A Chair For My Mother By Vera B. Williams




A Chair For My Mother is a beautiful story for talking about and teaching compassion. This book comes up on every ‘compassion education’ search I’ve ever done and it is a really great conversation starter. It has been awarded a Caldecott Prize and is worth a read.


The story is told in the 1st person, from the point of view of a small girl. She tells the story of how, not so long ago, they had a fire in their house and they lost all their possessions. The neighbours were very generous and kind in helping them start over, but now they only have hard kitchen chairs to sit on and her mother has nowhere to rest and be comfortable after a long day on her feet.

The mother is a waitress and they are saving up all her tips, building a collection so they can buy a comfortable chair for their new house.

For all the things they have lost, this is what they most want.

Why I love it:

This book is a reminder of the importance of the simple things and the beauty in kindness. This little girl is not desperate to replace toys she lost, she wants a chair for her mother. And finally, when they save up their pennies and find the perfect chair, I love the happiness on their faces as they all enjoy the chair together.

There is a lovely theme of family and togetherness throughout this story and a not-so-underlying theme of resilience. It’s definitely a good one for discussion.

Themes to discuss with your child:

  • Loss
  • Family
  • Self-sacrifice
  • Kindness
  • Generosity
  • Resilience
  • Starting over
  • The truly important things in life
  • Perseverance and determination
  • How lucky we are

Questions to ask your child:

Before reading:
  • What do you think this book might be about?
  • Do you think this is a fiction book (a story) or a non-fiction book (facts)?
  • Is this a book you want to read? Why/why not?
  • What do you think the silver medal on the cover means? Does this influence the way you feel about reading the book?
  • What can you tell about the story from looking at the picture on the cover? What do you think is happening?
After reading:
  • Did you enjoy this story? Why/why not?
  • Do you think the chair was a good thing to save up for? Why/why not?
  • If we were to lose everything in a fire, what would you miss most?
  • Do you think it would be difficult to start all over again after something like that?
  • What do you think would be the hardest part?
  • If someone we knew went through something like that, what could we do to help?
  • Do you think the characters in this book have a good relationship? What makes you think this?
  • If you could ask the author one question, what would it be?

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