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.