Monday, April 7, 2008

Planting the Seeds of Environmentalism

Spring is coming up this month, not to mention Earth Day, and what better time than that to teach our children about the magic of mother nature and her bounty by planting with them and showing them the miracle of growth first hand? Gardening helps out our earth by increasing greenery, encourages eating what we grow rather than what we import, and helps teach our children early science lessons about life cycles. What a perfect way to celebrate! And to help you out, our BlogHersAct focus this month is on teaching children about the environment. In fact, in two weeks, it will be all about gardening with kids, so stay tuned for some great tips!

Meanwhile, I always say that prepping on paper in the form of a storybook is a great way to tie in a literacy aspect and to help them make real-life connections to what they are reading and hearing - something that helps increase vocabulary and comprehension, and a skill that kindergarten teachers value. It's a plus all around. Now let's start with some stories...

Growing Vegetable Soup and Planting a Rainbow, by Lois Ehlert

Lois Ehlert's trademark bold, simple illustrations turn in these two books to planting, and they are terrific for showing toddlers and preschoolers the wonders of the earth's harvest. In Planting a Rainbow, Ehlert uses a flower garden to illustrate colours to gorgeous effect, while in Growing Vegetable Soup, she shows the process of a father and child planting seeds, harvesting vegetables, chopping them up, and finally eating delicious, homemade, homegrown soup. So good, it makes me want to do it, too! I also love her Eating the Alphabet, an A-Z walk through an astonishing variety of fruits and vegetables, though many are not varieties that can be grown here.

The Gardener, by Sarah Stewart, ill. David Small

It's the Great Depression, and when Lydia Grace's father loses his job, she is sent to live with her dour Uncle Jim in the grim, grey city. Well, Lydia may have to go and live in the city, but it doesn't mean she can't continue to plant and grow green things, just like she loves to do. This more advanced picture book is a wonderful ode to rooftop gardening in an urban environment, to the magic power of plants to reach the soul, and to the triumph of a blithe spirit. It's just the thing for an older child of the city who needs a little push to see the potential magic of a small garden of their own. Plus, it's a Caldecott honour book, so apparently a few other people thought so, too.

Fran's Flower, by Lisa Bruce

Fran has a flower, but isn't sure how to take care of it. Does it like hamburgers, like she does? This very simple, boldly illustrated book takes a slightly silly route to teaching children about what a plant needs - water and sunlight. Great for the very young.

Pumpkin Circle, by George Levenson, ill. Shmuel Thaler

This gorgeous photographic book focuses on the life cycle of a pumpkin, from planting seed to harvesting the classic icon of fall. This may seem less "springy" than others on this list, but the planting begins in the early warm months, and the book shows how the leaves grow, the vines spread, flowers appear, and finally, the pumpkins themselves begin to grow. The fun, rhyming text walks through each step, and demonstrates the patience required by some plantings, yet draws the reader nicely through to the harvest and the return of new seeds to the earth. This was picked as one of The New York Public Library's top 100 books of its year (1999), and close to a decade later, is still one of the best for showing a life cycle to younger children without losing them.

There are also plenty of great non-fiction books about gardening for children! Check out the 635 section in your local public library for ideas on how to get started.

Originally posted on MommyBlogsToronto/Better Than a Playdate.

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