Diversity & Children’s Literature-A Connection for Family Faith-Talks: Book 1 in this Series- Wishtree by Katherine Applegate

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In the book “Read-Aloud Family-Making Meaningful and Lasting Connections with Your Kids” there are some very inspiring thoughts for engaging all ages in a read-aloud movement in homes.  She states that “It is said that a person who reads, lives a thousand lives, but a person who never reads lives only one”.  I believe that books allow us to breathe in the breath of so many individuals and we can encounter hearts that inspire, transform and nurture us with compassion.  This happens as we see the world with fresh eyes.  Here is another quote I love:

“Build your kid’s lives on a story-solid foundation and you’ll give them…a reservoir of compassion that spills over into a lifetime of love in action”

                                                                                                                                                                                              James C. Martin, Give Your Child the World

In the book Wishtree, families can talk about prejudice and how people respond to injustice.  The story is told in first person by an oak tree named Red.  People in the community write wishes on pieces of cloth and tie to the tree every year.  When a new family moves into the neighborhood, not everyone is welcoming and Red is very distraught.  This book would be most appropriate for children ages 8 and above.

BIBLE CONNECTIONS to the story for Faith Formation:

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”  Matthew 25:35

“Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” Jesus replied, “You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’.  The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”  Matthew 22:36-40

“Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you for the glory of God.”  Exodus 23:9

“You must not oppress foreigners. You know what it’s like to be a foreigner, for you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt.”  Exodus 23:9

Many of us growing up had a favorite tree in your yard.  One that you sat under on sunny days to stay cool.  Many may have had two trees that we were able to connect a hammock so we could swing, relax and dream under the sky and the branches.  The tree in the book also provides comfort to the animals who live among the branches and is comfort to a young girl who is seeking peace with herself.

The characters are beautiful in this story, so let’s read aloud to our children and do some wondering and connecting with God about diversity.

Here are some QUESTIONS TO PONDER Before and While Reading.  Choose a few or more of them to have conversations:

  1. Let’s think about how people are the same and how people are different.  What do you notice?
  2. Do you think it is right or fair to treat someone badly because they look different or dress differently?  Have you ever heard someone say something unkind about a person’s differences?
  3. I wonder what factual information we are learning about trees and animals while reading this book?
  4. In the story, what do you think prejudice means to the characters?
  5. Have you ever made a wish-list?
  6. Are wish-lists like prayers?  Why or why not?
  7. Where do we take our prayers?
  8. I wonder how we are like or unlike trees?  Reread in chapter 10 on page 35 the following:

“Still trees are luckier than people in one way.  Only one percent of a fully grown tree is actually alive at any one time.  Most is made of wood cells that are no longer living.  In many ways, that makes me tougher than you.”  You may want to talk about how people can easily have their feelings hurt because we are fully alive.

10.  Red wants to see the good in all people.  What was Red’s surprise when he found out what was carved in him?  Why do you think the person was mean?  I wonder why they think like that?

11.  What are you learning about animals who live in and around the trees?

a.  On page 30, I wonder how animals compete for resources like humans often compete

12.  I wonder what Samar and Stephen’s relationship is like at the beginning of the story?  Did it change later in the book?

13.  I wonder how we develop friendships?  I wonder if Jonathan and David’s Friendship was based on?  (I Samuel 18)

14.  I wonder which characters show the most compassion in the story?  Which ones show the least compassion?

15.  Who are the “neighbors” who are the “strangers” in the story?  Should they both be the same?  I wonder how the story of Ruth and Naomi is like the story Wishtree?

16.  I wonder how Bongo’s actions are like the message in Matthew 25:35

17.  I wonder how friends care for one another in this story?  How do you show your care to your friends?

18.  The animals were determined to bring Samar and Stephen together as friends.  I wonder why that was such a hard task?

19.  I wonder if it is easier for children or adults to make friends?  Why do you think that way?

20.  I wonder how we can welcome others who are different from us into our lives as Jesus did?

21.  I wonder why Jesus used the word “neighbor” in his commandment?

22.  What do you think Jesus’ important commandment means for us today in our town and in our world?

23.  What is something you don’t want to forget about this book?

24.  What surprised you the most about the story?

25.  Which character reminds you of yourself?

Pray together each night after reading each night.  Pray for understanding of others and that we always value people as God values each and every one of us.

Prayer for Children and Families:

Blessed are our wonderful differences.  We thank you Lord for colors and different cultures.  Help us to be more like you Lord and share Your Love for others every day.  Amen



Prayer for Adults in Families to Pray Together:
A Prayer for the Children of the World

I pray that our eyes may be open

To be one another’s keeper

To look out for the children of the world

Offer a kind word, a book, an encouragement

I pray that we may teach our kids to hope

To be kind, to love, to stand against injustice

And may we take time to accept what children offer us

The magic of hope and love


**Adapted from a poem written by Donna Akuamoah, United Methodist Women International Ministries executiv

Think about movies or books you have read where others are disrespected because of their differences.  More books and ideas for addressing diversity and having faith conversations will be coming soon in the next post.



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