(The following is an email sent by an eighth grade literature teacher who received copies of the book from a parent. The identifying names have been changed.)
It’s the beginning that sets the tone. It needs to touch the heart. It can’t be just another introduction to another class book that students are required to read for a grade. As a teacher, I want it to penetrate the heart of each of my students. It’s the beginning that sets the tone.
Each student is handed a copy of Safely Home by Randy Alcorn and asked to look at the dust jacket of the book. They are to write what they see. It amazes me what they pick up from a simple activity as this. Minor details are discovered. Predictions are made about the content of the book. Their insights are creative and accurate. Once again, they are teaching me.
I ask the students to remove the dust jacket of the book. My kids now are exposed to an incredible drawing by Ron DiCianni, that screams of meaning and emotion. I ask them to write down what they see in the picture. They are given three minutes to write down everything. Every detail. We discuss their observations. I thought I had studied that picture well. I didn’t have a clue. The students found every ounce of every detail in that picture. They then, once again, predicted the book’s content.
There is an excitement in the air. An expectation. A genuine interest in this foreign book that looks kind of fat with no pictures in the middle. My 8th graders go through the same ritual whenever we start a book that we will read together. How many pages? Any pictures? How small is the font? They often check out or in based on the answer to these questions. I felt like I might have hooked them on this one with this introduction. Maybe.
And then came the dedication...
I ask them to read the dedication of the book. You see, I read the dedication months before and my heart beat faster. Tears began to run down my cheeks when I read it. It really nailed me. But these are 8th graders. They are tough you see. Image is everything. “Cool” is the operative word. And then I began to see the faces of my students. Tears appear in those beautiful eyes. Mouths are opened. A loud hush falls over the classroom. A new world just opened to them. A girl interrupts the holy silence and quietly asks, “Can we start it today, Mr. Thomas?”
I smile for I now know they are ready. Page numbers won’t matter anymore. God is about to do a marvelous work in their lives through this new classic at this Christian school.
And I smile again...
This article appeared in the Summer 2002 issue of Eternal Perspectives.