The Spirit of Giving

The United States is a country of many cultures and religious beliefs.  For this reason, families celebrate holidays in a variety of ways.  Regardless of faith, the December holidays are often observed with food, music, games, and even gift giving.  While public schools don’t focus on the traditions of any one religion, it’s important for children and teens to learn about all religions, and to understand that the best way to celebrate any holiday is by sharing.

  • Allow readers to share their December family traditions.  Is there a religious observance?  Do they gather with family and friends?  What foods do they eat?  Is there special music?  Do they exchange gifts?
  • Have readers use books in the library or sites on the Internet to research worldwide religious observances.  Ask them to find out if there is a place of worship for each of these religions in your community.  Consider sponsoring a panel discussion in the library that includes someone from these different religions.
  • Talk about the “spirit of giving.”  What organizations in your city or community sponsor a “giving” event?  Is it food, clothing, shelter, or toys?  Find out about the history of the organization.
  • Read aloud We Planted a Tree (Picture Book) by Diane Muldrow & illus. by Bob Staake and Alia’s Mission: Saving the Books of Iraq (Picture Book) by Mark Alan Stamaty.  How do these books represent the “spirit of giving”?
  • Have readers look through their toys and games and choose one item to give to one of the following characters:

Calvin Coconut
Junie B. Jones
Anastasia Krupnik
Gooney Bird Greene
Nate the Great
Marvin Redpost
Sammy Keyes

Ask them to state why they selected the particular item for the character.

  • Display books that represent the “spirit of giving” in some way.  Sponsor an essay contest called “What I Learned about Giving from Reading  (Book’s Title).”  Remind readers that the “giving” may be in the form of friendship. Book suggestions from Random House include:

Bud, Not Buddy (Middle Grade) by Christopher Paul Curtis

Eleven (Middle Grade) by Patricia Reilly Giff

Everything on a Waffle (Middle Grade) by Polly Horvath

Faith, Hope and Ivy June (Middle Grade) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Flipped (Middle Grade) by Wendelin van Draanen

The Friendship Doll (Middle Grade) by Kirby Larson

Gingersnap (Middle Grade) by Patricia Reilly Giff

Hattie Big Sky (Middle Grade) by Kirby Larson

Holes (Middle Grade) by Louis Sachar

Hoot (Middle Grade) by Carl Hiaasen

Laugh with the Moon (Middle Grade) by Shana Burg

Liar & Spy (Middle Grade) by Rebecca Stead

The Mighty Miss Malone (Middle Grade) by Christopher Paul Curtis

One Year in Coal Harbor (Middle Grade) by Polly Horvath

Pictures of Hollis Woods (Middle Grade) by Patricia Reilly Giff

Racing the Moon (Middle Grade) by Alan Armstrong

Small Steps (Middle Grade) by Louis Sachar

Turtle in Paradise (Middle Grade) by Jennifer L. Holm

I Am the Messenger (Young Adult) by Markus Zusak

Lord of the Deep (Young Adult) by Graham Salisbury

The Lost Songs (Young Adult) by Caroline B. Cooney

  • Instruct readers to exchange written holiday greetings between main characters from any two novels they have read.  Encourage them to make the greeting personal.
  • Finally, ask all readers to give the gift of story by sharing a special book with a friend.  Ask them to write a letter to the friend telling them why they want them to read the book.
Random House Teachers and Librarians