How one interprets the children’s book, “The Giving Tree,” depends on the reader.
When Emily Adcock read it, she learned about selfless love.She saw herself as the boy who selfishly took from the giving tree and equated the tree to her mother, Sarah, who just kept giving.
The book “made me realize what I was doing wrong (using my mother) and the pain of a mother who just wants to see her child happy – no matter what it cost herself,” Adcock wrote in a letter for the Letters About Literature Contest. “So I stopped it … for my mom.”
The Lakewood Elementary fifth-grader’s heartfelt words earned her a second-place award in the annual contest, which is a national reading-writing competition that challenges students to write a personal letter to an author or poet (living or dead) about how that writer’s work impacted a student’s life or worldview.
“Writing about my relationship with my mother is something I had never done before,” the student said. “I usually don’t write about my relationships with my family. Writing about my feelings for my mother helped me to understand the meaning of [the] book.”
Adcock’s mother, Sarah, as a librarian, loves books, too.
“As a librarian, books have always been important to me,” she said. “I am thankful one of the gifts I was able to give my children is a genuine love of reading and writing.”Sarah Adcock said the book, “The Giving Tree,” is about generosity.
“I am glad that reading this book helped Emily understand all that parents do for their children,” she said.
The book clearly had an impact.
Emily Adcock said the book taught her to be generous and thankful.
The fifth-grader said she didn’t think the book is just a children’s book.
“Your book has some of the most important lessons that are known – to be thankful and generous.
To the author, she wrote, “My mother is always there for me. Until I read your book, I didn’t realize how I was taking advantage of her desire to make me happy. When I read your book, I imagined my mother as the tree and myself as the boy.
As frequently found in human nature, I first wanted nothing, but as I saw her desire to make me happy, I became greedy. I used her resources until she did not have any resources left – she was just a shell of her former self. And she knew it … she knew it all along, but her strong love caused her not to stop me. I now understand how much my mother loves and all she has given to me.”
Adcock’s letter was chosen among 198 entries from Louisiana students and she placed among seven winners statewide. The first-place winner in her category for grades 6 – 8 was Peter Menard of Episcopal School of Acadiana in Lafayette.
State winners will be recognized at the Louisiana Book Festival on Oct. 31. First-place winners will get $100 and their letters will be submitted to the Library of Congress for the national competition; second-place winners get $75, and third-place winners, $50. The cash prizes are made possible by a Library of Congress grant.
Jim Davis, director of the Louisiana Center for the Book with the State Library of Louisiana, said they annually sponsor the state competition to encourage students to read and to express how books they have read have impacted their lives.
“Emily internalized her reading experience in reading ‘The Giving Tree’ and turned that into a winning letter that gives back to us in return,” Davis said. “We hope that more students, teachers and schools will get involved in the next competition in the fall.”
Adcock’s teacher, Erika Spengler, entered Adcock’s letter in the literature contest along with five fellow students.“Often, elementary students can name their favorite books or authors,” Spengler said. “Yet, this contest goes a step further in asking students to articulate how reading a book impacted their own lives.”
Spengler said Adcock’s writing demonstrated how reading a book heightened her sensitivity and awareness of her own personal life.
According to her teacher, “The act of reading a book inspired her to make changes to her actions and attitudes. This is a major aim of education – to change lives for the better.”
Adcock explained what this book did for her best.
“Your book has changed my way of thinking and my actions. I now realize how much people give to me,” she said in her letter to the book’s author, Shel Silverstein. Silverstein was a poet, singer-songwriter, cartoonist, screenwriter and author of children’s books died in 1999. “I am surrounded with people who love and do so much for me.
Now, I can really see and appreciate all they do for me. From now on, I am going to be like the tree, and give all I have while I have it.”