If You Plant a Seed Literature Guide

Grade Level: 
PreK, K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
By Kadir Nelson - A guide for parents, teachers, and group leaders to accompany the reading of this picture book. The guide below provides before, during, and after-reading discussion questions. Choose from activities and discussion questions to build children's understanding of empathy, kindness, and community.

"If you Plant a Seed” weaves a simple tale about the benefits of kindness and generosity and the consequences of acting selfishly. With beautiful illustrations and sparse text, African American author Kadir Nelson masterfully conveys the power each one of us has to act in ways that help our community.

Literature Guide by Maureen Klein

Before Reading

Ask: What do you know about seeds? Discuss how a tiny seed can grow into a large plant.

Show: Look at the second page that reads, “If you plant a tomato seed, a cabbage seed, and a carrot seed...”   What do you notice about this picture?  Prompt the reader to look for the seed and observe how the bunny and the mouse are working together.

Connect: As you read, look for what other things can grow from something tiny into something larger and more powerful.

During Reading

Show: Pause on the images after planting a seed of selfishness. What do you notice on the page that reads “it will grow and grow and grow.”  How would you describe the animals and the birds?

Connect: The bunny and the mouse did not want to share in this picture. What does it feel like when someone doesn’t share with you? Why is it sometimes hard to share or hard to be generous?

Ask: Pause on the page that reads, “But if you plant a seed of kindness...” Make a prediction.  What do you think will happen next? 

After Reading

Ask: Small acts of kindness can make a difference. What are some examples of “seeds of kindness” that we can plant? 

Show: Show the last page of the book. What do you notice about the animals and the birds now? How is this different from when they sowed a seed of selfishness? One small, unkind decision resulted in a “heap of trouble.” One small, generous decision resulted in a big, beautiful garden. The animals and garden gave back in a much bigger way.

Connect: The animals and birds sowed “seeds of kindness.” Discuss how both selfishness or generosity can grow into something powerful.


  1. Celebrate kindness by creating a “kindness jar” for your family or group. Every time someone does something kind, they name it and put a pompon (or stones or other small items) in a jar. When the jar is full, talk about the beautiful community that has formed from the small acts of kindness. This 60 second video from Edutopia features how this can be done in a classroom. 

  2. Plant a tiny seed in a cup of soil and water it. Take time to observe it each day and discuss what you notice. Talk about the beauty the seed creates. 

  3. Construct your own mini-greenhouse to grow plants to share in the spring with this Winter Sowing Service Project.

  4. Brainstorm a list of small acts of kindness that have been shown to you. Write a letter or decorate a card thanking someone for an act of kindness.