When our kids are reading we hope the book they chose guides them through new experiences and new knowledge. We also hope that they might experience things familiar to them but through new eyes, experiencing a new perspective. We often guide our kids to share their ideas, thoughts, feelings, and questions they have as they navigate their reading. But how do we encourage that in an authentic way? We of course begin by reading ourselves. We read books that take us away, move our soul, leave us begging for more. That is what this book just did to me. As an avid gardener I was surprised that the stories shared were able to move me as successfully as they did. Sign of a good writer telling a great tale. The Earth Knows My Name took me to different times and places through short vignettes of gardeners and the connections they had with their gardens, the ancestors before them, and the traditional foods that come from their gardens. It really doesn’t get more spiritual than that.
Yesterday while I was bending over picking strawberries I found myself reflecting on the simple act of what I was doing. Picking food I grow for my family. It can be a deep and moving experience. I also found myself thinking about this book I had just finished and began to wonder about the historical connection I have with what I grow. How do I choose what to plant? Is it purely tastes that my family like or is there history here that I may never have taken the time to think about?
As I reflected on this and began some research I found myself feeling totally immersed in “my story” with the gardens I grow and the food I feed my family. I also found myself wondering, “Why wouldn’t the kids I teach be interested in the same wonderings. Have they ever had an opportunity to make that kind of connection with the gardening and foods of their heritage?” The rich diversity of our school is begging for this type of exploration and subsequent celebrations. Our garden is too. We have a small garden of 6 raised beds on the edge of an asphalt playground. Yes we grow food that the kids enjoy especially when there is enough to share with our cafeteria. But I’ll be honest and say that our gardens at school lack soul. They are just there. What if….what if we connected what we grow and eat to the heritages of the children of our school, our community? Imagine the possibilities this type of study and focus could bring to enriching our school community, their studies, their identities, their health.
And to think that these ideas came from the reading of a book, a fabulous book, one given to me by our Maine FoodCorps director as a thank you for the work I do to bring gardening to kids. But the thank you goes to Vina for sharing this book with me.
With literacy comes exploring who you are and where you came from. May we help make our kids’ lives richer by connecting some of what they read, write, garden, and cook into their daily lives.