Monday, January 24, 2011

Every Day Is Earth Day

While technically "garden week" ended this week, we've only read a few of the many books I wanted to read with Soren this week. And truly, inspired by this library's post of books on plants, "Every Day is Earth Day." I'm certain we will be reading more books on the wonder of living, growing, green things. However, these are our top picks.  All the books I post here are "Soren tested", meaning my two-year-old asked to read each at least twice.

"My Garden" by Kevin Henkes
This one is easily my top pick. The story is rich with imagination, it's charming, beautifully illustrated, and I honestly wish I didn't have to give it back to the library. The little girl in the book imagines the perfect garden where the flowers never die, the rabbits don't eat the plants because they're made of chocolate, and jelly bean trees grow. I'm enchanted.

"The Secret" by Lindsey Barrett George
This was Soren's top pick for the week. We read it over and over, often without another book in the middle. It's visually pleasing for a little person, following the dotted line tracks of garden creatures, sharing a precious secret with each other. The collage-style illustrations are delightful, full of flowers and crawly things.

"A Seed is Sleepy" by Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long
I really wasn't sure about taking this non-fiction home. It didn't seem age appropriate, but the vibrant illustrations were too much for me to resist. As it turns out, it's not age appropriate, but Soren enjoyed it anyways. He calls it "Seeds do" because it shows, beautifully, exactly what seeds do and how many kinds of seeds there are. I plan to get it again in the future when Soren's language and science skills catch up with him a little.

"Green and Growing, A Book about Plants" by Susan Blackaby
This book thinks to answer questions I never thought to ask like "Do plants have feelings?" It is a fun, quick read, showing the life cycle of a seed and how tiny seeds can make huge trees and tasty fruit.

"Planting a Rainbow" by Lois Ehlert
I'm so glad we own this book. Its beautiful illustrations show the names of elegant flowers like Tiger Lilies and group them according to colors. For someone with beginning language skills like my little guy, it's a great conversational read. We go through it slowly, talking about the colors and patterns. We also love that it's "lap-sized" with big, wide, board pages.

"The Life Cycle of an Apple" by Angela Royston
Again, an age-inappropriate book that turned out to be a hit. It shows every stage in the life cycle of an apple plant, growing shoots, buds, flowers, being pollinated, growing fruit, harvesting or seed dispersal, and beginning again as a baby tree. I found that these kinds of resources in combination with time lapse videos of seeds germinating really helped Soren understand how seeds become plants and how they grow.

"Flower Garden" by Eve Bunting
Truthfully, most of the fiction on gardening we borrowed from the library this week didn't keep Soren's interest, so they aren't posted here. Bunting's "Flower Garden" was an exception. It shows a little girl planting an urban window garden, captures her excitement is she takes plants home on the bus, and the neighborhood's enjoyment of the bright blossoms in the window sill.

This is my last pick for the week. "Kids Garden! The Anytime, Anyplace Guide to Sowing and Gardening Fun" is more for parents than kids, and gave me some great ideas for activities this week and in the future. It helped me shake off my fear of gardening and just go out and put some seeds in the ground. It has wonderful suggestions for recycling, experiments and creative ways to use plants in play. I'd highly recommend you find a copy if you're planning on gardening with kids.

In addition to the garden we planted outside, we reserved a few bean seeds and nestled them into wet cotton balls in a recycled container.  Yesterday, we excitedly discovered that the seeds had sprouted little green roots. It was enormously exciting. He immediately started talking about the seeds outside in the dirt, and I was thrilled to see that he made that important connection that life was happening outside under the ground.

Truly, there are many books we haven't read yet, many seeds we haven't planted, flowers we haven't picked, and holes we haven't dug. Yet. I'm so excited to celebrate living things with my kids every day, every week, for many years. I'm sure we'll be sharing much more fun on this theme in the future.

In the meantime, the three big lessons I learned this week:

  1. Kids regularly need to have dirt under their fingernails.
  2. You're never too little to learn to love all things green and growing.
  3. You can't mess this up. The seeds will sprout, and even if they don't live long, the lesson is learned. Don't take gardening so seriously.

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