If you've been reading my blog for a couple of years now, you know that I just love Thomas Locker's picture books relating to science and nature (see end of post for links). He brings his paintings to life for people of all ages. And so, when I decided to seek out some children's books relating to farming, I immediately remembered he had written a picture book called Family Farm (Picture Puffins).
Even though this particular children's book was published in 1988, the themes and challenges presented are highly relevant to today's economic climate and how it's affecting not only small farmers, but families everywhere. Young readers will enjoy looking at the paintings and reading along, but some of the concepts are for older readers, mainly between the ages of 8 and 12. Middle school teachers could also use it as a conversation starter about economics, entrepreneurship, the environment, and the challenges of running a farm.
Here's a brief summary:
Sarah and Mike are not only worried about their school closing, but the family could lose its home and farm, including the animals. Times are tough, and corn and milk prices are too low.
When their father ends up having to take a job, Sarah and Mike have to give up after school activities in order to work on the farm along with their Grandpa.
Can the children help save the farm? With a little hope, inspiration, and teamwork, they discover a clever and fun way to solve a big problem.
This picture book is just one of those resources that people of all ages could benefit from reading, but for parents who want to get a conversation started about what it means to have a strong work ethic and be resilient, it will be especially appreciated.
Of course, many other themes could be connected with the ones mentioned above, and those who would like to tie in to environmental awareness will find a nice complement in Reducing Your Foodprint: Farming, Cooking, and Eating for a Healthy Planet (Energy Revolution), by Ellen Rodger, for tweens and teens between the ages of 8 and 14.
This nonfiction photographic book has a layout that is very user friendly, and can be examined in small chunks. The author emphasizes the importance of supporting local farmers, fair trade, organic farming, and reading food labels. An interesting timeline of food availability and production is included.
One thing this particular book does not cover is the topic of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food. So, if parents would like to take the conversation to a higher level, they might want to get their hands on Sustainable World - Food and Farming, by Rob Bowden. It will be most appreciated by independent readers between the ages of 12 and 16.
As there is growing concern as to why GMO foods (mainly soy, corn, and canola) are not labeled on US products, but are on European products (I witnessed this myself in Italy), here's a quote which is sure to get the whole family talking:
"The EU now has a law that all food items containing more than 1 percent GM ingredients must say so on the packaging. The impact of the anti-GM campaign in Europe is a clear indication that individual consumers also have a role to play." ~Sustainable World - Food and Farming, page 39.
As I always say, your choice is your voice. Unfortunately, when products are not labeled you cannot make an informed choice (unless you buy organic products exclusively, which contain no GMOs), which is flat out wrong. That's why there are organizations like the NonGMOProject.org.
If you have younger children, between the ages of 1 and 5, you might want to help them begin to understand what it means to be a farmer by planting some seeds and reading any of the following selections:
Our Farm: By the Animals of Farm Sanctuary, poems by Maya Gottfried, paintings by Robert Rahway Zakanitch.
Seasons on a Farm (World of Farming), by Nancy Dickmann
My First Look At: A Farming Town (My First Look at Communities), by Valerie Bodden
It's a great time for planting! This year, we decided to give broccoli and spinach a try, in addition to strawberries, tomatoes, and herbs. We'll see how they do. There's nothing like homegrown fruits and vegetables!
When you combine books with conversation, nature, and hands on activities, you're giving your child plenty of chances to not only connect the dots, but to develop a true and lifelong love of learning. It's not just about the books, but they can be an extraordinary springboard to so many other learning activities and resources.
Here are some links to more Thomas Locker books and other food-related selections: