Look at Philanthropy in Children's Literature (A)

3, 4, 5

To introduce students to the idea of helping others and to have them understand that they can also be philanthropic. (They have time, treasures and/or talents to share.)

Lesson Rating 
PrintOne-three Forty-Five Minute Class Periods with several 10-15 minute read-aloud sessions prior to this lesson

The learners will:

  • listen to a collection of stories about philanthropic acts.
  • brainstorm, within groups, a list of community needs and service projects that could be performed by their own class
  • Several books that have a philanthropic theme. (see Bibliographic References)
  • Chart paper
  • Markers, pencils
  • Computer with Internet link (Optional)
Home Connection 

Interactive Parent / Student Homework:See Lesson One: Attachment Two: Home Letter

  • Altman, Linda Jacobs. The Legend of Freedom Hill, New York: Lee & Low Books Inc., 2000. ISBN 58430-003-5.

  • Brisson, Pat. Wanda’s Roses, Honesdale: Boyds Mills Press, 1994. ISBN 1-56397-925-X. Cooney, Barbara. Miss Rumphius, Viking Press, 1985. ISBN 0140505393.

  • Demuth, Patricia. Johnny Appleseed, Aladdin Paperbacks, 1996. ISBN 0671667467.

  • DiSalvo-Ryan, Dyanne. City Green, New York, Morrow Junior Books, 1998. ISBN 0-688-12786-X.

  • DiSalvo-Ryan, Dyanne. Uncle Willie and the Soup Kitchen, First Mulberry Edition, 1997. ISBN 0-688-15285-6.

  • Lewis, Barbara A., Kid’s Guide To Service Projects, The, Minneapolis: Free Spirits Publishing, 1995. ISBN 0-915793-82-2. www.freespirit.com.

  • Lewis, Barbara A., Kid’s Guide To Social Action, The, Minneapolis: Free Spirits Publishing, 1995. ISBN

  • Moss, Ellen Feinman. Helping Out Is Cool, Downsview: Tumbleweed Press, 1997. ISBN 0-9680678-5-9.

  • Pomeranc, Marion Hess. Can-Do Thanksgiving, The, Morton Grove: Albert Whitman and Co., 1998. ISBN 0-8075-1054-8

  • Schwartz, Linda. How Can You Help?, Santa Barbara: The Learning Works, Inc. 1999. ISBN 0-88160-213-2.

  • Wyeth, Sharon Dennis. Something Beautiful. New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc. 1998. ISBN 0-385-32239-9.

  • Learning to Give Home Page <http://learningtogive.org>


  1. Over the period of several days, introduce and read several books that have a philanthropic theme using the sample lesson format below:

  2. Write the word philanthropy on the board.

  3. Ask the students if they remember what this word means (if they have had previous lessons), or ask them if they know what it means.

  4. Review (explain) that philanthropy is the giving of ones time, treasures and talents for the common good (the good of everyone).

  5. Remind the students that the common good is a Core Democratic Value, which means that it is our right as a citizen of this country to do things for the good of everyone.

  6. Introduce the story for the day (choose from the following list or another book that includes characters acting for the common good0 and tell the students to listen for the examples of philanthropy:

    • Legend of Freedom Hill, The by Linda Jacobs Altman is the story of two girls, one black, and the other Jewish, who buy the black girl’s mother’s freedom with gold that they had mined. They give up their claim to the mine so that other slaves could also go free.
    • Wanda’s Roses by Pat Brisson is a story about a girl who works with the people in her community to create a beautiful rose garden.
    • Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney is the story of a woman who wants to fulfill her dream of doing something to make the world more beautiful, so she plants flower seeds across the country.
    • Johnny Appleseed by Patricia Demuth is the story of a man who travels across the country planting apple trees for others to enjoy.
    • City Green Dyanne DiSalvo-Ryan.
    • Uncle Willie and the Soup Kitchen by Dyanne DiSalvo-Ryan.
    • The Can-Do Thanksgiving by Marion Hess Pomeranc.
    • Something Beautifulby Wyeth, Sharon Dennis.


  7. After reading the book, have students discuss in groups how each character in each book has contributed something philanthropic to his/her community. Then call individuals to report for their group. The teacher will record their responses onto a chart (See Attachment One: How Have They Helped?).

  8. After reading several books, ask the students to identify the common themes, behaviors, and conclusions of the characters. Discuss how the characters felt about their acts of philanthropy and how they benefited their communities. Ask the students if they would like to do something philanthropic.

  9. Brainstorm a brief list of ideas of things young people can do for the common good (share, listen to others, pick up trash, teach other people). Tell the students that you will give them more time to think about things they can do. Say, "Think about problems or needs you see in the classroom, playground, school, and community. If you see a need, you may be able to think of creative ways to make them better."

  10. Provide students with the bookThe Kid's Guide to Service Projects: Over 500 Service Ideas for Young People Who Want to Make a Difference by Barbara A. Lewis as a resource of ideas.

  11. Tell the students that they are going to work together to brainstorm needs in their school or community and list some service project ideas for their class.Assign students to groups of four. Give them chart paper and markers with which to brainstorm a list of school or community needs and service projects that the class could perform to address the need. This could take more than one day if you wish to allow students to do the research on websites. To save time, the teacher may wish to print out some ideas from the Internet prior to this lesson.

  12. Ask each group to report their favorite ideas from their lists.

  13. Tell the students that during the next lesson they will select at least one project for the class to complete.


Through observation, the teacher will determine the students’ understanding of needs and possible service projects that would be appropriate for the class to perform.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.1 Define philanthropy as the giving and sharing of time, talent, or treasure intended for the common good.
    2. Standard DP 04. Operational Characteristics of Nonprofit Organizations
      1. Benchmark E.3 Describe how a volunteer youth club in the community operates.