What happens when you mix reading, plants and animals? Magic. Really. These three ingredients, when stirred in a cauldron with care, prove to be the key to a fun and intriguing learning environment.
Acting as children’s activity librarian at Churchill’s Garden Center has let me play with this idea, integrating the beautiful grounds into toddler story time and kids club activities. Living treasures among the greenery include a parrot, dove, donkey, goat, chicks, and ducklings, all favorites among the children.
Oliver the parrot joined us for our very first story time, piping in with commentary of course.
We read two books with Oliver, Terrific and If You Were a Parrot. Not only did this second book contain the beak-making craft that I wanted to do, but it also got kids into role-playing mode. Despite the somewhat creepy anthropomorphic nature of the illustrations, If You Were a Parrot does a wonderful job using role-play to help the children recognize their own empathy toward the birds as living creatures.
In Terrific, a grumpy old man finds friendship and happiness when he relates to the feelings of his new feathered friend. Very well-written piece of fiction, and captured the children’s attention.
An additional story time focused on carrots following our seed starting program the previous week. A wonderful opportunity to integrate additional animals into the mix! The theme was inspired by the book The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss, in which a boy plants a seed, cares for it tenderly, and never gives up hope that it will sprout into a beautiful carrot. A great introduction to the patience and reward of gardening, in addition to an early, gentle lesson of perseverance when facing doubt from others.
Carrot Soup was a favorite! Rabbit orders, plants, and cares for the carrot seeds in his garden, preparing for the harvest when he can finally eat his favorite meal– you guessed it! Carrot soup. But alas, the carrots are gone! As it turns out, (spoiler alert) Rabbit’s friends gathered the carrots from the garden to make Rabbit’s soup for him at a surprise party! Such a fun story of friendship and carrots.
Without any rabbits at the garden center this year, who else on the list might enjoy a carrot snack? Scooter the donkey of course! Plus some of the kids– after all that carrot talk they each wanted a crunchy healthy snack. We took an in-house field trip across the grounds to visit Scooter, who relished in the children’s attention! And food!
I have been so happy reading at Churchill’s, where the world is alive around us and we may use the living treasures as tools for lessons in caring and the pleasure of reading. Please join us soon if you are in the Exeter area- upcoming events are below if you are interested.