Celebrating E. B. White

Sally Rushmore edits the New Teacher Advocate. She formerly taught secondary science and computer applications at a community college.

We celebrated the birthday of Elwyn Brooks “E. B.” White last week–he was born July 11, 1899. He was a contributor to (and for a while, on the staff of) The New Yorker magazine. However, you probably know him as a book author. You may have used The Elements of Style, also simply known as “Strunk and White,” in an English composition class in college or high school. White’s college professor William Strunk, Jr. originally wrote The Elements of Style in 1918 and White enlarged and revised it in 1959. He updated it again in 1972 and 1979. An illustrated version came out in 2005. It was listed as one of the 100 best and most influential books written in English since 1923 in a 2011 list by Time. In it White said, “With some writers, style not only reveals the spirit of the man but reveals his identity, as surely as would his fingerprints.”

Most of us prefer to remember E. B. White for his children’s books. You most likely have read or seen the movie of Charlotte’s Web, which is often voted the top children’s novel for ages 9−12. You may also have read or seen movies of Stuart Little or The Trumpet of the Swan. These books are a few that were written by White. If you’ve never read them, get the boxed set so you can read them over and over—to yourself, your students, your own children, your grandchildren, and your neighbors’ children. Enjoy the movies as well. Either way you’ll learn the life lessons in a fun way.

He spent a great deal of time on a farm he and his wife owned in Maine, often going to the barn to write. After writing Charlotte’s Web about a spider he watched, he said, “I like animals, and my barn is a very pleasant place to be, at all hours!”

White’s influence as a writer was and still is far-reaching and will last for generations. Another example of his influence is a book called Here is New York. It is available on Amazon.com along with lesson plans and a study guide. It is appropriate for middle and high school students. It reflects his appreciation of the city he loved.

During his lifetime, many young readers asked Mr. White if his stories were true. In a letter written to be sent to his fans, he answered, “No, they are imaginary tales… But real life is only one kind of life — there is also the life of the imagination.” E. B. White died on October 1, 1985.

So whether you teach in the city or in a rural area, you will be happy to find a classroom management webinar to help you.

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