Philanthropy in Literature—Reading, Writing, Thinking

6, 7, 8

This lesson will expose students to philanthropic needs and actions in literature and evaluate them in an essay. While written for a Christian Middle School, the lesson may be easily adapted for public school use.

Lesson Rating 
PrintFour to Five Forty-Five Minute Class Periods (mainly an independent assignment with reading to be completed in two weeks and an additional 10 days to write an essay)

The learner will:

  • evaluate, in an essay, a novel with a philanthropic theme.
  • write an essay in which they identify a philanthropic person and/or deed in the story, support the act of philanthropy from a Christian perspective, and explain how philanthropy can be or is a part of their lives.
  • Six or seven copies of five different novels (see Philanthropy Suggested Novel List, Attachment One).
  • Guide for writing the essay (see Essay Requirements, Attachment Two).
  • Suggested Bible passages for use in the essay (see Bible Passages, Attachment Three).
  • Writing Conference handout (see Attachment Four).
  • “Philanthropy at Work” handout (see Attachment Five).
  • "Philanthropy at Work Rubric” for scoring the essay (see Attachment Six).
  • Albom, Mitch. Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man and the Last Great Lesson. Doubleday, 1997. ISBN: 0385484518
  • Byars, Betsy Cromer. After the Goat Man. Viking Press Paperback, 1982. ISBN: 0140315330
  • Byars, Betsy Cromer. The Pinballs. Harpercollins Juvenile Books Paperback, 1993. ISBN: 0064401987.
  • Higa, Tomiko. The Girl with the White Flag. Kodansha International Paperback, 1995. ISBN: 4770019467
  • Holman, Felice. Shake’s Limbo. Aladdin Paperbacks, 1986. ISBN: 0689710666
  • Jones, Ron. The Acorn People. Bantam Books Paperback, 1996. ISBN: 044022702X
  • Magorian, Michelle. Good Night, Mr. Tom. HarperCollins Children’s Books, 1982. ISBN: 0060240792
  • Paterson, Katherine. Jip: His Story. Puffin Paperback, 1998. ISBN: 0140386742
  • Thomasma, Kenneth. Amee-Nah: Zuni Boy Runs the Race of His Life. Baker Book House, 1995. ISBN: 080104068X
  • Voigt, Cynthia. The Homecoming. Fawcett Books Paperback, 1987. ISBN: 0449702545


  1. Anticipatory Set:Think about people in your family or community who have a special need. Does anyone know a handicapped person? What is the handicap? How does it limit the person? How do people treat this person? What do you think this person needs?Do any of the students have a relative with Down’s syndrome? How is this person treated? What does this person need?If you have already been to the nursing home or have an elderly person in your family, what do you think an elderly person needs?Teacher note: Continue discussion as you see fit relating it to the novels that you have chosen. Then tell your students that they are going to have the opportunity to read a book about someone who has a special need.

    Day One:

  2. The teacher gives an oral presentation about each book so the students can select the book that interests them (Attachment One). The teacher should read the books ahead of time.

  3. Allow each student to choose one of the five recommended books by raising their hands. If necessary, some students may have to take their second choice.

  4. Give the students class time to begin reading their novels. Tell students they will have two weeks to read the novel and most of the reading will be done outside of class. Assignment: Read the novel.

  5. Day Two:

  6. Take ten-fifteen minutes the next day to pass out and go over the guide for writing the essay (Attachment Two) and the list of Bible verses (Attachment Three). This will give the students a focus for their reading. Allow additional time for reading today or about halfway through the 10 weeks if it is necessary to keep students reading.

  7. Day Three:

  8. (Approximately two-and-one-half weeks later) Have students exchange essays and complete the Writing Conference handout (Attachment Four).

  9. Allow time for students to revise their essays.

  10. Set the due date for the published essay.

  11. Day Four:

  12. Have students complete the Philanthropy at Work handout (Attachment Five) for their own essay.

  13. Arrangethe class into groups of five students representing each of the five novels. Have each student read his/her essay while the other students listen and complete the Philanthropy at Work handout. Collect essays and handouts.

  14. Assignment: The Philanthropy at Work handout (see Attachment Five) should be completed.


The essay is the main assessment piece (see Attachment Six for rubric).

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.2 Compare and contrast philanthropy and charity from Greek and Roman traditions and other cultures.
    2. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Describe how different needs are met in different ways by government, business, civil society, and family.