The Boy Who Grew a Forest: The True Story of Jadav Payeng by Sophia Gholz and Kayla Harren

TheBoyWhoGrewAForestWhen Jadav Payeng was a little boy, he noticed the impact the rainy season had on his island. The heavy rains washed away soil and vegetation, leaving animals without shelter or food. It worried Payeng to find dead animals after a storm. He was afraid that someday the entire island would be washed away. Payeng began planting trees to save the environment. Today, as an adult, he continues to plant trees to expand his 1,300-acre forest in India. Payeng’s work brought life and vegetation back to his island.

This is a story about soil erosion, ecology and perseverance. Author Sophia Gholz does an incredible job of making these big topics interesting to young readers. Her use of ellipses throughout the text help learners see Payeng’s determination. Beautiful illustrations show the evolution of his work. Readers will be amazed to see the animals that thrive in Payeng’s forest.


Response to Literature

AASL Standards Framework for Learners: Explore/Create V.B.1 Learners construct new knowledge by problem solving through cycles of design, implementation, and reflection.

After reading The Boy Who Grew a Forest, learners will want to know more about Payeng. Watch Forest Man, a fascinating video about Payeng created by William Douglas McMaster.

Introduce the video about Payeng by telling learners they have a job to do. Explain that as they watch the video, they will consider the problems Payeng faces and watch how he solves them.

Pause at these points of the recording and ask the following questions:

  • 0:08 / 16:34 What questions do you have about the opening statement? What does it make you wonder about?
  • 0:20 / 16:34 What do you notice about the land? How would this impact plant life?
  • 1:40 / 16:34 What do you wonder about the animals that live in Payeng’s part of India?
  • 6:25 / 16:34 What do you notice about Payeng’s home? What questions do you have about the way he lives? How is it different from the way you live? Why do you suppose that is? What impacts the way we live?
  • 8:48 / 16:34 What do you notice about the soil? What questions do you have?
  • 10:36 / 16:34 What big problem does Payeng face now? 
  • 12:18 / 16:34 What is Payeng’s idea to stop soil erosion?
  • 15:20 / 16:34 Why do you suppose Payeng works so hard to make a difference?

I’m thankful that book creators and journalists documented Payeng’s journey so we could learn about his remarkable work.

Cover of Lessons Inspired by Picture Books for Primary Grades by Maureen Schlosser and Rebecca Granatini.
If you like these lesson ideas, please take a look at our book, Lessons Inspired by Picture Books for Primary Grades. This resource includes ready-to-go lesson plans that meet the standards. Worksheets, assessments and rubrics are included.

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