“Story is for a human as water is for a fish–all encompassing.…” Jonathan Gottschall
The Literary Garden
You can find a multitude of stories in any garden, but especially in those designed with beloved books in mind. Gwen Frostic once wrote, “In a child’s garden, imagination grows.” In a garden planted to nurture the love of books and plants, imagination soars!
Choose favorite books and cultivate a small theme garden filled with plants that are mentioned in the text. You will not only tell, but also show and root kids to the world of both gardens and literature. I’ve learned through the years that kids don’t forget what they learn from stories or gardens.
Read E.B. White’s classic Charlotte’s Web and search for examples of spider webs in the garden. Tend a patch of ground filled with the herbs that Beatrix Potter mentions in Peter Rabbit. Tuck a Secret Garden behind a fence or hedge and festoon it with roses. Grow a giant beanstalk just like the one in Jack and the Beanstalk. Sow a border of lupines in honor of Barbara Cooney’s Miss Rumphius, who wanted to make the world a better place.
Finally, don’t forget the value of trees in a garden for children. Even older kids love the environmentally sensitive book The Lorax by Dr. Seuss. Read and explore the meaning of The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein and The Man Who Planted Trees by Jean Giono. Page through Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert and Maple by Lori Nichols. This is just a small sampling of the many thousands of books from which to choose.
Plan a garden with little reading nooks furnished with simple, natural seating. I like to use tree stumps and hay bales. Enter the garden through short, kid-sized arches and small gates. Provide shade and seating under arbors and pergolas planted with vines. This all adds to the mystery and allure of a child’s literary garden.
Make literary signs with images and quotes from favorite books. You can scan and enlarge images, and laminate them to protect them from the elements. Let the kids help design and create them.
Plant a poetry trail. Ask the children to choose their favorite poems and print them on heavy paper, which can be laminated. Mount the poems on short posts or on fences throughout the garden. Another option is to split up one poem into numerous signs scattered throughout the garden.
Install a large, outdoor “Word Wall.” Use chalkboard-painted plywood. Post a daily quote from a famous author and honor authors on their birthdays.
Be sure to have areas that are fenced or hedged so that kids have a magical, secret space in which to read and write.
Make an outdoor reading amphitheater with a throne for the reader/teacher and a half circle of seating (hay bales) for the students.
About our Guest Blogger
Sharon Lovejoy is an award winning author of nature, gardening, and historical fiction. Her books Sunflower Houses, Hollyhock Days, Roots Shoots Buckets & Boots, and Camp Granny focus on how to connect children to the world of gardens and gardening. Sharon is an Advisory Board Member for KidsGardening.org.