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Maria Salvadore

Reading Rockets' children's literature expert, Maria Salvadore, brings you into her world as she explores the best ways to use kids' books both inside — and outside — of the classroom.

Getting mind and body ready for school

August 21, 2013

It's a fact. Good nutrition leads to healthy bodies and to healthy minds — minds and bodies that are ready to learn (and grow and play and do everything else that children do).

All schools seem to be moving toward more healthful lunch and snack choices. Some schools use the notion of healthy food in ways to support the curriculum while building community. Last year, about 80 schools in Washington, D.C. had school gardens.

There's a new (at least to me) small press that is devoted to children and youth as consumers of healthy food. Not surprisingly, Readers to Eaters (yes, that's name of the publisher based in Bellevue, WA) declares: "Good Reads & Good Eats. That's what we're about." Two of their books about school gardens make good on their motto.

Sylvia won't touch spinach. She howls, "No spinach! Ever!" That changes, however, when her once unwanted spinach seeds grown for class garden grow into tasty fresh spinach. Adults and children are sure to see familiar expressions and recognize Sylvia's objections in the easy language and playful illustrations of Sylvia's Spinach by Katherine Pryor.

Slightly older children can join a child on his first day at a new school. The orientation included a visit to Our School Garden which was soon to become a favorite part of his new digs. Short verse, interesting information, a recipe and more combine with textured illustrations spans the school year and its activities. There are lots of ideas for easy implementation in a school setting, too; not surprising as author Rick Swann is a school librarian.

As children go back to school, there may be time to plant a fall garden. If not, there's certainly time to plan for a spring one. It's something worth chewing on.


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"I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library." — Jorge Luis Borges