I went into the school year expecting great things from my new set of fourth graders. As all teachers will freely admit to, we spend time during the year regaling our coworkers with stories of our students, and so I already had a favorable impression of my incoming class from tidbits I had acquired. I was not disappointed. My children have already impressed and inspired me so much within the first two weeks of school, so I thought I would share some stories with you this year about what we’ve talked about. First we’ll start with my children’s love of reading.
Within the course of the first day, I was already impressed with their knowledge of literature. I explained how the students that year were going to have to select different genres to read from. As I described what makes a book a mystery, one girl (we’ll call her Eva) chimed, “Like Nancy Drew?” I agreed with her, excited that she knew of the classic heroine (I have had children before who have never heard of the girl detective).
A boy (let’s say Ian) added, “Or like Sherlock Holmes?” I was flabbergasted that a ten year old was aware of this classic literary detective but also tickled pink. Sherlock Holmes is one of my favorite characters of all time.
Another girl “Iris” was able to list a good number of fantasy novelists from C.S. Lewis to J.R.R Tolkien to J.K Rowling. She and several of the other students showed deep interest in mythology. One boy “Winston,” picked my book of Norse mythology to read, and I caught him singing under his breath the other day, “Jotunheim Jotunheim, Odin Odin!” I had to stifle a giggle.
It is no secret to anyone who knows me that I am a bibliophile. Words give me life, whether I’m reading them or writing them. I often feel devastated and disconnected when someone does not share my love for literature. The literary knowledge these kids are displaying lets me know they likewise share my love for written words, and it’s making my heart burst with pride.
My kids are also sharp when it comes to word origins. The other day the difficult word malice appeared in something we were reading. I gave them a quick Latin lesson about the root of mal meaning poor/bad (as in malnourished) or bad/evil (as in malicious). My one sharp student asked if this is where Disney got the name Maleficent from, which is correct. Some of the other students were able to make connections to other mal words. We also talked about how the word mallet wouldn’t be included, because the root word is spelled with two l’s.
It’s refreshing to be able to have these mini-lessons with my students. This wouldn’t be at all possible if the children’s parents hadn’t taken the time to introduce them to good reading habits. It makes me happy as a teacher to see parents making sure their kids are being immersed in written language and encouraging a love of reading. As a teacher, I can stand up in front of the classroom all day extolling the virtues of literature, but if the parents aren’t prioritizing reading at home, I might as well be talking to a brick wall. Parents are the critical cornerstones that build a child’s love for language.
If you are a parent, make sure you illustrate the importance of reading by:
- Keeping books in the house
- Reading in front of your children
- Showing interest in the books your child is reading
- Discussing literature with them
- Having a positive attitude about books
These, plus many other steps, can instill a lifelong appreciation for literature and build a child’s knowledge of language and spelling.