Books Matter! (Grade 4)

3, 4, 5

Students listen and respond to a nonfiction literature book The Librarian of Basra by Jeanette Winter. They discuss serving others and working for the good of the community. Students create book covers and donate them to a community organization.

PrintOne 60-minute class period

The learner will:

  • listen and respond to a nonfiction literature book, Librarian of Basra by Jeanette Winter.
  • discuss the importance of giving.
  • design and decorate book covers to demonstrate the importance of reading, taking care of books, and sharing kindness.
  • donate book covers to a cause of their choosing.
  • read-aloud copy of The Librarian of Basra by Jeanette Winter
  • student directions for creating book covers. See Teacher Preparation for website resources.
  • brown paper grocery bags or other large pieces of paper (or premade blank book covers)
  • markers or colored pencils
Teacher Preparation 

Print directions for making book covers for the students to follow. Simple directions can be found at:

This site has an instructional slide show that can be shown to the class. (As with any website, preview it completely to check fro inappropriate advertsing before using it in the classroom.)




service: to provide a community or organization with something that it needs

donate: to give something to a charitable organization or other good cause

culture: the behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic, or age group


Winter, Jeanette. The Librarian of Basra. Harcourt Children's Books, 2005). ISBN-10: 0152054456 ISBN-13: 978-0152054458


  1. Anticipatory set:

    Ask the students to name their favorite children's book character and explain their choice.

  2. Introduce the theme of the day: Books Matter. Tell students they will explore how books impact a community and then donate book covers to a community organization.

  3. Read the Librarian of Basra to your class. Facilitate a discussion about the importance of helping others.Ask:

    • How did Alia make a difference?
    • How did Alia take direct action and overcome obstacles to impact so many Iraqi people?
    • How will Alia Muhammad Baker’s example impact you?
  4. Compare and contrast the actions of Dr. King in Martin’s Big Words to the actions of Alia in Librarian of Basra.Ask:

    • What does Alia Muhammad Baker have in common with Martin Luther King, Jr.?
    • Describe the example set by Alia Muhammad Baker and Martin Luther King, Jr.
    • How will students make a difference and set an example for others?
  5. Brainstorm with students the importance of books and their many uses. As part of the conversation, ask students to imagine what life would be like without books (to better understand their significance in our world). After that, list ways that we can show appreciation for our books today. Then, discuss the importance and use of book covers to protect books so that they may be enjoyed for years to come.

  6. Remind students that from Martin’s Big Words, they learned that one person can make a difference through service. In the Librarian of Basra, they learned that one person’s compassion and dedication can impact others. Just as the librarian demonstrated her kindness by saving the books, students can demonstrate their care and appreciation for books by making and donating book covers.

  7. Explain to students that they will create book covers to donate to a community organization of their choice.

  8. Brainstorm with students possible groups and places to donate their book covers, helping students to choose people who may not typically receive such kind gifts. Students may wish to give their book covers to a family member, but it may be better to give their book covers to libraries, book rooms, senior citizens, younger students, or sick children in hospitals). Talk to students about what organizationsin the community might need or benefit from the donations of the book covers.

  9. Review the concept of giving and sharing and ask students to brainstorm people that they have shared with before. Explain to students that they will now practice giving and sharing again by decorating book covers and donating them to individuals or a group of their choice.

  10. Give each student one blank book cover and markers. Encourage students to write positive messages on the book covers that promote reading and book care. Examples for messages may include: “HANDLE with CARE: I Have Feelings Too,” or “Books are Precious,” or “Take Care of Books and they Take Care of You!” Students may wish to draw messages or pictures in pencil first and then go over them in marker to present a clearer image and neater product.

  11. After your students have finished their book covers, donate them to the chosen recipients. Be sure to take pictures (if appropriate) for lasting memories.

  12. Reflection is a key component of service-learning that adds meaning to the experience. Ask students how they felt about donating their book covers and how they think others felt receiving them. Have students fill in this sentence: I expected the community members to be _________ .

Cross Curriculum 

The students create and decorate book covers and donate them to a community organization.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark E.3 Identify the similarities in philanthropic behavior among people of different cultural backgrounds.
      2. Benchmark E.4 Demonstrate listening skills.
  2. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.1 Describe one reason why a person might give or volunteer.
      2. Benchmark E.10 Identify reasons why historic figures acted for the common good.
      3. Benchmark E.4 Give an example of how citizens act for the common good.
      4. Benchmark E.9 Give examples how people give time, talent or treasure in different cultures.
  3. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 01. Needs Assessment
      1. Benchmark E.1 Identify a need in the school, local community, state, nation, or world.
    2. Standard VS 03. Providing Service
      1. Benchmark E.1 Provide a needed service.
    3. Standard VS 05. Integrating the Service Experience into Learning
      1. Benchmark E.3 Identify outcomes from the service.