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A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Reading Test

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A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a wonderful book to assign as independent reading. Smith’s remembrance of 1910s Brooklyn envelops the imagination, and her themes possess a timeless resonance. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Reading Test motivates students to read this American masterpiece.

If you are looking for reading checks to use throughout the reading of the novel, check out A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Quizzes (6 reading checks).

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Reading Test (PDF)

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Reading Test multiple choice PDF

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn test questions:

  • 51 multiple choice questions

  • 2 short answer questions

  • 1 essay prompt

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn reading check short answer promptsA Tree Grows in Brooklyn Reading Test contents

  • Test PDF file
  • Test DOCX file (can be modified in Microsoft Word or Google Docs)
  • Answer Key PDF file

Resource notes:

  • Contains comprehension questions only; Does NOT assess knowledge of literary elements.
  • 4 pages of multiple choice questions
  • 1 page for short answer test questions
  • 1 page for the extended response
  • Remove pages 5 and 6 if you want multiple choice questions only.

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A Tree Grows in Brooklyn as summer reading

As I considered options for assigning summer reading, I noticed A Tree Grows in Brooklyn on several summer reading lists.  As I thought about the novel, I realized that it was an excellent choice.

Befriending Francie Nolan

Young people can identify with Francie Nolan’s thoughts and experiences.  In many ways her adolescent musings and realizations are universal.  Students need not identify as female, know the immigrant experience, live in a city, or be impoverished to connect with this dynamic character.

A more complex notion of genre

Books like A Tree Grows in Brooklyn help high school students develop a more nuanced understanding of genre.  It is a novel by definition, but it so closely resembles Smith’s experiences in Brooklyn that it might best be identified as a fictionalized memoir. This understanding of the blurring of genre lines prepares students for other texts that defy categorization.

Deviating from simplistic narrative structure

Since A Tree Grows in Brooklyn reads like a memoir, it does not follow a linear narrative structure.  It manipulates time but without adhering to a singular, central conflict.  In a vague sense, the central conflict is overcoming poverty, but the issue is muddied through the kaleidoscope of remembrance.

Literary merit

I probably do not need to argue the literary merits of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.  It is beloved not just for its endearing characters and lively setting but for its unique use of point of view, masterful dialogue, heart-wrenching ambiguity, vivid symbolism, and elegant style.

Despite the richness of its elements, the novel is accessible.  Since the text does not require a teacher’s constant guidance, it is reasonable to offer A Tree Grows in Brooklyn as summer reading.

Adult issues

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is not kids’ stuff.  Francie contemplates her mortality, discovers her sexuality, agonizes over her future, and experiences profound trauma.  These issues are on the minds of adolescents, and these are the issues that adolescents want to read about.

Betty Smith original cover

“It doesn’t take long to write things of which you know nothing. When you write of actual things, it takes longer, because you have to live them first.”

Assigning extra credit: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Reading Check

The qualities that recommend A Tree Grows in Brooklyn as summer reading also make the novel perfect as extra credit reading.

I assign the reading of long-form literature as extra credit because I cannot stand the thought of grading another lame presentation board or hastily-made PowerPoint.  Since I have A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Reading Check with easy-to-score multiple choice questions, this book is an option.

I would assign A Tree Grows in Brooklyn as extra credit for a high school student reading at or below grade level (LEXILE measure is 810).  I would not assign the book in middle school due to the adult issues.

“It’s growing out of sour earth. And it’s strong because its hard struggle to live is making it strong. My children will be strong that way.”

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Reading Test questions:

Sample questions:

  1. What do Francie and Neeley do together as little kids to make spending money?
    • Sing songs on the street corner
    • Collect materials for recycling
    • Take care of people’s yards
    • Make deliveries for the grocery store
  2. What sight terrifies young Francie?
    • A dog chewing on a bone
    • A dress flapping on a tree branch
    • A workshop full of gears and spare parts
    • An old man waiting in a bakery
  3. The narrator explains that the tree of the title likes…
    • Poor people.
    • High, dry places.
    • Blood and smoke.
    • Laughter, singing, and babies.
  4. Most of Book One centers on a special day called…
    • St. Crispin’s day.
    • Yom Kippur.
    • Mischief day.
    • Saturday.
  5. To make her way in Brooklyn, young Francie must master…
    • Being invisible.
    • The art of insult.
    • Street fighting.
    • Transactions / making deals.
  6. Mary Rommely tells her daughter that if she wants the children to have a better life, she must…
    • Show them discipline rather than love.
    • Leave Johnny.
    • Move to “the old country” (Europe).
    • Get them to read.
  7. Who is narrating (telling) the novel?
    • Johnny Nolan (the father)
    • Francie Nolan (as a little girl)
    • Francie Nolan (as an adult)
    • Unknown being (not participating)
  8. In relation to Book One, Book Two…
    • Goes back in time.
    • Jumps forward in time.
    • Happens at the same time.
    • Is narrated from a different point of view.
  9. In order to date Johnny, Katie must…
    • Leave her husband.
    • Change her church.
    • Betray her best friend.
    • Lie about her age.
  10. Francie’s favorite thing to do is…
    • Make costumes.
    • Read.
    • Help elderly people.
    • Paint / draw.
  11. In what way is Johnny talented?
    • Carving wood
    • Playing poker
    • Writing poetry
    • Singing and dancing
  12. What does Francie’s father do for a living?
    • Truck driver
    • Police officer
    • Waiter
    • Trick question! He does not work.
  13. Katie is _______________ whereas Johnny is _______________.
    • Catholic / Jewish
    • Jewish / Catholic
    • Tough and practical / a dreamer
    • A dreamer / tough and practical

Setting: Betty Smith sets her novel in 1910s Brooklyn – a setting she knows well. Describe this setting as imagined / remembered in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Use details from the novel to develop your description.

In A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Smith creates a setting of…

Theme: What is one message Betty Smith communicates through her novel A Tree Grows in Brooklyn? What does she want the reader to understand about life and/or human nature? Identify ONE message from the novel and explain how Smith relates it.

One important message developed in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is that…

Thanks for checking out A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Reading Test

Getting resistant readers to read independently presents a continual challenge.  Teachers must meet this challenge as nothing raises reading levels like habitual reading.  A simple A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Reading Test with some multiple choice questions can make the difference.

Also available: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Quizzes: 6 Reading Checks

“From that time on, the world was hers for the reading.”