Third graders at Pleasant View Elementary are elated to be reading Kate DiCamillo’s knockout novel Because of Winn-Dixie. This book tells of a little girl who finds a neglected dog in a grocery store. The two become best friends and have many adventures together. Students are keeping a chapter-by-chapter journal that that tracks their knowledge of comprehension and many other reading skills. They are listing character traits, acquiring new vocabulary, comparing and contrasting characters, relating their own personal experiences, finding the theme of the story, and so much more.
Mrs. Adkins and Mrs. Smith are moving through the book at a steady pace to encourage strong answering skills and to develop writing skills. Mrs. Adkins is excited that the students have numerous opportunities to express themselves on a personal level. They are more invested in their writing when they share personal experiences and they practically beg to read them aloud to their classmates!
Students are motivated to read this story because they connect to Opal, the main character. Maxwell Disney of Mrs. Adkins’s class says, “I love this book because she took in a dog and saved him. I like that she wants to know about her mother; it shows that she is persistent!” Bailey Lawson can’t wait to finish the book because she wants to see what happens to Opal.
“Because of Winn-Dixie” may be a required third grade reading novel, but it continues to be a favorite year after year. “The students seem to really dive into this book. They are always begging for more when we complete our daily reading,” says Mrs. Adkins. Books such as this, help students develop their own personal love for novels. It shows students that books are more than just words and pages; they are the heart of the author put into ink. They are a gateway into worlds, lives, and adventures that we may never get to personally experience ourselves. Living through the lives of book characters can send you on a journey you never thought possible and allows you to feel the real emotions of the characters you encounter along the way.
The students are set to end this book before our scheduled spring break. This gives third graders many opportunities to write about their own adventures, revisit previously taught skills, and enjoy this awe-inspiring book. As Kate DiCamillo so beautifully states, “Reading should not be presented to children as a chore, a duty… It should be offered as a gift.”