Timeless Books to Share with Your Child: The Giving Tree

Shel Silverstein's 1964 story ''The Giving Tree'' is a timeless tale about a boy, a tree and their lasting bond that transcends age and time. This book is ideal for reading aloud with your child and provides wonderful opportunities for thoughtful interactions.

Find available tutors

About the Story

'Once there was a tree,' begins Shel Silverstein's classic, 'and she loved a little boy.' So begins a life-spanning tale in which the tree provides countless hours of entertainment for the young boy. He swings from her branches, plays with her leaves and eats her apples. She is overjoyed with his attention and affection. She wants nothing more than to provide for him, as a mother might for her own child.

As the boy grows up, he spends less and less time with the tree. Yet whenever he returns, the tree finds a way to make herself useful to him. For example, when the boy wants money, she provides her apples to be sold in the city. Later, when he needs a house, the tree offers her branches with which he can build.

The boy's absences continue to grow, leaving the tree alone and sad. When he returns in old age, the tree is just a stump. She feels she has nothing left to offer him. However, he simply wants a place to sit and rest, which is something she has to give. The fact that she can still provide for him when he returns makes her happy.

Shel Silverstein The Giving Tree read aloud

Ideal for Reading Aloud

The Giving Tree is well-suited to reading aloud with your child. The pages are sparsely decorated with simple line drawings of the boy and tree, yet Silverstein's artwork is evocative and memorable. He is able to portray joy and sadness in an uncomplicated portrait of a tree. Also, in the span of a handful of pages, we witness the boy moving through all of life's stages until his days of youthful play are long behind him.

The drawings are matched by equally simple and elegant text. Silverstein's prose is light and not difficult to follow. Your child will likely have an easy time following the story. The tree moves through feelings of elation and pathos that are conveyed with clear diction that may tug at your child's heart, but won't confuse or bore.

Engaging Your Child

Despite its apparent simplicity, The Giving Tree tells a story that is epic in scope. The boy returns to the tree at critical stages in life. While some of his needs as an adult may be unfamiliar to your child, they provide an excellent learning opportunity for how our passions evolve over time. Likewise, they show the diverse offerings a tree provides.

As you begin the story, ask your child to consider what games a tree can provide. You may ask your child how he or she would play with a tree. Does your child play games with trees where you live? This may be something your child does without thinking much about it. The story provides an opportunity for your child to step back and consider his or her interactions with nature.

While the meaning of the story has been debated, it may most clearly represent the relationship between a mother and son. This metaphor may be difficult to follow for young children, especially because the shifting roles between a mother and son as the child ages may not be as apparent to your child as they are to you. However, this sophisticated subtext provides a reason to return to this story as your child grows up. As your child reaches different stages in life, The Giving Tree may be rewarding in new ways with each reading.

Did you find this useful? If so, please let others know!

Other Articles You May Be Interested In

  • More Blog Articles
    Why Do Parents Prefer Paper Books Over E-Books?

    In most cases, sales of e-books for the iPad, Kindle, Nook and other digital platforms are skyrocketing. In some categories for adult books, e-books comprise a full 25% of sales. Yet this isn't the case with children's books. E-books aimed at children under eight years old have stagnated at just five percent. Here's a look at...

  • More Blog Articles
    Learning From a Monkey: Curious George Picture Books

    Curious George is the star of a vast series of successful children's books originally written and illustrated by husband and wife team H.A. and Margret Rey. The series has found enduring popularity throughout more than seventy years as children continue to relate to the monkey's curiosity and learn from his mistakes.

We Found 7 Tutors You Might Be Interested In

Huntington Learning

  • What Huntington Learning offers:
  • Online and in-center tutoring
  • One on one tutoring
  • Every Huntington tutor is certified and trained extensively on the most effective teaching methods
In-Center and Online


  • What K12 offers:
  • Online tutoring
  • Has a strong and effective partnership with public and private schools
  • AdvancED-accredited corporation meeting the highest standards of educational management
Online Only

Kaplan Kids

  • What Kaplan Kids offers:
  • Online tutoring
  • Customized learning plans
  • Real-Time Progress Reports track your child's progress
Online Only


  • What Kumon offers:
  • In-center tutoring
  • Individualized programs for your child
  • Helps your child develop the skills and study habits needed to improve their academic performance
In-Center and Online

Sylvan Learning

  • What Sylvan Learning offers:
  • Online and in-center tutoring
  • Sylvan tutors are certified teachers who provide personalized instruction
  • Regular assessment and progress reports
In-Home, In-Center and Online

Tutor Doctor

  • What Tutor Doctor offers:
  • In-Home tutoring
  • One on one attention by the tutor
  • Develops personlized programs by working with your child's existing homework
In-Home Only


  • What TutorVista offers:
  • Online tutoring
  • Student works one-on-one with a professional tutor
  • Using the virtual whiteboard workspace to share problems, solutions and explanations
Online Only

Our Commitment to You

  • Free Help from Teachers

  • Free Learning Materials

  • Helping Disadvantaged Youth