Recommended Reads

Books are a great way to introduce the concept of generosity to your students, and to spark a conversation about giving in our own community. If you are working with older students (middle or upper school), articles and nonfiction book excerpts are also great resources. We’ve curated lists for you of both children’s books and articles. Check them out below.

If you know of some great titles not listed here, please send them our way; we are always looking for more reads!

Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett — a little girl finds a never-ending box of colorful yarn in the middle of a cold, grey winter. She uses the yarn to knit everyone in her town sweaters.
Discussion Questions: What would you do if you had a never-ending box of something that you could use to help your school/neighborhood/community? (This book also displays greed– can be a good way to discuss generosity and its opposition)
Project Connections: Winter Fun Packs, General introduction to generosity

Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts — a little boy desperately wants a new, trendy pair of shoes, but his family cannot afford to buy them. When he finds the shoes in a thrift shop for a price he can afford, but in a size too small, he must decide– does he cram his feet into the shoes or give them to a friend who also covets the shoes?
Discussion Questions: Why was it difficult for the boy to make his decision? How did he feel after giving away the shoes? Have you ever shared something with someone else? Was it easy or hard? Why?
Project Connections: General introduction to generosity

Tico and the Golden Wings by Leo Lionni — a little bird, born without wings, is granted his wish for wings; see how he uses his new golden feathered wings to generously bring good to others. (K-2)
Discussion Questions: What would you give your golden wings to help?
Activity: Cut paper feathers out of yellow or gold paper and build your own bird together as a class. Each feather is inscribed with one way a student wishes to be, or identifies he or she can be or has been generous.
Project Connections: General introduction to generosity

Angelina and the Rag Doll by Katharine Holabird and Helen Craig-– Angelina has second thoughts about giving away her beloved rag doll after she’s left it in Mrs Thimble’s secondhand box. See Angelina slowly experience the joy of sharing something with someone else.
Discussion Questions: Have you ever shared something you’ve outgrown with someone younger? How did that feel? Angelina shares her doll and her skills as as a ballerina with younger kids, what skills do you have that you could share with others?
Project Connections: General introduction to generosity

Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney A heart-warming tale about a woman who travels the world in her youth and returns home in her older age to fulfill a promise to “make the world a more beautiful place.”
Discussion Questions: Miss Rumphius chooses to make the world a more beautiful place by spreading Lupine seeds everywhere. What would you do to make the world a more beautiful place?
Activity: Create a kindness or “beautification” scavenger hunt by asking your students to brainstorm as many 5 minute things they could do to make their community more beautiful, or to be generous or kind to someone else. Set aside a chunk of time to do as many as your class can, or ask everyone to pick one.
Grab some wildflower seeds and go spread them about your own campus or neighborhood
Project Connections: Bloom Garden Plant Starts, Keeping Wood in the Big Wood, Legacy Project, General Introduction to Generosity

Stone Soup by Jon J Muth— A beautifully illustrated story that relays the power of a community when it comes together to be generous.

Humphrey the Whale by Wendy Tokuda and Richard Hall— the true story of a humpback whale who deviated from his migration path and wound up swimming from the San Francisco bay into the Sacramento Delta where he got stuck. Rescuing the whale became a community effort involving locals and various organizations.
Discussion Questions: Why was it important to save Humphrey? Do we have any animals in our community who have required the help of humans? (The sage grouse and wolves are great wildlife examples in addition to the domestic examples at the shelter). Did helping Humphrey bring the community together?
Project Connections: A great book to pair with Animal Shelter projects and spark discussions about the importance of helping animals.

The Quiltmaker’s Gift by Jeff Brumbeau — A generous quiltmaker sews warm quilts and gives them away people in her town who need them. A greedy king begs for one of her beautiful blankets. In order to receive one, he must first undergo a radical transformation.
Discussion Questions: Why did the quilt maker require the King to change? Would you have given a quilt to the King? If you could provide one thing that people in your community might need, what would it be?
Activity: Create a “quilt” on your class wall by giving each student a paper quilt square; you could ask them to decorate it with words or images connected to generosity (or maybe name something they’d like to impact or change in our community), and then “stitch” it together on the wall.
Create real quilt together that your class donates when they are finished. You could have each student decorate their fabric square with pen, fabric on fabric, or stitching. Enlist the help of a crafty parent to stitch the whole piece together.
Project Connections: General Introduction to Generosity: use the above discussion question as a segway into your project. After posing that question, research community needs together, and then as a class identify which one you want to impact. Finally, pick your project!

Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson, Sydney Smith (Illustrator)
In this wordless picture book, a little girl collects wildflowers while her distracted father pays her little attention. Each flower becomes a gift, and whether the gift is noticed or ignored, both giver and recipient are transformed by their encounter.
Discussion Questions: Have you ever completed a random act of kindness like the little girl giving flowers away? Did the person notice? Do you think it matters whether someone notices or not?
Activity: Give each student in your class a flower (paper or real… or make paper flowers together as a class), and then ask them to pass it on to someone else to brighten their day.
Random Acts of Kindness– brainstorm a list of random acts of kindness you and your students could do; challenge your students to each pick a few off the list and complete them in the next few days.
Project Connections: General introduction to generosity, Holiday Gifts for the Elderly, Plant Starts for Bloom

The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister a simple story about a beautiful fish who learns to make friends by sharing his most prized possessions.
Discussion Questions: Why is the rainbow fish happier when he gives away his scales? Do you think giving makes people happier? What could you share with your friends and community (this is a great segway into the idea of giving time to contribute to the community).
Project Connections: General introduction to generosity.

Boxes for Katje by Candace Fleming After World War II there is little left in Katje’s town of Olst in Holland. Then one morning the postman delivers a mysterious box full of soap, socks, and chocolate. The box has been sent by Rosie, an American girl from Mayfield, Indiana. Her package is part of a goodwill effort to help the people of Europe. What’s inside so delights Katje that she sends off a letter of thanks: beginning an exchange that swells with so many surprises that the girls, as well as their townspeople, will never be the same.
Discussion Questions: If you could send something off to someone somewhere else in the world, to bring them joy, what would it be and why? Katje’s boxes came from America to Holland, what do you think you could do within your very own community?
Project Connections: Winter Fun Packs, Holiday Giving at The Connection

Zen Shorts by Jon Muth — Meet Stillwater, the giant panda who lives next door to Addy, Karl, and Michael. Through Stillwater, Jon Muth conveys simple, yet powerful ancient Zen tales, including one that beautifully illustrates the power of generosity. Despite being a children’s book, this artfully illustrated and crafted tale is full of lessons and poignant reminders for people of all ages.
Discussion Questions: Why does the uncle give his robe to the robber? Is this generous of him? Have you ever thought about what you would give away if you had to? Have you ever shared something special of yours with someone else?
Project Connections: Great introduction to generosity.

Below are lists of articles and book excerpts that pertain to giving, generosity, and gratitude. Some focus on practices one can instill in one’s own life while others address ways to engage children in generosity. Some of these articles and passages are appropriate for older students to read in their study of generosity, while others are great reads for parents and teachers.

ARTICLES
I skeptically tried practicing gratitude. It completely changed my life.

10 Ways to Raise a Giving Child

What Happened to the Ice Bucket Challenge?

Philanthroteens: young people who use their pocket money to change the world

10 Ways to Raise a Charitable Child

6 Reasons Why Giving back is good for your health: Wanna Give? This is your brain on a helper’s high

BOOK EXCERPTS
Happy Money: The science of happier Spending by Elizabeth Dunn (Ch 5: “Invest in others”)
Sweet Spot by Christine Carter– Ch 6: How to Die Happy, Giving, and Beloved “What We Get When We Give” (pg. 126-142)
How to Raise an Adult by Julie Lythcott Haimes
The Paradox of Generosity by Christine Smith and Hilary Davidson