Growing Excitement for Reading in Newark

To decide how they feel about a book, my students look at the cover, read the title, and—if vaguely intrigued—flip open the book to see the pictures, or lack thereof. Sometimes they seek out a specific book because they enjoy the author or someone else in the class has read it, but most of the time, the cover becomes the deciding factor. Because I want them to read, I say nothing about their judging of books by the cover.

Enter the fifth-grade reading circle, where novels have filled our year. Many books greet us with one cover picture or perhaps different printings provide us with different pictures. Slowly but surely, each story pulls us in. The characters become our friends. Their trials and troubles become our problems to solve. We are convinced that the author might have said more to us than the mere words on the page. The challenges of the lives in a story apply to our lives in the real world. Their successes and failures show us more than we might have seen on our own. One student recently commented, “These books are really interesting! If I had just looked at this cover, I would have thought it was an adult book and was going to be boring because it didn’t have any pictures, but this is really exciting!”

The excitement for learning warms my heart.  As I direct discussions and give meaningful assignments, it can bring the written word to life. The Bible is a book often without pictures, and the fifth-graders are being encouraged to read it for themselves. I am thankful for quality devotional materials that help my students read the Word and apply it to their lives. I watch as students joyfully lead each other in devotions during Bible class once a week. They dutifully prepare and share with the group when it is their week to lead, volunteer to pray over lunch, and share about the special events at their respective churches, but it does not always produce excitement for the God we sing to in chapel.

As a teacher, I pray that the interest and joy of learning remains as these fifth graders move into middle school. I  pray that their interest in God becomes more than teacher/parent/pastor-directed discovery. I pray for committed devotion to the excitement in following Jesus. I Pray that their devotion inspires the students around them. I Pray that these students will be used by God to further focus the middle school and entire student body on Him. I Praise God for His perfect Word, which is much more than any book cover could ever boast.

Faith Watts is a teacher at Newark Christian School in New Jersey.