Two lonely children create an imaginary kingdom for themselves in the woods.
Below are some reading passages that we have hand picked to supplement this book. Be sure to read the passage summaries and our suggestions for instructional use.
In Gary Soto’s short story “The Challenge,” a boy hopes to impress the new girl at school by playing racquetball with her.
Have students read this short story after they finish Chapter 3, when Leslie beats the boys in a race. Use this text to generate a discussion on how boys expect girls to perform in sports. Ask students to discuss why the boys aren’t worried about Leslie racing with them, and how this compares to José’s expectations of Stinger. How do the boys in both texts respond to being bested by girls? Why do they react this way?
In Emma Bartley’s poem “Holly Trees,” a speaker describes playing house under holly trees.
Introduce this poem after students finish Chapter 4, when Jess and Leslie become the rulers of Terabithia, in order to explore the power of imagination. How does Emma and Maggie’s imaginary play in “Holly Trees” compare to the imaginary play that Jess and Leslie take part in? What do the imaginary forts provide the characters in the two texts?
In Shel Silverstein’s poem “Underface,” a speaker describes the face they show to the world and the one that hides underneath.
Have students read this poem after they finish Chapter 5, when Jess and Leslie have become friends, to analyze how the characters simultaneously hide and reveal different parts of themselves. What does it mean to have an “underface?” How do Leslie and Jess show each other their “underfaces” and let each other see parts of themselves that they hide from the rest of the world? Why do you think they hide certain parts of their identity? How does being open and honest with each other contribute to their friendship?
In Junot Díaz’s “The Terror,” Díaz explores his experiences with fear after getting beat-up as an adolescent.
Have students read this memoir after they finish Chapter 9, when Jess develops a fear of crossing the creek to Terabithia, to explore the effects of fear. How do both Jess and Díaz attempt to avoid the things that scare them? In what ways are their attempts to deal with their fear successful or unsuccessful?
“ICU” is a poem that explores the difficulty of understanding the loss of a loved one.
Have students read this poem after Chapter 11, when Jess learns that Leslie has died, to explore how people try to come to terms with death. How do both texts emphasize how difficult it is for people to accept that their loved ones are dead or dying? How does Jess distance himself from the idea that Leslie is dead? How do the approaches to death that the speaker in “ICU” and Jess’ take represent an attempt to protect themselves from loss or the thought of loss?
In Li-Young Lee’s poem “Eating Together,” a family shares a meal after losing the speaker’s father.
Have students read this poem after they finish Chapter 12, when Jess is struggling with Leslie’s death, to explore how a family can offer support during difficult times. How does Jess’ family attempt to help ease his pain after Leslie dies? How do their methods compare to the actions of the family in “Eating Together”? How do Jess and the speaker in the poem “Eating Together” respond to the presence of their family during a tragedy?
Poe's poem, “Annabel Lee” was published in 1849 and is the last complete poem published by Poe before his death. It recounts the early romance of the speaker’s now-dead lover.
Have students read this poem after they finish the book. The novel ends with Jess beginning an emotional process of healing after Leslie’s abrupt death. Use this text to explore the idea that childhood love never truly leaves you. Ask students to discuss how the speaker in the poem and Jess work to keep the memories of Annabel Lee and Leslie alive. Why is it important to the conclusion of the story that Jess builds a bridge over the creek to Terabithia?