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Teaching the Catholic faith to my first graders can sometimes be tricky. I want it to be fun and engaging yet educational and true to the teachings of the church. The problem is that because our history, faith and beliefs haven't changed through the years, the resources that are used often seem outdated. I remember this when I was going to catechism class as a child. It was fun to watch a movie but when we are showing the same 1980s cartoon in 2016, it is a problem. I'm always trying to find ways to teach the curriculum yet make it more relevant and relatable for my students. One of the areas I knew I wanted to improve upon was a having a read aloud time. Again, this is hard in our limited hour and a half sessions and it is hard with a lot of books that are outdated or aren't very kid friendly. All of that changed last summer when I came across a new Catholic chapter books series. I initially saw it on Instagram and bought the first two books on Amazon to read. After reading the first one, I knew I wanted to incorporate this book into my classroom.
The series is called Chime Travelers by Lisa M. Hendey. The first book in the series is called The Secret of the Shamrock. This was EXACTLY the type of resource I was looking for in my classroom. It is a great modern fiction story that I think the students can really relate to. However, woven throughout the story are Catholic teachings and doctrine but in a kid friendly manner. There is also a history lesson about a saint but it is told by the main characters traveling back in time.
In The Secret of the Shamrock, Patrick and his twin Katie are cleaning their church when the bells start ringing. Patrick travels back in time to Ireland where he meets a shepherd, who is trying to help him get home. It turns out to be St. Patrick. So not only, do you learn about what St. Patrick's life was like, but there are also chapters where the family participates in a baptism, cleans the church and discusses confession. All of this is worked into the story so it makes a great teachable moment yet it is told in a fiction story. I like that it uses actual Catholic vocabulary so children can become familiar with the terminology.
There are other books in the series too. I've ordered the second one but haven't read it yet. I was hoping that we would make it through the first two but so far we haven't finished the first one. Unfortunately, reading only one chapter for the last 5 minutes of class once a week makes it hard to finish the book. I'm really glad we added this piece to class and I think my students are really enjoying it. I'm excited to check out the other titles and I'm guessing even though it is a series, that we could probably read them out of order and pick a different one to try next year.
#1 The Secret of the Shamrock (St. Patrick)
#2 The Sign of the Carved Cross (St. Kateri Tekakwitha
#3 The Whisper in the Ruins (St. Francis of Assisi)
#4 The Mystery at Midnight (St. Clare)
#5 Strangers at the Manager (the Christmas story)
The books are listed as a 2-5 grade level. It has made a great read aloud for my first graders but I would say it would definitely be an end of second beginning of third grade level if you students read it independently.
Books 3-5 are only available for pre-order as of right now. I'm excited to read 3 and 4 since I visited Assisi with my family years ago and I'd love to read more about it and the saints who we visited and learned about on our trip.