Tiny Gardeners

What's really sprouting in the library program room.

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ILLUSTRATIONS BY HANNAH ENGLAND

With an armful of potting soil, packaged seeds, and last month’s newspapers, I prepare for a day of work. No, I’m not a professional gardener or a horticulturalist. I am a public librarian and I have a roomful of eager children waiting for me.

The theme of today’s program, as you probably guessed, is gardening. Our first story, a rhythmic romp about planting seeds, inspires a chorus of enthusiastic voices.

“I was going to plant a seed once but instead, I ate it.”

“My mom planted flowers, but they got brown and died.”

“Can I use the bathroom?”

Once we finish the story, we sing a catchy song about seeds. Twenty tiny gardeners sing, “Plant the seed and pat, pat, pat it down. Water it and spin around.” They spin in circles until they’re dizzy, and dozens of invisible seeds fly through the air.

The next story is about a mischievous rabbit who gets chased around a certain farmer’s garden. Perhaps you’ve heard it before? The children are enraptured by the bunny-shaped puppet that hops up, down, and around the imaginary garden. One concerned child raises her hand, her bottom lip trembling.

“Does the bunny make it home to his mommy?”

I assure her that he does and, luckily, no tears are shed.

Finally, it’s the moment they have been waiting for. We approach the activity table and everyone stares wide-eyed at the treasures before them.

Each child takes a piece of newspaper. One fold, two folds, a tuck, and another fold. With a little practice (and some parental help), everyone soon has a functional if not aesthetically pleasing seedling pot. One child places it on her head like a tiny hat and the room erupts in laughter.

“When my cucumbers grow, I’ll bring you some. Probably tomorrow.”

Next the children use their hands to scoop soil into the pots. They delight at permission to play with dirt in, of all places, the library. Soil lands on the table, on the floor, on the ceiling fan, and in hair. Some even makes it into the pots.

Each child then picks a seed. There are milky-white cucumber seeds, grainy parsley seeds, and cabbage seeds so small they fall through tiny fingers. The seeds are lovingly placed in their new homes and pat, pat, patted down, just like in the song.

We end the program with instructions on watering the seeds and finding a cozy spot at home where they can enjoy the sunshine. As the children leave the library, I smile at the insights they share.

“When my cucumbers grow, I’ll bring you some. Probably tomorrow.”

“I think I can see my seed growing!”

“I’m glad the rabbit got home to his mommy.”

Next week’s program might be about outer space, or narwhals, or a trip to the zoo. But today, we are gardeners. And the library, a garden.


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