What is Given from the Heart by Patricia C. McKissack and April Harrison

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Summary

If a local family lost everything in a fire, you would probably donate clothes and money to help. But what if you had nothing to give? What is Given from the Heart is a beautiful story that captures the true essence of generosity.

Young James Otis knows what it means to live with very little. His family is poor. Life gets tougher when his father falls asleep and never wakes up.

At church, they hear about a family who needs help. Their house burned down with all of their belongings. The congregation is asked to make donations. But what could James and his mom possibly give when they have so little themselves?

Author Patricia C. McKissack shows us the struggle of a young boy who grapples with helping others when he could use some help himself. The illustrator, April Harrison, adds depth to the text with her beautiful portrayal of the characters. The color choices and mixed media artfully capture the mood and feelings of the story. Her illustrations caught the attention of many readers who promoted her work with Mock Caldecott awards.

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Response to Literature

AASL Standards Framework for Learners: Include/Grow II.D.3 Learners demonstrate empathy and equity in knowledge building within the global learning community by reflecting on their own place within the global learning community.

After reading the story, ask learners what they noticed about the gift James made for Sarah. What did it take to make it? Learners may say that it took empathy, time and creativity.

Ask learners to think about situations where people might need help in their school. Perhaps a new student might feel left out at lunch, or someone might be sad about a lost family pet. Others may feel alone at recess. Brainstorm ideas on what the group can do to show others they care.

Take a look at a couple of ideas from Colchester Elementary School in Connecticut. Watch this video to learn about their Buddy Bench that helps people make friends at recess. Read this post about their Giving Tree project that assists those in need.

Please share your ideas in the comment box below!

If you like this lesson idea, 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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