Sam and the Lucky Money Literature Guide

Grade Level: 
K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Philanthropic Act
by Karen Chinn - A literature 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 generosity, community, and service to others. Spanish Version Attached.

We all recognize the joy of Sam who has money to spend any way he chooses. Your children will identify with Sam’s difficult decision as he browses the toy store and the bakery. But Sam surprises us all by giving his money to a stranger who doesn’t have any shoes. This book will spark a discussion about feeling lucky with what we have and helping others in creative and small ways. Your family can examine the benefits of sharing and discuss how it feels to give. Note that Sam made the decision himself, and the freedom to choose made his decision much more meaningful.

Before Reading

ASK: What would you do if you received four dollars to spend your way? Do you have a sense of what $4 will buy?

SHOW: Look at the picture on the first page of the story and discuss how Sam feels about the money inside the leisees (red envelopes). Notice his loving family.

CONNECT: Think about how you feel on a special holiday. This is a special holiday for Sam. He is excited and eager for what is to come. This year is especially exciting because he gets to choose how to spend his money.

During Reading

ASK: How does Sam feel when he steps on the man’s bare feet? How does he respond?

SHOW: Sam lives in an English-speaking country but he is in Chinatown on Chinese New Year’s Day. Notice that the woman at the bakery speaks to him in Chinese, but he doesn’t understand her. Look at the decorations and bright colors.

CONNECT: Have you ever felt the disappointment that Sam feels when he realizes that the $4 doesn’t buy the things he wants at the toy store? What happened? How does his mother respond to him?

After Reading

ASK: Why does Sam’s mother laugh when Sam says, “I know you can buy socks.” (Hint: look on the first page of the story.)

SHOW: Look at the final picture in the story. This picture shows how Sam feels about how he chose to spend his money. It also shows how his family feels about his decision. What do you feel inside when you look at this picture and think about his choice?

CONNECT: Do you think Sam needed his mom’s permission to give the money to the man? Think of times you wouldn’t need permission to do something nice for someone else.


  1. Discuss the different ways members of your family feel lucky. Let each family member share an idea. Talk about a lucky day or a lucky find. Then think about the good things your family has that other people might not have (simple pleasures, love, warm clothes, etc.). Discuss times that family members felt that someone else was lucky. Talk about whether it is okay to say “you’re lucky” to another child. If it seems okay in some situations and not others, talk about the difference.
  2. Sam’s leisees, or red envelopes had some Chinese symbols on them. Decorate an envelope with a colorful border and symbols from your own cultural heritage. Instead of money, put a friendly note inside the envelope. Give envelopes with notes to some special people in your life (friends or family).
  3. Reread the parts of the story when Sam saw the old man. Talk about how Sam reacted to the man. Discuss how Sam must have been feeling when he reacted that way. Discuss how the man reacted to Sam each time. Connect this to personal experiences with seeing homeless people in your area and discuss how you feel in those situations. Discuss some possible ways to respond in the future.
  4. The new year is often a time that people set new goals and try to make improvements in their lives. Think of some goals for a project that helps improve the world. For example, perform an extra job around the house and earn money toward buying socks or a new pair of shoes to donate to a local shelter or school. Draw a sock outline as a graphing chart. Fill in stripes on the socks each time he or she completes a certain chore. When all the stripes are colored in, you can buy the socks to donate.
  5. Get out a giant piece of paper and, as a family, make the longest list you can of small ways to say “I like you” to family and friends. Here are some ideas to get you started: bring someone a cookie, rub Mom’s back, offer to weed your grandma’s garden, sweep the floor, bring Dad a drink of water, offer to play your sister’s favorite game, smile at your brother, etc.
  6. Work together to write a poem about the man with no shoes. Use descriptive words and try to recreate the feelings and mood in the story.

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