Teach key background knowledge and incorporate multi-genre analysis in a unit on Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson with these engaging supplemental texts.
CommonLit’s digital literacy program provides Book Pairing resources for over a hundred novels. These paired texts provide essential background information and literary connections to help students deepen their reading comprehension and engage fully with every book. Book Pairings include information about the supplemental texts, guidance on when to introduce them, and discussion questions to help students make cross-textual connections.
Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson is a coming-of-age story centered around Louise, a thirteen-year-old living on a Maryland crabbing island during World War II. As Louise grows and changes alongside her twin sister, Caroline, she struggles with being compared to her extroverted and musically gifted sister.
Nonfiction Texts to Deepen Background Knowledge
Provide students with rigorous informational texts to their understanding of the novel while preparing them for benchmark reading assessments.
“Introduction to World War II” by USHistory.org
This informational article covers the causes, progression, and conclusion of World War II.
Have students read “Introduction to World War II” before they begin reading Jacob Have I Loved, to provide them with historical context on the period the novel is set in. As students read, ask them to consider how World War II affected the characters on Rass Island.
“The Nature Vs. Nurture Debate” by CommonLit Staff
This article explores the concept of nature vs. nurture, a question that scientists have been researching for years. The article discusses theories about what makes a person who they are and details the nature versus nurture debate.
Introduce this text after students have read Chapter 2 to help them analyze the characterization of Louise and her twin sister, Caroline. Ask students to discuss, in the context of the article, what makes the sisters so different. Even though the girls grew up in the same house, how did their parents raise them differently, and what were the effects of their upbringings?
Engage With Religious and Traditional Texts to Provide Meaningful Context
Incorporate diverse text types with these religious texts and traditional fables, to inform classroom discussion of Jacob Have I Loved. These texts will support students with analyzing the biblical allusions and references throughout the novel.
Genesis 37 is an Old Testament passage about Joseph, an important figure in the Hebrew tradition. In this passage, he is favored over his brothers by his father and dreams that he was chosen by God to rule over many people. When Jacob’s brothers learn of this dream they sell him into slavery.
Introduce this passage after students have read Chapter 3, to help them understand Louise’s repeated references to the Bible as well as contextualize her allusion to this bible passage in particular. Ask students to discuss how Louise resembles Joseph; what prompts her to compare herself to him, and why does she want her and her sister to live out Joseph’s dreams?
This passage explores the story of mankind's first murder, in which Cain kills his brother after God is more pleased with Abel's offering than his.
Introduce this passage after students have read Chapter 6, to help them focus on the themes of sibling rivalry and hatred. Ask students to compare the sibling rivalries in the passage and the novel to deepen their reading comprehension skills across both forms of text. Why do Cain and Louise both resent their siblings? Ask students to discuss why they think Louise often compares herself to biblical characters.
“The Crow and The Pitcher” by Aesop
This short fable by Aesop tells the story of a thirsty crow, desperate for a drink of water. The crow discovers a clever way to reach the water that is deep at the bottom of a narrow vase. This short piece is a great addition to any reading curriculum, as it can be connected to numerous novels and stories.
Have students read this text after they have completed Chapter 12, to help them identify and analyze themes around the pursuit of happiness and fulfillment. Ask students to compare Louise’s acts of self-improvement to the crow’s actions. What are they each trying to achieve? Do you consider them successful?
Analyze Key Themes Through Poetry
Pair these poems with Jacob Have I Loved to inspire multi-genre analysis of themes and central ideas.
“A Poison Tree” by William Blake
In this poem about resentment, the speaker reveals what happens when they don’t address their anger. The speaker describes how their wrath continues to grow until it ultimately leads to a violent act.
Introduce this text after students have completed Chapter 14, when Louise learns that Caroline gets to go to boarding school to focus on the themes of rivalry and jealousy. Ask students to discuss how Louise treats her jealousy towards her sister in comparison to the speaker in the poem.
“Nothing Gold Can Stay” by Robert Frost
In this renowned poem by Robert Frost, the speaker describes the changes of the trees throughout the seasons, reflecting how quickly everything in life changes. Frost’s poems are a strong supplement to any ELA curriculum looking to incorporate more poetry.
Have students read this poem after reading Chapter 15 of the novel to focus on the theme of growing up. Ask students to use the poem’s context to analyze how Louise has grown and matured. How are her relationships with others changing as she moves through adolescence? What would Frost say about the changing relationship between Louise and Call?
“Sadie and Maude” by Gwendolyn Brooks
This poem describes two sisters who choose completely different paths in life. The sisters’ lives and happiness then go on to differ dramatically due to the choices they have made.
Have students read “Sadie and Maud” after completing Jacob Have I Loved to focus on the theme of sisterhood rivalry. Ask students to compare Sadie and Maud to Louise and Caroline. In each text does one sister end up being more successful or happy than the other? Use evidence from both texts to support your answer.
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