This summer, Monday afternoons in the library have been anything but quiet. The Weston Family Library’s Summer Reading Club is in full swing! The Reading Club kids have been reading and seeding since they got out of school. Every time they read three books, they win the chance to grow a plant from seed in the Reading Club Greenhouse located in the TBG Demonstration Garden. With some 25 different vegetables, herbs, and flowers to choose from, something new is always sprouting.
Every week, the Reading Club convenes in the library to return books, check out new ones, see how their plants are growing, and of course, get their hands dirty planting that week’s winnings. Kids keep track of the books they read during the week by writing about them in their reading logbooks, collecting stickers for each book completed. Their reading progress is also clearly reflected in their personal growing garden.
The Club’s main aim is to show kids that reading and learning can be fun (even during summer break). The children’s collection at the Weston Family Library is 100% ecologically-themed. All the materials — from the kindergarten story books through to the non-fiction science and chapter books for young readers — teach kids about gardening, soil, habitats, insects, wildlife, and broader ecology. The Reading Club not only helps kids to learn these kinds of book smarts, but also gives them a chance to root these smarts in real soil by planting the very seeds they’re reading about. Some favourite books that have made the round with several children include Think Green! by Jeanine Behr Getz, I Can Name 50 Trees Today by Bonnie Worth, and The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. Parents have also joined in, sharing some of the library’s numerous activity books with their children. The favourite part of Reading Club by far, though, has been planting the seeds and watching them develop. A cucumber planted on the club’s first day is causing the most excitement and leading the pack in growth.
The Reading Club has also spurred some great improvements to the Weston Family Library’s Children’s Collection. To help kids feel more comfortable using this collection, the library has adopted a new kid-friendly colour-code system of organization. The coloured shelves divide the books into various levels of reading difficulty, which helps kids find the books they like and material they can handle. Within the colour-coded shelves, the books are divided into basic themes such as gardening, bugs and animals, plants and flowers, or trees.
The library has also recently purchased many new books to add to children’s choices. Some examples are:
Mrs. Spitzer’s Garden, by Edith Pattou
My Garden, by Kevin Henkes
Ava’s Poppy, by Marcus Pfister
Bugs on the Bus, by Paul Orshoski and D.J. Panec
Who Was Johnny Appleseed? by Joan Holub
DK Readers: Bugs Bugs Bugs, by Jennifer Dussling
Eyewitness: Plant, by David Burnie
Eyewitness: Ecology, by Steve Pollock
Classic Chapter Books:
My Side of the Mountain, by Jean Craighead George
Watership Down, by Richard Adams
Practicing reading over the summer is a great way to improve literacy skills and prevent summer learning loss. By combining reading with seed planting, the library fosters in our kids both a sense of self-direction in reading and also a sense of stewardship toward plants and the natural world around us. Thanks to everybody who’s participating and a special thanks to the Children’s Education Department’s summer camp visits for making the Weston Family Library such a hopping place on Monday afternoons!
–Mark Stewart, Weston Family Library Summer Practicum Student