Swimmy Literature Guide

Grade Level: 
PreK, K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Celebrating Differences
by Leo Lionni - 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.

Swimmy’s world becomes much bigger when he loses his school of fish. When he explores the great sea in search of a new community, he learns about the beauty of the world and the way things work. In this story, we learn about the importance of working together for the common good and taking risks in order to appreciate what the world has to offer. 

Before Reading

ASK: What is a community? (Define community as the degree that people come together for the common good.) Talk about different communities we belong to such as a town, church, family, school, interest/social groups.

SHOW: Look at the cover at the black fish. A "community" of fish is called a school. Does this black fish have a school?

CONNECT: We are going to read a story about a fish that needs a school. Let’s find out how he finds a school and shares his talents to gain their trust.

During Reading

ASK: What are the needs/wants of Swimmy (and the other fish)? What is the problem and how does Swimmy solve the problem?

SHOW: Notice the glossy texture of the paint used. Look for shapes that may have been “stamped” by a sponge and other materials.

CONNECT: Are the fish eager to let Swimmy join them at first? How do you feel when you meet someone new with new ideas?

After Reading

ASK: Can the school of fish in this story be called a community? Why or why not? (They came together for the common good.) Point out that Swimmy volunteered his talent, which was knowledge about the world. How did Swimmy learn about the world? Why would someone volunteer his or her time, talent, or treasure for the common good? (What might have happened if the school had not worked together to protect each other?)

CONNECT: What is a benefit of group cooperation? When have people in your community come together for the common good? What talents were shared?


  1. Work together with a group of family and/or friends to do something you couldn’t do alone. Brainstorm ideas first and then pick the one that makes the most sense. Use cooperation to do something for the common good. 
  2. Use your imagination to paint a picture that shows how Swimmy worked for the common good. Then paint a picture of what you can do to help your community.
  3. Swimmy encourages the other fish to take a risk so they can see the beautiful sea. Think of something that is new for you. Talk about the risks involved. What can you do with the support of family and/or friends that will help you take that new risk safely?

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