The Giving Tree Book

The Giving Tree book by Shel Silverstein can be used to help children learn the joy that is found in giving to others.  It is a book about relationships and what true love looks like.

A lesson on giving to others is an essential one to teach our children in this day and age.  Also, this just makes for a really special read aloud time!

A Summary: The Giving Tree book

It begins...

Once there was a tree...

and she loved a little boy.

The story begins as an apple tree befriends a small boy.

As the boy grows, the tree gives of herself and her resources to make him happy.

She gives her apples so that he will have money, she gives her branches so that he can build a house and have a family, she gives her trunk so that he can build a boat and sail far away. Each time she gives - the tree is happy.

Finally the giving tree is only a stump, but when she is able to be a place for the boy (now an old man) to sit and rest, she is happy once again.

This story easily contrasts the lack of contentment of the boy who is constantly receiving and the contentment of the tree based solely upon her heart to give. It also depicts that giving is a visible action of love.

Book Conversations

Intellectual Development

At first glance, this book may look like a simple book for very young children.  It begins with a single line of text per page, but then towards the center it build to groups of sentences all centered around the illustrations and delivering a rather complex message that appeals to both young and old.

  • Before reading aloud, page through the book only looking at the illustrations.  Allow the child to predict what they think is going to happen and what the story is about.  Then read aloud and compare.
  • Allow kids to find the boy in each illustration or figure out where he is by the clues given.
  • Have them notice how the tree changes and how the boy changes.

Discuss The Giving Tree book:

  1. What were some of the things the tree and the boy enjoyed doing together? Would you say they were good friends?
  2. As the boy grew, what things did the tree give the boy?  Why did she give these to him?
  3. What made the tree happy?
  4. In this book, who gave and who took?  Which one was happy and what made them happy?
  5. Could you tell the tree loved the boy?  How?  
  6. Do you think the boy was every really happy?  Why do you think that?
  7. What adjectives would you use to describe the tree?  What adjectives would you use to describe the boy?  
  8. After reading the story, which character would you want as a friend - the tree or the boy?  Why?  
  9. Look at the trunk of the tree; did you notice the two hearts?  Whose initials do you think they have carved in them?  Which heart remained all the way to the end?  Why do you think the illustrator included these?

Emerging Readers

  • Sight Words - Allow emerging readers to help read any sight words they may know.  The text is simple and there are many!
  • Sequencing & Comprehension - This book follows a sequence of events; have the child see if they can remember - What happened at the beginning?. Then what happened?, until What happened at the end?  This lays the groundwork for reading comprehension as they practice paying attention to what is being read and remembering.
  • Context clues - At the end, ask the child what kind of tree it was and how they knew that. (She gave her apples.)
  • Phonics - This is not a rhyming book, but you can make it into a rhyming activity along with a reading lesson.  Write key words on a sheet of paper like tree, boy, and happy.  Brainstorm other words that sound like these and write below each.  Compare spellings and the sounds the letters make.

Make the Most of the Message
The Giving Tree book

Social Development

  • Love - The Giving Tree book is ideal to illustrate what real love and caring look like.  Love is not just words, but action.  In this case, love is shown through giving.  The tree gave of herself.  Brainstorm some ways we can give of ourselves to others.
  • Giving - Giving is an important part of being a friend to others: giving is important in our society.  Point out that what made the tree happy was giving.  The receiving seemed to make the boy happy, but it didn't last.  There is a joy that comes from giving that lasts way beyond the moment.  Explain that giving is one way we can show others we care and that we love them.  Think about how it makes you feel when you give something to someone else.  When we make others happy by giving, it also makes us happy too! 

Emotional Development

  • Happy - In The Giving Tree book, the tree was happy.  Talk about what made the tree happy.  Think of times you are happy and share.
  • Sad - When was the tree sad?  When was the boy sad?  What are times we may be sad.  It's okay to be sad; everyone is sad sometimes. 
  • Changing sad to happy.  In the end the tree was sad because she looked at what she didn't have - nothing else to give.  When she stopped and focused on what she did have, "she straightened herself up" and was happy to know she still had something to give. Remembering what we have and being thankful can change sad to happy!

Spiritual Development

  • The world in which we live says: "Look out for number one!" and "Get all you can; they owe you." This isn't what Jesus taught. In Acts 20:35, Paul recalls the words of Jesus, "It is more blessed to give than to receive."  In other words, giving makes us happy!
  • Luke also records further teaching by Jesus in Luke 6:38: "Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."
  • Still another time Paul focuses on our attitude for giving. 2 Corinthians 9:7 says: "Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."
  • God demonstrated His love by giving too!  Romans 5:8 tells us -  "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."   John 3:16 also says"For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

Book Extensions for The Giving Tree book

Make a Giving Tree

Have children draw a basic tree (or make one ahead of time) and color it.

Give them old magazines, and ask them to cut out pictures of items that could be given to someone else - such as food, clothing, toys,etc.

Let them glue these to their "giving tree." As they do, discuss who they would want to give something to and why.

Remind them of all the wonderful things God gives to us each day.  Take time to pray and give thanks to God.  Encourage kids to do the same each day.

The Giving Game

(played like "Duck, duck, goose")

Bring a small wrapped gift (small enough to fit in children's hands). Have kids sit in a circle with their hands behind their back.

One child can be the "giver." As others close their eyes, the "giver" walks around the outside of the circle and chooses one person's hands to secretly place the gift.

He then begins to run around the circle as the receiver jumps up to chase him. Once the giver is seated in the receiver's place without being caught, the receiver says "thank you!"

Now he becomes the giver and the game continues.

Remind the students how God's Word says in Matthew 6:2-4:

"So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."

© Copyright 2021 Susan Smart