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  • Texas 211

Let's Read: Tops and Bottoms

by Janet Stevens

Read this Lesson in Spanish


Children will learn the name of one vegetable which grows above ground and one which grows below ground.

NOTE: This lesson is for children three years and older.


  • Book: Tops and Bottoms by Janet Stevens, Harcourt, Brace and Company,

New York, New York, 1996. $16.00.

Optional: One 8 ½" x 11" piece of brown paper.

  • Activity 2: The vegetables shown in the book: carrots, radishes, beets, lettuce, broccoli, celery, and corn. If possible, get vegetables with leaves and roots attached.



  • Contact your local library. Find out if Tops & Bottoms is available. If it is not, get a list of books on nutrition for children from one to five years of age.

  • You may want to put a copy of the book in your WIC lending library for clients to use.



You can read a book in English to Spanish speaking preschoolers. They are learning language rapidly and will benefit from the experience.

Spanish speaking mothers also learn from hearing an English book read aloud. The repetition of food names in English will help them to learn words. The simplicity of a child's story and its illustration with pictures will increase their understanding of the language.



1. Show the children the drawings inside the front cover of the book. Tell them the name of the author/illustrator. Ask them questions like:

  • What do you see on the cover of the book?

  • What are the bear and the rabbit (hare) doing?

  • What do you think will happen in the book?

You will need to tell them that hare is another word for rabbit.

2. Show the children the inside of the front cover of the book. Ask them questions like:

  • What do you see in the pictures?

  • Do you ever eat any of these vegetables?

3. Show the children the picture on the title page of the book. Show them the part of the plants that grows on top of the ground. Then point out what grows below the ground. Tell them that this is the bottom of the plant.

You may want to cover the bottom half of the picture with a brown piece of paper. The paper will represent the soil. This will show the children what the growing plants look like to them.

4. Pick one activity to do in class with the children.

Activity 1:
As you read the book have the children act out the story. You may read them the story once and ask them to act it out on the second reading. Or you may have them act it out during the first reading.

To act out the story, the children can pretend to be the bear sleeping, the hares working or other characters in the story. To get started, ask them to:

  • Show me how you would lie down, if you were the bear sleeping.

  • Show me how the hares hopped down to the bear's house.

  • Show me how the crops grow.

When reading the book to children without having them act out the story, ask them questions such as:

  • What do you think a hare is?

  • Do you know anyone who grows plants?

  • Have you ever grown a plant?

  • Why do the hares want to grow plants?

  • Have you ever pulled weeds?

  • What color are the carrots? The radishes? The beets?

  • What are the "bottoms" of the plants?

  • What color is the lettuce, broccoli and celery?

  • What makes them "tops"?

  • What color are their "bottoms"?

  • Do you drink water like plants do?

  • Where did the corn grow on the plant?

  • Do you eat vegetables?

  • Which vegetable in the book do you want to try?

The children may take the discussion into new directions.

Activity 2:

Read the book show children. Ask them the questions listed above on this page. Show children the vegetables the hares grew. If possible, show them the whole vegetable with roots and leaves attached. Let the children touch and smell the vegetables.


As children look at the vegetables, find their pictures in the book. Topics to discuss include:

  • Is the vegetable a top, a bottom or a middle?

  • What color is the vegetable?

  • Which vegetable does each child want to eat?

5. Activities to do at home:

Pass out the attached "Let's Read at Home!" sheet. Here is a further explanation of the sheet so that you can discuss it with parents.

"1. Borrow it from your local library. Read it again with your child. Spend time looking at it at and talking about it together."

Encourage parents to read to their children as a way to spend quality time together. Add Tops & Bottoms to your WIC lending library.

"2. As you cook and eat vegetables, discuss with your child the vegetables which grow above and below ground. Ask your child if the hares grew the same vegetables in Tops & Bottoms."

Relating daily experiences to what the child reads will make reading important. The fact that the hares in the book ate vegetables will also encourage children to eat vegetables.

"3. Use the attached sheet called "Tops and Bottoms Cards."

First, cut the sheet into four cards. Have children the put the cards in the order of the story. If the child puts the cards in the wrong order, the parents can retell the story to the child. Or, if the parents have the book at home, they can read the book to the child again. The child can correct her mistakes. The important thing is that the parents encourage the child in their efforts, not whether the child is right or wrong.

"4. Talk about the vegetables the hares grew. Ask your child to draw a picture of a vegetable she wants to buy at the store. Take the picture with you when you shop. Have the whole family eat the vegetable together. Talk about the fact that the child picked it."

Letting the child select a vegetable will encourage them to eat it. Relating her choice to the book will reinforce reading.

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Last updated January 5, 2011