More Books to Read in the Garden

children's books to read about gardens

In the spirit of Sarah and Beth’s most recent blog posts featuring some fantastic book recommendations, I thought I’d share some of the stories I read most often during my elementary school level cooking and gardening classes. 

One Bean, Anne Rockwell
This book follows a young boy as he plants a bean seed and watches it grow. The simple narrative is easy to play out in real life, which is why this is my go-to whenever I teach younger students (K-2) about seeds and life cycles. Not only does the book provide a model for a seed starting activity, it also includes ideas for additional projects and some in-depth info on beans. 

Heroes of the Vegetable Patch, Ulf Stark
This is a fun story about two siblings who care for their neighbor’s garden after being magically shrunk to the size of radishes. I really like to read this book at the start of the growing season as a way to get students thinking about their responsibilities to the plants and insects in the garden. 

Before We Eat: From Farm to Table, Pat Brisson
The illustrations are absolutely beautiful in this book that asks readers to think about where food is coming from—who grew it or raised it and how it makes its way to our plate. I love using this book to set the stage for cooking activities; it gets students thinking about the story behind each ingredient we’re using in a recipe and establishes the concept of gratitude, which we always practice before our first taste. 

I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato, Lauren Child
This is another book that I use in conjunction with cooking or tasting activities. In this one, Charlie convinces his very picky-eater-sister Lola to try vegetables by coming up with some creative names for the foods she normally hates. As someone who was basically Lola growing up, I sympathize with a lot of my students who are hesitant to snack on veggies straight out of the garden or partake in the recipes that we prepare in class. I often end up using this book as a starting point for a discussion about how we can build confidence to try new foods. 

 

Have any other book recommendations? We’d love to hear about your favorites! 

 

Read in (and About!) the Garden

read about the garden

This month’s KidsGarden News is all about literacy and the garden. So, what better time to continue talking about great children’s books featuring the garden? Last week, Sarah wrote about four books she recommends for folks who garden with kids. I’m going to focus on books to read to kids or that they can read themselves.  

My kids are 4 and 7. Our house is filled with books and we spend a lot of time at the library. Our family of four has four library cards, and at any one time of the month, at least one is maxed out on its borrowing limit of 30 items.   

Here are a few of our family favorites, but please share yours with me too below in the comments so I can go grab them from the library.   

Frog and Toad Together, Arnold Lobel
"The Garden" 

If there was a Frog and Toad fan club, I might just be the president. These books are great for early readers, or for kids who like to be read to. The chapter called “The Garden” has Frog giving seeds to Toad so he can plant his own garden. Toad expects immediate results, and shouts at the seeds to “START GROWING!” This would be a great one to read as you sow seeds in spring to remind kids to be patient with their garden.  

Bee & Me, Alison Jay 

This is a wordless picture book about a city child who befriends a bee after initially being frightened of being stung. The bee misses flowers, though, so they adventure to a rural area to gather seeds to sprinkle around the city. Many children in the city are delighted to see the pollinators that visit the plants. At the end of the book, there are some tips on planting for bees as well as other ways to help them. This would be a good choice before planting a pollinator garden, or perhaps for a child who is fearful of bees. 

Miss Maple’s Seeds, Eliza Wheeler  

This is a sweet and gentle story about a bird-sized woman who cares for seeds over the winter until it’s time for them to start their journey by wind, water, or soil. It would be a good choice for younger kids who like to take care of things (think babies or stuffed animals), perhaps when you start seeds indoors. 

Du Iz Tak?, Carson Ellis 

I love this book. It’s a fantastic read-aloud, and you should get it from the library or book store immediately. It’s written in a made-up language, but the syntax is the same as EnglishThe book follows insects in their discovery of a plant and how it changes throughout the growing season. It’s fun for all ages, but would be a hoot to include in a grammar or language study unit for older elementary school students. Be prepared for the preschool set to want to read this one over and over. You probably won’t mind.  

Zoey and Sassafras: The Pod and The Bog, Asia Citro 

Zoey and Sassafrass is a chapter-book series that my rising second-grader recently got into. It’s about a girl who helps magical creatures. It’s charming and adorable and super STEM-focused. All the books have Zoey solving a natural-world problem using science, but this one is specifically about what a plant needs. My preschooler loves to listen to these as well, so you don’t have to wait on this great series until you have a reader! These would be a great when introducing experiments or this book specifically would be great when studying pollination.  (The link in the beginning of this paragraph goes to a site with loads of activities for the first three books in the series.)

In addition to these, be sure to check out our Read in the Garden activity for more book suggestions, as well as our lesson plans for the books Oliver's Vegetables and Seedfolks.

 

Summer Reading List

summer reading list

I love to read. There is nothing better than finding a book that is so well written it captures all of your attention while you read it and leaves behind thoughts that stay close to the surface of your memory when you get done.  Our July KidsGarden News shares some ideas for engaging young readers through gardening, so I thought in today’s blog, I would share a few books for the grown-ups involved with youth gardens too.  Here are some of my current favorites:

Teaming with Microbes by Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis

Soil is really cool and this book will prove it to you.  I have read many books on soil and have attended a wide range of classes, labs, and workshops too, but it was reading this book that really brought soil alive for me. The authors do an amazing job of sharing a lot of technical information in a very easy to understand and relatable way.  Soil is not only a key to a successful garden, it is also a key to a healthy planet. As garden educators, I believe we should spend more time teaching youth about soil and this book will give you a strong background to do it.

Understanding Food and Climate Change by The Center for Ecoliteracy

A digital guide that includes not only written text, but also an assortment of videos and other interactive graphics, Understanding Food and Climate Change is a good starting place for learning about and considering the many factors related to the issue of climate change. It provides a number of resources that could be used to help you introduce and discuss this very important and complex topic with your youth gardeners.

Becoming by Michelle Obama

I love this book for many reasons, but I have added it to this list because I think the excerpts in which Michelle Obama discusses the White House Garden and what the garden meant to her, her family and beyond are great reminders of the power of gardening. The process of organizing and running youth garden programs comes with many rewards, but make no mistake, it is hard work and definitely not without a fair number of challenges.  Finding sources of inspiration whether that be in a book, through news or research articles, or formal or informal networking with others in the youth garden world is key for keeping up your motivation. Don’t underestimate your need to refuel mentally and emotionally for your gardening efforts.

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown

The Gifts of Imperfection is a book about engaging in the practice of wholehearted living which I doubt I can do justice explaining myself in this short blog, but the take away message of this book for me was that it is important to dig into life with courage and compassion.  Once again you might be thinking, how does this book relate to youth gardening?  Teaching youth and growing plants are only part of the equation behind youth garden programming.  Working with adults (volunteers, parents, administrators, neighbors, maintenance crews, cafeteria staff, donors, and many more…) is also a critical component to creating a successful and sustainable youth garden program. We live in a society that is quick with criticism and many times short on appreciation and praise and even when working towards a worthy cause like a youth garden program, you can’t escape those challenges. Brené Brown has a number of books related to leadership and communication that I have found helpful as I navigate the process of working as a garden coordinator and volunteer. I am listing The Gifts of Imperfection here because I think it is a good place to start. I would recommend all of her books as tools for thinking about setting your goals, understanding your own motivation and helping you navigate the relationships involved in your garden program.

 

So, grab some books and head out to the garden with your young gardeners. Check out our latest article for ideas on creating special places in your garden for reading.