its Facebook page. While the posts didn’t go viral, they did catch the attention of PBS.

“Everything just aligned in the right way,” Principal Jil Blake said. “There are all sorts of E.B. White connections. Someone must have known [of the project] and shared Brooklin’s Facebook page [with] video clips and photos of great discussions of this prolific writer who lived in this town.”

A PBS film crew visited Brooklin last fall, filming students in what was once White’s barn, where most of Charlotte’s Web takes place, and in White’s writing cabin by the water.

“It was really kids speaking freely about the novel and what it meant to them,” Blake said.

A clip from the film will be used to introduce the book to a national audience on May 22 and, when the eight-part series resumes this fall, more will be included, Blake said.

For the school, the project was a way to create a sense of togetherness, as a new principal took leadership, through a thematic connection, Blake said. Now the school will share the project, and itself, with a national audience.

Blake said that the students who, as children, mainly live in the moment, will realize the impact of being included in a national literary discussion when they see the episode.

“Then they’ll be blown away,” she said. “That is instant gratification.”

As an educator, Blake’s gratification is differently hued: “The cool thing is that we get to come full circle, and end the year where we started.”