I was excited to see children’s books recommended in PAW (“Three Books: Tiana Woolridge ’15,” published online Jan. 30, 2023). As a K-12 educator and parent, I wanted to share the suggestion to take a critical eye to some popular children’s books like The Giving Tree. While it encourages the value of generosity, it could be interpreted to promote giving of oneself to the point of depletion. Imagine the different message if the book ended with the tree decaying and providing energy to the next generation of trees. Alternatively, the tree could have given the person branches to build a boat rather than its whole self.
Asking a child about whether the tree took good care of itself is the type of question that encourages critical thinking (reading against the text). There are many opportunities to question what we have read in stories that we have loved for generations as we work to build more peace, justice, and culturally sustaining practices!