My teenagers and I recently started volunteering at a local, organic, community supported farm. So far, we've only done some yard work and weeding, but it's already been such an eye-opening and inspiring experience. We're really looking forward to seeing the whole process through.
A week and a half ago, we were weeding the blackberry bushes. Behind us the owner was on a ladder, trying to tend to a large beehive in a tree. He depends on them to pollinate his crops, even though most of us don't think about them unless we happen to cross paths with one.
And so, as a follow-up to the recent post, Farming, Families, and Food, and continuing on with the B's of spring, I immersed myself in some fascinating children's books about this incredible insect. There are so many wonderful ones that it was hard to select just two to highlight. So, I'm giving you quite an extended list, in case any of your family members (of all different ages) want to take their research to the next level.
Two books which should peak interest (for children between the ages of 4 and 8) are:
- The Bee Tree, by master storyteller, Patricia Polacco. When Mary Ellen says she's tired of reading and wants to go outside, Grampa takes her on an adventure she'll never forget! Forget about catching fireflies in a jar; they're going for bees. Pretty soon, they have the whole town running for their hive! It ends up being an unforgettable day, with an ending and a message that's sweeter than honey. Family members of all ages will enjoy this one, and it'll really get grandparents buzzing. It also presents a perfect opportunity to talk about bee-ing safe.
- What if There Were No Bees?: A Book about the Grassland Ecosystem (Food Chain Reactions), by Suzanne Slade (author) and Carol Schwartz (illustrator), is a beautifully illustrated picture book which presents a nice overview of the role bees play in nature. It's sure to get children thinking and starting to connect the dots of nature, food webs, and the importance of pollination. They won't look at bees in quite the same way again after reading this simple, yet thought provoking children's book.
Your child is bound to have many questions after reading these two books, and may even beg you to plant a small garden of her own. A whole conversation about flowering plants, fruits and vegetables, and even healthy eating could follow. All you have to do is follow your child's lead and try to follow through on finding the answers and exploring nature together.
And of course, there are many more books available for all ages. Here are just a few I took a look at and enjoyed:
- For an eager 6 year old, or a curious 12 year old, there's The Honey Makers, by Gail Gibbons, is a fact-filled picture book that will take you inside and outside of a honey beehive. From dancing to pollinating to building six-sided honeycombs, these honeybees will have you and your child connecting the dots of literacy, science, physical education, environmental science, and even math (woo hoo!) without feeling overwhelmed in the process.
- A nice complement to The Honey Makers is Charles Micucci's The Life and Times of the Honeybee. What I like most about this picture book is that you can read it a little bit at a time, as a different topic is addressed with each turn of the page. Your child might ask to sample different types of honey after reading this one!
- The Bee Tree, by Stephen Buchmann and Diana Cohn (authors) and Paul Mirocha (illustrator), complements Patricia Polacco's book of the same name nicely, as the setting is very different. Much can be learned about the indigenous culture of Malaysia and the rainforest, through the story and the supplementary nonfiction section at the end of this children's book. Please note that there is a legend shared that might be a little too gruesome for younger readers, but all in all, this picture book is unique in how it weaves together a whole new world of geography, culture, and nature for readers.
- The Buzz on Bees: Why Are They Disappearing? by Shelley Rotner & Anne Woodhull, is perfect for families who want to learn more about the environment. Back in 2006, bees started disappearing in large numbers. With stunning photographs, a plethora of information, facts, and questions, this children's book might just inspire your family to take action. Numerous web sites are listed at the end of the book, which will allow readers of all ages to further connect the dots.
I still haven't gotten through all the books! I'll have to share the rest, which are for tweens, teens, and adults, another day.
When you see the world through the eyes of a bee or beekeeper, you realize what amazing creatures bees really are. They literally make our world more beautiful, by pollinating the flowers, some of which we eat. Would the butterflies and the bats take over their role if they ceased to exist? I don't think any of us really want to find out.
Life is so much sweeter with the bees around, don't you think?
For related book selections, please proceed to part 2 here.