Saturday, December 7, 2013

School Age Storytime: Gifts and Giving

Storytimes emphasizing the non-material aspects of giving and receiving.
Great lead-ins for holiday coat & food drives.
Also includes a true story about how a town fought hate.

Looking for additional special holiday titles?  Check out this bibliography:
Extraordinary Gifts 12.16 BWL
(done in addition to a “very special trees” & “holiday lights” programs earlier in the month) K&1st + Ms. Valentine’s 2nd
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Giving by Shirley Hughes (explores the different kinds of giving & sharing)

The Teddy Bear by David McPhail (A young boy’s lost teddy bear becomes a comfort to a homeless man)
Action Song: “Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, Turn Around”
Silver Packages: An Appalachian Christmas Story by Cynthia Rylant (Loosely-based on a true story. A rich man rides a train through Appalachia every year at Christmas tossing gifts to the poor children who are waiting in order to repay a debt he owes the people who live there  the young boy waiting for gifts each year who grows up and also gives back to the community.)

The Marvelous Toy by Tom Paxton (sung) (Several book versions available. hand-me-down toy has special meaning; performed here:

Oskar and the Eight Blessings by Richard and Tanya Simon (a young German Jewish refugee in 1938 traversing 100 blocks of Manhattan to meet his aunt rejoices in the kindnesses he encounters from people along the way)


What a Wonderful World based on the song by Bob Thiele & George David Weiss, illustrated by Tim Hopgood (Louis Armstrong version performed here:

Encouraged kids to look for ways they could contribute to less fortunate – coat, food, toy drives…

"Gifts of Kindness"  12.12

Boxes for Katje – Candace Fleming  (Based on a true story -- boxes from children in America helped townspeople in Holland after WW2) (Also available as a DVD from Spoken Arts)

Sing: The Marvelous Toy – Tom Paxton  (Several book versions available. hand-me-down toy has special meaning; performed here:

The Christmas Menorahs: How a Town Fought Hate -- Janice Cohen (True story of how the town of Billings Montana stood up to hate speech and hateful actions -- the text is rather long for a read-aloud, so I have abridged it -- my adaption is below.) or Each Kindness – Jacqueline Woodson/Lewis (a new girl at school is rejected by other students -- kind & unkind acts cause ripples that sometimes cannot be undone)

The Extraordinary Gift – Florence Langlois (Imaginative fold out book which says that the best gift is a book!)

If time, can add some of the materials from the programs below.

Gifts & Giving 12.11

The Carpenter's Gift: A Christmas Tale About the Rockefeller Center Tree – David Rubel. (Wonderful story loosely based on the actual history of the Rockefeller Center Tree in the Depression. The tree's wood is now used for Habitat for Humanity Houses.   Here's a link:

New Old Shoes – Charlotte Blessing (One child's outgrown shoes go on to other children -- told from the point of view of the shoes!) Here's the link for 

Immi's Gift – Karin Littlewood (Modern magical fable, somewhat reminiscent of David Wiesner’s Flotsam -- an Inuit girl finds colorful objects in her fishing hole, later the bear she drops is found by a boy in the tropics who had dropped those objects in the water!)  Interesting quote from the author: “I had written her story and drawn her again and again, but this little girl I knew so well did not have a name. Then I came across the Inuit name Immi and knew it was right for her. It was only much later that I found out Immi is short for Immiayuk, meaning echo, a word that seems very fitting for this story." - Karin Littlewood, author and illustrator of Immi's Gift  and/or Rabbit's Gift: A Fable from China – Shannon (Each animal decides to give the turnip found on their doorsteps to another.)

Book/Song:  The Marvelous Toy – Tom Paxton (Father gives son the same marvelous toy he received from his dad years before.)

The Gift of Nothing – Patrick McDonnell (Clever fable of the importance of friendship in this materialistic world!) and/or The Gift – Gabriella Keselman (Extremely funny book in which parents are desperately trying to  figure out what their child wants as a present -- until they realize it is a hug.)

The Extraordinary Gift – Florence Langlois (Imaginative fold out book which says that the best gift is a book!)

If you are interested in helping your kids and families explore the value of "nothing" (or experiences rather than stuff), you might want to add this link to your parent pages: Reclaiming the Holidays (from PBS.Parents)

Gifts & Giving 12.10

Silver Packages -- Cynthia Rylant (Loosely-based on a true story. A rich man rides a train through Appalachia every year at Christmas tossing gifts to the poor children who are waiting in order to repay a debt he owes the people who live there  the young boy waiting for gifts each year who grows up and also gives back to the community.)

The Marvelous Toy - Tom Paxton (sung)

The Trees of the Dancing Goats -- Patricia Polacco (also based on a true story from the author's childhood about how her family helped neighbors in need.)

Glove with 10 international children: Uno, Dos, Tres amigos... (here:

Storytelling with props: The Surprise – George Shannon (Need 5 boxes that nest inside each other, 2 small squirrels stuffed animals (one for the beginning of the skit and one that sits inside the smallest box) and  optionally, a big squirrel Folkmanis puppet.)
The Surprise by George Shannon

Squirrel was worried.
His mother’s birthday was one day away and he still hadn’t found her a present.
She had perfume & books & the most beautiful garden.
He’d already given her drawings, and songs that he’d made up.
And every time he made a cake,
he burned it.
He sighed and said “I’ll just have to send her a plain old birthday card,” but as he was putting the stamp on, he had an idea.
He called his mother on the telephone and said, “I’m sending you a package with a surprise inside. Be sure to open it right away!”
The next day when the package arrived, his mother took off the ribbons and opened the box.
But there was another box inside.
So she opened that box – and found another box!
And opened that box – and found another box!
And opened that box – and found another box!
And when she opened that box…
Squirrel jumped out and gave her a big kiss!

Night Tree - Eve Bunting (family decorates a tree in the forest with food for the animals)  or  December – Eve Bunting (a mother and son living in a cardboard box share what they have with an old woman one Christmas Eve and find that their luck changes afterward.) or The Teddy Bear – David McPhail (A boy who loses his teddy decides that the homeless man who has found it needs it more)

Additional books to consider: Giving – Shirley Hughes, Elizabeti's Doll – Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen, Gifts – Jo Ellen Bogart,Merry Christmas Big Hungry Bear – Audrey Wood, The Gift – Gabriela Keselman,  Knuffle Bunny 2 – Mo Willems, That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown – Cowell, Paper Cranes – Rosemary Wells, Extra Yarn – Mac Barnett, Shall I Knit You a Hat? – Kate Klise, Morris’ Disappearing Bag – Rosemary Wells, A Hat for Mrs. Goldman by Michele Edwards

Additional Song/Flannel: “Helping” from the book: Free to Be You and Me by Marlo Thomas & Friends.


The Christmas Menorahs: How a Town Fought Hate 
Adaption/abridgement by Carol Simon Levin from the book by Janice Cohn.
I show the pictures from the book while telling the story something like this:
Not too many years ago, a boy named Isaac Schnitzer lived with his mother and father in the town of Billings Montana (might show location on a map so kids understand this is in the USA).
On the third night of Chanukah -- just as they did on every night of Chanukah --Isaac's family lit their menorahs and placed them in the windows of their house.    A little while later, Isaac heard a crash.  Heading upstairs toward the sound, he discovered that the window to his bedroom was shattered and a rock lay on the floor.
His parents rushed upstairs -- then called the police.
When Chief Inman arrived, he suggested that it might be safer if they took down their menorahs.
But Isaac's mom replied, “We’re not taking down the Chanukah decorations.  Being Jewish is who we are—we are not going to hide it.”
“You shouldn’t have to,” responded the chief, “but there is a small group of people in Billings who have been causing a lot of trouble.   They’ve  sent out leaflets saying hateful things about Jews.  They’ve spray-painted threats and insults on a Native American home and tried to frighten African-Americans in their church.  Just last week they damaged a synagogue – now they are throwing rocks at menorahs.”
“Let’s put our menorahs away,” said Isaac.  “Then maybe they won’t bother us again.”
His dad put his arm around him. “I know how you feel.  It’s frightening.  But celebrating Chanukah is part of being Jewish.  It is what we believe in.  We’re not about to let some bullies keep us from celebrating our holiday.”
“But what can we do?” asked Isaac.
“Isaac,” said his mom, “A lot of people in this town—all kinds of people—are really angry at what these haters have been doing.  I’m going to be interviewed on TV and tell  everyone in Billings what happened to us and ask people to help.”
“Yes,” agreed the Chief, “If the whole town takes a stand, we can stand up to these bullies.”
Many people in Billings saw Mrs. Schnitzer on TV.  Afterwards, a special meeting was called by Chief Inman and a friend of their family named Ms. McDonald.
“The police are doing everything they can to catch these people,” Chief Inman told the crowd.  “But it’s important to show that an act of hate against even one person in Billings is an act against all of us.”
“I have an idea,” said Ms. McDonald.  “I remember a story my parents told me. When the Nazis invaded Denmark during World War 2, they ordered all Jews to wear a yellow star on their clothes so that they could be easily identified.  The courageous King of Denmark believed that the lives of all the Danish people were precious.  According to legend, King Christian said that if the Jews had to wear stars, then he would too. The next morning, riding his horse out of the palace, he did.   Soon many other Danes also wore stars -- even though the enemy threatened to punish them.  Because of their courage, the lives of many Jews were saved.”
“The Schnitzers have been told it would be safer for them to take down their menorahs,” she continued, “but that is not the answer.  What if the rest of us were told to take down our Christmas trees and lights because people might throw rocks at us for being Christians?  I say, let’s take a stand like the Danish people – let’s all put up menorahs!”
And that is just what happened.   Some citizens in Billings cut menorahs out of construction paper and taped them to their windows.   Then the newspaper published a picture of a menorah and even more people taped them to their windows.  Soon menorahs appeared in houses on almost every street in the town.
Isaac’s friend Teresa Hanley had never seen a menorah -- so Isaac explained about the Maccabees and the miracle of the oil.  His teacher pointed out that Chanukah celebrates the fight for religious freedom.
A few days later, Isaac was driving in the car with  his mom.  “Mom, remember last year when I told you I wanted to bring some of my Chanukah presents to school to show the other guys?”
“Uh-huh,” his mom answered.
“Well…now don’t be mad…but I didn’t tell them they were Chanukah presents.  I felt funny.  Nobody else gets Chanukah presents.  And I didn’t want to be different.  I just wanted to be like the rest of the class so I told them they were Christmas presents.  But this year I’m going to say I got them for Chanukah.”
“I’m glad, Isaac,” his mom answered.
“Mom, stop!”
“What is it?”
Ahead was a house with a big picture window. Taped to the window was a large picture of a beautiful menorah drawn with many brightly colored crayons.  Over the menorah was the message.  “For our friend Isaac – with love from Teresa and the rest of the Hanley family.”  Underneath was a picture of a Jewish star and a Christian cross.
“She never told me she was doing this…” Isaac said.
“You know, honey,” his mom replied.  “Hate can make a lot of noise.  Love and courage are usually quieter.  But in the end, they’re the strongest.”
As Chanukah passed and Christmas grew nearer, more and more menorahs could be seen throughout Billings.  The town continued to fight against the acts of hatred, and slowly but surely those acts began to stop.  The townspeople told each other this was a gift they had given to themselves.  And that it was their best holiday gift, ever.


  1. 12.2015 Bedminster Kdg-2nd graders (did "Holiday Lights" storytime earlier in the month)
    The Carpenter's Gift: A Christmas Tale about the Rockefeller Center Tree - David Rubel
    Prop/squirrel puppets: The Surprise -based on the book by George Shannon
    Boxes for Katje -- Candace Fleming
    -- Talked about the way we can share gifts -- coat, food, toy drives
    (Kdg song/stretch): He'll be Riding on the Northwind when He Comes
    Gifts -- Jo Bogart (2nd grade), Rabbit's Gift - George Shannon (Kdg)
    Singable Book: The Marvelous Toy -- Tom Paxton
    Fold out book: The Extraordinary Gift Florence Langlois

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