Farm Books Kids Will Clamor to Read
Farm Children's Books Share Love of Agriculture
DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) -- Every day is Ag Day for children when they can learn about farm life through books. Iowa farmer and former teacher Katie Olthoff has written two books that take young readers (and those reading aloud to them) to the corn and soybean field for a realistic and fun look at what it takes to raise the two crops and why it matters.
"I hope these books make information more accessible to teachers and families. I wanted to give kids growing up on farms a chance to see themselves in a book," said Olthoff. "And I wanted to offer a glimpse of agriculture to readers that wouldn't necessarily get to see it otherwise."
Farm books for kids abound, but authentic views are sometimes lacking. Here are a few books that bring a fresh look to the farm and would make good additions to classrooms.
ROW CROP FEELS
Olthoff's first book, "My Family's Soybean Farm," introduces what it takes to grow and get a soybean crop to market through the eyes of a farm boy named Alexander. Geared for ages 4-8, the picture book uses photos from a modern, working soybean farm coupled with illustrations to follow the crop through the seasons.
Similarly, a companion book, "My Family's Corn Farm," follows farm girl Presley and her family as they tackle all the jobs required to produce corn. Beyond growing and caring for crops, the books explore how corn and soy production are used as food, feed and fuel.
Both books are illustrated by Joe Hox, who was raised on an Iowa farm. He uses a combination of photographs and art to bring the book to life.
Wannabe young farmers will delight as farm implements of all colors roll across the pages. In the soybean book, Alexander tags along as Mom drives a tractor complete with modern GPS technology and scouts crops for insects with Dad by walking fields and using a drone. In the corn book, Presley ponders growing up to be a farmer or a scientist or both. Presley attends a meeting with Dad to learn new scientific techniques to raise better crops with an eye toward caring for the land.
Family working together while eliminating gender lines was something Olthoff worked hard to achieve, she said. Olthoff originally wrote the books for the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation before they were edited and republished by Feeding Minds Press, a project of the American Farm Bureau Federation.
"I was raised in rural Iowa, but it wasn't until I married a farmer that I realized how much I didn't understand about agriculture," Olthoff said.
That thought grew larger when she and her husband built a new turkey barn. "We were insanely proud of it, but I began to see there were lots of questions about it by the consuming public. These books are a product of my interest in furthering discussions about real farm life," she said.
Captivating a young audience and teaching them complex topics in a handful of words is not easy. Olthoff gets the job done. One small nitpick is an illustration of a lone 12-foot stalk of corn sporting five full ears. Use it as a teachable moment to explain that modern hybrids generally produce one ear per plant with a possible second if sunlight or resources are abundant. Children hungry to learn will find many details about precision agriculture practices, soil erosion and cover crops that have been simplified enough to savor.
PULL ON YOUR FARM BOOTS
What farm kid doesn't love boots? From their first pair of chore boots to clomping around in much too big adult boots, keeping our feet covered is fundamental to daily farm life.
Lisl H. Detlefsen captures that sentiment in her new book "Farm Boots" -- also from Feeding Minds Press. While pegged for ages 4-8, this sweet rhyme makes a good read aloud for younger ages as boots romp through the seasons and go off to work and play. Illustrator Renee Kurilla brings a rainbow of human and boot diversity to the pages.
Rubber boots. Riding boots. Work boots. Ankle boots. Hip boots. Snow boots -- here are a bounty of boots as perhaps you've never thought of them before. In a blog post, Detlefsen reveals that it was how school children responded to a pair of waterproof hip boots used on her family's Wisconsin cranberry farm that inspired her to write about farm footwear.
Kids grow and eventually outgrow boots. A fitting conclusion shows children swapping tight boots for those that fit just right. "I love that ending," Detlefsen said. "It reminds me of how our farming community shares hand-me-downs of so many items, including boots! My sons have worn a variety of boots that came from our generous marsh neighbors with older kids, and we've passed along boots from our boys to marsh neighbors with younger kids. Now that my boys are older, I'm actually getting 'hand-me-up' boots from them as their feet become bigger than mine," she said.
FROM THE MARSH
Detlefsen lives on a cranberry marsh in central Wisconsin that was purchased by her husband's family in 1871. Her book "Time for Cranberries" follows a boy and his family through the process of collecting cranberries, from booming, corralling, and cleaning.
Published by Roaring Brook Press (a Macmillan imprint) and illustrated by Jed Henry, the pages give crisp views of farm work and machinery for readers 4-7. The book begs to be read aloud with playful words like shlip and shlerp and bounce and boogie. As the oven door clangs and bangs open, the promise of cranberry pie is delivered -- along with a family recipe for the tasty treat. Detlefsen takes cranberries from a farming labor of love to a celebration of goodness.
Check with local booksellers to obtain these books. They are often willing to order book titles. Books mentioned in this article are also available through Amazon at www.amazon.com. Explore more farm-related children's book titles at www.feedingmindspress.com.
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Pamela Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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