Starting the 2016/2017 school year, City Schoolyard Garden (CSG) began to highlight certain storybooks to accompany the Harvest of the Month program. These storybooks are featured in the Harvest of the Month backpack flyers in the “Reading Together” corner. Check out the backpack flyers on the CSG Harvest of the Month website. CSG decided to tap into the number of fiction and non-fiction children’s books written with a focus on eating fruits and vegetables or are in a garden setting. The idea is that tying books with the Harvest of the Month celebrations helps elevate the tasting experience for students. The books are all available at the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library. In addition, CSG purchased copies for all six elementary school libraries. At Johnson Elementary, school librarian Ms. Rebecca Flowers said, “I take the students out to the garden and read them the stories. They really enjoy the books.”
In September 2016, the Harvest of the Month program celebrated peaches from Saunders Brothers Orchard in Nelson County, VA. During this time, the featured storybook was “Peach Girl” by Raymond Nakamura. The book is about when a farmer and her husband find a giant peach at their door, they can’t imagine how it got there. They are even more surprised when the skin bursts open and out leaps a girl. Momoko is here to make the world a better place, and what better way to start than by investigating the rumors about a fearsome local ogre? Everyone says the ogre has teeth like knives, shoots flames from his eyes and eats small children. The villagers won’t go near him. But Momoko wants to find out for herself, and her new friends Monkey, Dog and Pheasant just might be able to help her–as long as she’s willing to share her tasty peach dumplings. The story is inspired by Japan’s “Peach Boy” story, and contains illustrations of a vivid Japanese landscape.
In October 2016, CSG celebrated green beans with over 2,200 elementary school students in the Charlottesville City Schools (CCS). These green beans were sourced from Hill Farm in Louisa County, Hartland Natural Farm in Madison County, Sunflower Flats in Rockbridge County, and C&E Farms on the Eastern Shore. The featured book for the October 2016 Harvest of the Month was “Green Beans” by Elizabeth Thomas. The story is about a grandmother and her garden. Everybody obeys what Gramma says. Even the flowers and vegetables she plants grow the way she says they should! Then one day she plants green beans that simply will not listen to her. She works and works, and still they won’t grow. When she leaves on a trip and comes back a week later, a surprise is waiting for her.
In November 2016, CCS students had a taste of raw green, yellow, orange, and red sweet peppers. Young students learned from the featured storybook, “A Fruit is a Suitcase for Seeds” by Jean Richards, that sweet peppers were actually considered fruit. Mind blowing! Many seeds travel inside fruits. The fruit is like a suitcase for the seeds. It protects them on their trip. Readers learned how fruits are designed to protect a plant’s seeds and also to help the plant spread its seeds to new places.
In December 2016, spinach was exclaimed from the mouth of every CCS student. Students tasted spinach grown by Phantom Hill Farm in Louisa County, VA. During this Harvest of the Month, the “Reading Corner” highlighted the book “Sylvia’s Spinach” by Katherine Pryor. In the story, Sylvia Spivens always said no to spinach. But one day Sylvia’s teacher gave her a packet of spinach seeds to plant for the school garden. Overcoming her initial reluctance and giving the seeds a little love and patience, Sylvia discovered the joy of growing food and the pleasure of tasting something new. Parents will identify with the challenge of feeding healthy food to a picky eater during family dinner. Educators will understand the magic and rewards of school gardens. Best of all, young readers will celebrate Sylvia’s strong will, curiosity, and, maybe, her love of spinach.
After a break in January 2017, CSG resumed with a Harvest of the Month celebration in February 2017. In February 2017, students celebrated the Granny Smith apple, all sourced from Crown Orchard in Covesville, VA. With much talk about immigrants and refugees, and with Charlottesville as a refugee settling community, CSG was excited to discover a book called “One Green Apple” by Eve Bunting. In the story, a student named Farah had recently moved from another country and doesn’t know the language. She feels alone until a class trip to the apple orchard, where she discovers there are lots of things that sound the same as they did at home. She helps the class make apple cider and builds connections with other students, making her feel like she finally belongs. The book was selected as the featured story for the Harvest of the Month celebration in February 2017.
The latest Harvest of the Month celebration in March 2017 celebrated stone-ground grains. Stone-ground corn from Woodson’s Mill in Lowesville, VA was prepared with local fresh eggs from Shepherds Hill Farm in Standardsville, VA and local honey from Hungry Hill Farm in Nelson Co, VA to make cornbread for students to enjoy. The book chosen to highlight the snack experience is a non-fiction book called “Corn” by Gail Gibbons. The book explores the various uses of corn in our everyday food. Popcorn, corn on the cob, corn dogs, cornflakes–corn is used in many children’s favorite foods. This book offers a cornucopia of information about the history of corn as well as details concerning planting, cultivation, harvesting, and its many uses.
City Schoolyard Garden hopes that sharing these books with school communities will make the Harvest of the Month snack experience more lasting and enjoyable. Check one out from your local library today!