Up, Down, and Around – A Garden Book

Up, Down, and Around is a super cute book by Katherine Ayres.  It has bright, beautiful illustrations and minimal text.  It’s the perfect book for young readers!
The kids in my classroom saw me take this book off of the garden shelf.  They immediately knew that the book was about gardens.  We spent quite a bit of time talking about the cover and the title.  We made inferences about why we thought the author choose this title and wondered about things that were growing and bugs in the garden.  We hadn’t even started the book, but the kids in my class were already sharing their garden stories.
At my house, gardening and growing our own food is a huge part of our Spring and Summer.  We don’t have a huge space for a garden, but this raised area in our yard (the sunniest spot in the yard) became the vegetable garden. The kids made the gravel pathway and each year we bring in fresh compost.  Living in the Pacific Northwest, we never know what kind of Summer we’ll get.  Last year, it was cool and rainy.  The tomatoes never ripened and the basil rotted right there in the ground.  It’s all part of the learning experience.
Potatoes always seem to work for us.  The kids plant some in their garden box and I plant some in mine.  Then, during the Great Potato Harvest (the day we dig them up), we count to see who grew more potatoes.  Honestly, the kids have won every year, and I promise I’m not cheating just to let them win!
Lettuce usually works pretty well around here too.  Cold weather veggies are our friends.
Back to that book… When we started talking about the way fruits and vegetable grow, I was thrilled and saddened all at the same time.  SO MANY of my students had schema for gardens and where our food comes from.  They described the way pumpkins vine themselves around in the garden.  A few kids had picked apples and pears right from their own trees.  We all had a story of those pesky squirrels stealing the fruits (and veggies) of our labor.  But, the part that made me so sad came not from the kids who shared their stories, but the kids who didn’t.  There were a handful of kids who had never grown anything, or even helped a grandparent in their garden.  One little boy looked at me with wide eyes, during writer’s workshop, when I talked about how the orange part of the carrot grows under the ground and the green part grows up.  One little girl described, in detail, how she planted a cheese seed and grew a cheese tree at her old house.  (They had to move so they don’t actually have the cheese tree anymore.)
The kids who had schema for gardens and where our food comes from, had so much more to share about this book.  They were reading, writing, drawing, and talking all about their real gardens, dream gardens, and imaginary gardens.  Their hands on experiences shaped their literacy lives.  These experiences make all the difference. 
I see it every day… kids who have a breadth of experiences and kids who don’t.  I’ll bet you can guess which kids make deeper connections with the books we read and the writing we create.
Happy gardening, friends. 
You’re making a difference in your kids’ literacy lives with every seed you plant.

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