This is the next post in our “Teachers as Learners” series, and is the first of three posts by third-grade teacher Melissa VanTil.
This infographic has been popping up all over the internet over the past few years. Perhaps you’ve seen it:
The message is clear: Children who read do better on standardized tests than those who do not. Research backs this up and my experience as a teacher agrees with it too. But as a third grade teacher at a Christian school, this is not my primary reason for wanting my students to love reading. The gift that I want to give my students is the gift of naming the world.
I’m sure you remember your child’s first words: “mama,” “dada,” “ball,” “kitty.” One of the first things a baby does as it learns to talk is to name things. In much the same way, young children learn to name things they have never seen by reading about them in books. It begins with things that are very concrete: dinosaurs, the pyramids in Egypt, the rain forest. But as they get older they are able to label things that are more abstract.
In third grade we use our reading to learn how to name things…
We read Iggy Peck, Architect about a young boy who wants nothing more to design and build buildings, but his teacher will not let him do so at school. And my students learn to accept others gifts.
In Pie we meet Alice, who is mourning the loss of her Aunty Polly, who made the world’s best pies. And my students learn to empathize with those who grieve.
Owl and Rabbit in Too Tall Houses each want to have the taller house. They build their houses so tall that eventually they come crashing down. And my students learn that harmony and taking care of others is important.
Kelsey Green, Reading Queen is fed up with Cody in her class who doesn’t care about their reading competition, until she learns Cody cannot read. And my students learn about caring for those with special needs.
Every single story we read is an opportunity to show my students a window of grace and give that window a name. If my students leave third grade loving reading, they are better equipped to be Christ’s hands and feet in restoring a broken world. That is the gift I want to give my students.
The other things? The shared stories, the laughter, the adventures, the higher test scores?
Those are just added benefits.