We love Bridge to Terabithia. We loved the film made from the book. In fact, I’m betting Littlest watched that movie more than 100 times. So we had to read the book. It’s one of his favorite stories ever.
Katherine Paterson is an incredible children’s author. She writes books that speak to kids and help them understand their own reality, but she also captures childhood so well that she transports even the oldest reader back to her pre-teen days (no, I’m Not the oldest. Stop being mean).
If you ask my boys, though, they will tell you that Bridge to Terabithia is hands-down their favorite. I guess they identify with Jess’s artistic soul. Which is good, because I never want them to be the kind of men society is trying to mold Jess into. I don’t want anyone to mold them into anything. I want them to be who they are.
Bridge to Terabithia is an incredible homage to childhood. Jess Aarons, who lives in the rural south town of Lark Creek but decidedly does not fit in, meets his match when Leslie Burke moves to town and blows away all the boys in a race on the first day of 5th grade. They become fast friends, and Jess finds himself through that friendship. Thanks to Leslie’s intelligence and creativity, the new friends fashion an imaginary world in the woods across the creek near their houses. The only entrance is on a rope swing that crosses the creek. In this world, Jess and Leslie can leave behind the responsibilities of growing up and fitting in. They get to just be kids. But when the rope swing breaks and tragedy strikes, Jess will have to learn how to navigate the world on his own.
Yeah, it’s sad. But it’s also beautiful. So let’s make sure your kids get it.
Bridge to Terabithia Activities
Your children do not have to do all of these activities to get a better understanding of the book, but it’s a good idea to choose at least one activity from each category.
- Why Jess might have waited until his dad left to get up and run
- Something you’ve really wanted to win and worked hard to make it possible
- Jess had been called “that crazy little kid that draws all the time.” Have you ever been given a nickname you didn’t like? Write about it. If you haven’t, write about how it would feel if you did have such a nickname.
- Describe Jess’s sisters
- What you would do if someone told you couldn’t or shouldn’t do something you love
- Pretend you’re Jess and write about Miss Edmunds–why you love her and she makes you feel
- What you most look forward to about school
- Jess hides his drawings from his family because it makes them mad. Write about what it would be like to have to do that.
- Jess is lonely because he feels like he’s surrounded by girls who don’t understand him. Have you ever felt lonely like that? Write about it or write about how you think it would feel.
- Describe Leslie as Jess first see her
- Describe Mrs. Meyers
- Being left out or ignored in a crowd
- Making a conscious decision to become friends
- What it would be like to go to a school that didn’t have a cafeteria or gym
- What it would be like to move to a poor, rural community from the suburbs
- A hobby that your peers might not understand or might tease you about
- Something you don’t have that your classmates or friends all have
- A make-believe game you’ve played with friends or siblings
- Being brave enough to go somewhere that scares you
- Having a friend that others disapprove of or tease you about
- Why Jess’s mother acts stiff and funny around Leslie like she does when she has to go the school
- A bully you know or have heard about
- What it would be like for a younger sibling to want you to fight someone
- Have you ever done something you were later sorry for? Write about it.
- Have you ever been mad enough at a sibling or friend to want to smack them? Write about it.
- A favorite Christmas present
- Why being with Leslie made it feel like Christmas again to Jess
- Have you ever helped a grownup paint a room or fix something? Explain.
- A time when you told someone a secret you shouldn’t have
- Is there a special place you like to be alone? Write about it. If not, write about your perfect idea of such a place.
- Pretend you’re Jess and write about the reasons you should help Janice Avery
- Why does Jess feel one little puff will scatter his life like a dandelion? Write about it.
- Pretend you’re Jess and write about how hard it will be with your dad laid off and no money coming in
- Pretend you’re Jess’s mom and write about why she worries Leslie will poke her nose up at the family
- Pretend you’re Leslie and write what you loved about church
- Write about the differences between the way Jess’s mom speaks and the way Leslie’s mom speaks. Which would you rather hear?
- Write a prayer or spell to stop rain
- Do you think it’s better to be safe or brave? Have you ever been too scared of something to try it? Write about it.
- Write about how it would feel if your best friend died
- Pretend you’re Jess and describe going to the Burke house to pay his respects
- Jess thinks that sometimes “you need to give people something that’s for them, not just something that makes you feel good giving it.” What do you think he means by that?
Write a Letter
- From Jess to May Belle thanking her for being the one family member on his side
- From Mrs. Aarons to Brenda and Ellie telling them why she can’t/shouldn’t give them money for school shopping
- From Jess to Mrs. Aarons telling her he is not the lazy child and why he’s not
- From May Belle to Joyce Ann apologizing for saying she hates her
- From Jess to his dad explaining why he wants to be an artist
- From Jess to Miss Edmunds thanking her for encouraging him to keep drawing
- From Jess to his mom asking why she is only tired and snappish with him and telling her how it makes him feel
- From Jess to his dad telling him how much he would love to be able to hug and kiss him
- From Gary Fulcher to Jess berating him for letting a girl run
- From Jess to Leslie telling her how she ruined running
- From Leslie to her parents explaining that she doesn’t like Lark Creek and why
- From Leslie to her classmates explaining why her family doesn’t own a TV
- From Jess to Mrs. Prentice telling her he didn’t trip Janice Avery and shouldn’t have been kicked off the bus
- From Jess to Mrs. Meyers apologizing for daydreaming in class
- From Jess to Leslie asking why she calls her parents Judy and Bill and explaining why it makes him uncomfortable
- From Jess to his parents explaining to the why it’s okay to be friends with a girl and that nothing bad will come of it
- From Janice Avery to Willard Hughes answering his love letter
- From Jess to Janice Avery explaining about the letter and apologizing
- From Jess to May Belle explaining why he and Leslie can’t include her
- From Leslie to Jess thanking him for Prince Terrien
- From Jess to Leslie putting his feelings about Christmas Eve afternoon into words
- From Jess to his dad promising he likes his race car set
- From Jess to his mom asking her to allow him some down time
- From Jess to Leslie telling her he wishes she would stop spending so much time with her dad
- From Mr. Burke to Jess thanking him for his help and praising his knowledge
- From Janice Avery to Leslie thanking her for her advice
- From Jess to Leslie telling her why they shouldn’t cross into Terabithia while the creek is up
- From Jess to Miss Edmunds thanking her for taking him to the museums and telling her what he liked about it
- From Jess to Leslie apologizing for not inviting her to go to Washington
- From Jess to Leslie telling her all about his day in Washington
- From Jess to his dad thanking him for being there for him and showing him he really is loved
- From Mr. Burke to Jess telling him why he had been such a wonderful friend to Leslie and thanking him
- From Jess to Leslie telling her that he was the only person who really knew her and why he feels she belonged to him
- From Jess to May Belle apologizing for hitting her
- From Jess to Leslie asking her to grant him her powers so he will know what to do
- From Jess to Mrs. Meyers asking her why she’s in such a rush to be rid of Leslie
- From Jess to Mr. Burke thanking him for the wood to build the bridge and telling him what he did with it
- From May Belle to Joyce Ann telling her about Terabithia and that one day she could be a queen
- Canning and preserving food
- The songs “My beautiful Ballon,” “This Land Is Your Land,” “Free to Be You and Me,” and “Blowing in the Wind”
- Vietnam War
- Yellow-bellied sapsuckers
- Scuba diving
- Paper dolls
- Star Trek – the TV show
- French politics
- String quartets
- Timber wolves
- Singing whales
- William Shakespeare
- Walter Cronkite
- Abraham Lincoln
- Washington, D.C.
- National Gallery
- Japanese myths
- Paterson uses foreshadowing when she writes, “…here was probably the biggest thing in his life, and he had shrugged it off as nothing.” Explain what the author means by this statement and how it relates to the things to come.
- Should teachers discourage kids from using their talents? Write about why or why not.
- Jess’s clothes tell a story about his family’s financial situation. Explain.
- Your favorite hobby
- Write the essay about drawing that Jess should have written instead of his essay about football
- In Terabithia, the trees and animals must be protected. That is true of the world at large. Write and essay about why this is so.
- What it would be like to not have a TV. What would you do for entertainment?
- Think about what it would be like if your parents singled you out and made you work harder or do more than your siblings. Write about how it would make you feel.
- Brenda suggests charging Easter clothes for church, wearing them, and then returning them after they’ve been worn. Do you think this is stealing? Why or why not?
- Compare watching TV to reading books. Which is better? Why?
- When Jess wakes up the morning after Leslie’s death, he doesn’t know what’s going on or understand what anyone is saying. Grief has made him numb and his mind is trying to make him forget. Write about the stages of grief and how they affect people
- In the end, Jess finds his own magic and is able to create a procession in Leslie’s honor even though he always thought she was better at imagining Terabithia. What does this tell you about Jess?
- Draw Jess’s home–house, yard, barn, cow field, etc.
- Draw some crazy animals doing funny things
- Make a musical instrument
- Paint a white whale in dark water
- Build a castle stronghold with craft sticks or old boxes
- Chalk pastel of Redwood trees
- Paint a pine forest
- Make a paper plate school bus
- Make a Santa Going Down the Chimney craft
- Draw Prince Terrien
- Draw an Easter dress for Jess’s sisters with colored pencils
- Paint a landscape of Terabithia
- Chalk pastel of the swollen creek, the crab apple tree, and the rope
- Make a wreath from limbs and flowers
- Build the Bridge to Terabithia with craft sticks or sticks collected outside
- Grits and red gravy
- Crackers and dried fruit
Can I just tell you? Reading this book again to come up with these activities was a pure joy. Now I can put Terabithia in my Reading Passport tonight.
Have you started yours yet?
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