Farmers’ Market: Healthy Eating in Books for Young Readers

Books & Authors’ experts in children’s and young adult literature, Betty Carter and Pam Spencer Holley, offer these suggestions for books that teach children about the benefits of healthy eating habits.

With the emphasis on local produce, healthy eating, community gardens, and trips to local farmers’ markets, youngsters are beginning to know that carrots come from the ground rather than plastic packages, that salad greens grow in several varieties, and that making cheese is an art rather than a process of unwrapping an individual package found in the refrigerator.

As young children begin to learn about the world around them, parents can encourage that interest through books, planting some seeds of learning that expand their curiosity. Young children can find a variety of good eats in Lois Ehlert’s Eating the Alphabet: Fruits and Vegetables from A to Z. From apples to zucchini junior foodies get a literary introduction to those foods they may know and some (ugli fruit anyone?) they may not, but the mouth watering bright illustrations might just tempt a taste or two.

Children just beginning to read can begin to see cycle from planting to harvesting with Joan Holub’s The Garden That We Grew.  The simple (but not simplistic) rhyming text (“This is the garden that we will grow. / This is the patch we will plant row by row.”) follows two children as they prepare, tend for, pick, and carve for Halloween their fall pumpkins.  And, being good conservationists, they even save the seeds for next year’s crop.

Sharp, clear photographs highlight food’s best friends: Seed Soil Sun: Earth’s Recipe for Food.  Clean and pristine, the farming scenes are over romanticized, but the book’s focus on the elements of growth is both scientifically accurate and visually pleasing.

All politics may be local, but gardening goes national in First Garden: The White House Garden and How It Grew by Robin Gourley.  This cheerful picture book and its dominant green and brown pallet, concentrates on Michelle Obama’s own kitchen garden and what’s grown there.   Information on similar historical projects, such as Eleanor Roosevelt’s victory garden, round out this not too meaty account.

How about a little literary honey with all this produce? Joyfully The Honeybee Man operates his hives on a rooftop in Brooklyn, New York and generously shares the honey with his neighbors.  Besides offering a sweet story, author Lela Nargi and illustrator Kyrstein Brooker add numerous scientific facts about honeybees in an extended author’s note and through careful diagrams on the end pages.

The reason one grows and buys produce is to eat it, so a cookbook is always in order.  Rozanne Gold’s Kids Cook 1-2-3 offers a variety of easy to prepare recipes (and instructions for adult supervision when necessary) all of which require only three ingredients. Although the offerings include meat, such as an easy roast chicken, and desserts, the vegetable (which you may find yourself substituting fresh for frozen) dishes are unusual and pleasing to undeveloped pallets.  Spinach with cottage cheese, or carrots and garlic, are particular favorites.

Farmers’ Markets provide nourishment for your body; the above books may also nourish your children in other ways.