Books and Reading, Faith and Learning

by H.F. Poehlmann, M.Ed. and Virginia D. Wiedenfeld, M.Ed.

Integrate the Catholic faith into your language arts lessons with these creative ideas.

Reading enables an individual to learn for a lifetime. Every teacher must consider the question “How can I help this student to love reading?” The more one reads, the more one learns. Therefore, every effort must be made to ensure students read as much as possible. Students must be able to enjoy reading for both information and pleasure.

Whatever is read, whether fiction or non-fiction, will have greater lasting value if tied to the Catholic Christian faith. The goal of this article is to share activities which will encourage you and your students to be excited about reading and to grow in our faith. Activities promote the journey of self-education through reading and becoming a lifelong learner. These activities also correlate with the Common Core curriculum.

As teachers, we must remember: “The valiant one whose steps are guided by the Lord, who will delight in his way, may stumble, but he will never fall, for the Lord holds his hand” (Psalm 37:23-24). The following activities will not only help students grow in their Catholic faith but also improve their reading and writing skills in a faith-filled way.


Get-to-Know-You Activity

The following are questions used on the first day of class to get to know others. Participants can write their answers on a 3” x 5” card and then begin the activity.


Where were you born?
What is special about your name?
What are you excited about?
What is something no one knows about you?
Who is your favorite saint?
The best lesson you have been a part of was….
What do you like about your faith?
What is your favorite religious book?

Say the following to the students after they have finished filling in their cards: Pair up by finding one other person in the room who has the same favorite saint or a similar saint to yours. Introduce yourself by answering the questions on your card. Listen to the other person’s answers to the questions. Find two other people in the room whose saints are compatible with your saint(s), forming a group of four. Similar saints, for example, may all be Apostles or martyrs or perhaps good examples of humility. What qualifies as a similarity is limited only by your imagination.
Once groups are formed, ask each group to share the names of its saints and what aspect ties the saints together.


Book Sharing

Book sharing allows students to hear and learn about a variety of different books. Book sharing also utilizes skills that are correlated in the English Language Arts criteria within the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) as well as the TEKS.

The teacher begins the process by modeling the process with a favorite a book he or she has read. Once students have chosen and read their books, they gather in groups of three to share a book talk. See models of book talks on the video site Students share with one another about why they like a particular book. Book sharing can be written down in advance (writing grade) or done spontaneously.

Procedures for student book sharing: 1. Read your book thoroughly. 2. Open the sharing session with a “hook” tied to your Catholic faith (e.g., a question, something exciting, or something surprising from the book). 3. Tell just enough about the book to inspire the listener to read it. 4. Bring props related to the book. 5. Share a Bible verse that reflects the theme of the book or an important message of the book. 6. Suggest similar books, and have your audience share book titles with similar themes or messages. (Click here for a Rubric for Cooperative Group Effort for Book Sharing.)

Reading becomes even more valuable if the reader writes about what was read. Teachers must remember that writing and reading go hand in hand. Writing reinforces reading. Reading reinforces writing. And both give us an opportunity to reflect on our Catholic faith! (Click here for a Rubric for Writing and Presentation.)


Saints Book Activity

My Name Is Not Isabella by Jennifer Fosberry is a good book to model for research in the lives of the saints. Although this book is written on an elementary level, it is a memorable way to research the lives of the saints. St. John Chrysostom, in his Orations in 396 ad, states, “When you perceive that God is chastening you, fly not to His enemies … but to His friends, the martyrs, the saints, and those who were pleasing to Him, and who have great power in God.” Therefore, knowing about the saints and tying what we have learned to our lives is a priceless treasure for a lifetime. Ideas for all grades:

• Have the students find five saints whom they admire and rewrite My Name Is Not Isabella, substituting the saints for the characters in the book.
• Have the students write about Doctors of the Church in the same format.
• Have students visit different times in Church history in the same story format.
• Have the students visit different places the Blessed Mother has appeared in the same format.

In writing their own versions of the book, students should be sure to include a factual section at the end about each saint, Doctor of the Church, or Church event(s) to document their knowledge of their faith.


Quick Bible Activities

To encourage both reading and growing in faith, create activities that use Bible passages. As an example, put in biblical order the Ten Ways to Love:
1. Listen without interrupting. (Proverbs 18)
2. Speak without accusing. (James 1:19)
3. Give without sparing. (Proverbs 1:9)
4. Pray without ceasing. (Colossians 1:9)
5. Answer without arguing. (Proverbs 17:1)
6. Share without pretending. (Ephesians 4:15)
7. Enjoy without complaint. (Philippians 2:14)
8. Trust without wavering. (Corinthians 13:7)
9. Forgive without punishing. (Colossians 3:13)
10. Promise without forgetting. (Proverbs 13:12)

A follow-up activity might be to have the students find their favorite Bible verses on love, faith, or humility and write them down. Then have them come together to arrange the verses in the order they are found in the Bible.

Other quick lessons can be found at the Daughters of St. Paul’s J-Club website, Another easy way to get kids excited about books is to show author videos from Scholastic, viewable at


Book Sale Activity

If your school will be holding a Daughters of St. Paul book sale, get the students excited about it by having them review the book choices for the sale and then fill out the Wish List below.
1. Select three books you would like to read. Write them down in the order you would read them.
2. Write three reasons why you would read your number one choice.
3. Find one other person who selected your first (then second, then third) choice.
4. Write one reason that he/she put down to read this book that you agree with.
5. Write one reason that he/she put down to read this book that you disagree with.
6. Write a four-sentence summary of what you learned from this activity.
Reading is crucial to learning. Given all the other means of entertainment surrounding individuals today, such as television, iPods, cell phones, etc., people in general and students more specifically can be distracted. However, reading creates vicarious experiences that will assist the reader in making wise decisions. The more books an individual reads, the more opportunities he or she has to consider, “What would I do in this situation?” When real-life events require wise decisions, well-read students will have more experiences on which to rely. Reading allows an individual to learn and experience worlds to which he or she cannot physically travel. Reading allows an individual to become his or her own teacher. To read is to gain knowledge, but that knowledge has little value if it is not retained and acted upon; therefore, using classroom activities designed to assist the student with a faith-filled journey can only add to the reader’s future success.


Virginia D. Wiedenfeld is the part-time librarian at Notre Dame Catholic School in Kerrville, TX, and is teaching Integrated Reading and Writing at Northwest Vista College. H. F. Poehlmann has recently retired after working as a teacher for 36 years. The last 27 years she worked as an English instructor for Blinn College.

Source: Today’s Catholic Teacher, January/February 2014