Books I love

Books to share with children

CaptureCompost stew by Mary Mckenna Siddals

This book has beautiful illustrations and rhyming text which lists the ingredients that can be composted in alphabetical order.  I think that it would be enjoyed by primary children of any age.  I think that for EYFS and KS1 children there are also lots of opportunities to link it to literacy, including alphabetical order and rhyming.

One of the things that I like about this is that the author is obviously passionate about composting and recycling in general.  There is a linked website with lots of useful activities


The Stick Book by Fiona Danks and Jo Schofield                                                                                    stick bookThis is the first of the books that I came accross written by Fiona Danks and Jo Schofield.  I think that any adult working with children would benefit from reading this book.  It does just what it says on the cover and gives lots of ideas for things to do with sticks!  I wish that this had been published when my children were younger as my son would have loved it!  It includes things that you have thought of (such as using as a sword, to play pooh sticks or to draw in the sand) to things that you might not have done including combining with clay or other materials to make works of art.  After reading this book I think that your children would be able to think of even more ways to use a stick.  They will certainly be itching to get outside and try some of the ideas in the book.


Books that I think teachers should read

Creating Learning Without Limits by Many Swann, Alison Peacock, Susan Hart and Mary Jane DrummondCapture                                                                               Have you read the work of Carol Dweck?  Do you realise that labelling children according to their perceived ability is harmful?  Would you like to know how this philosophy as been implemented in an English school?  Then this is the book for you.  I believe, not only that every teacher in the country should be made to read it but, more importantly, that anyone in government who has anything to do with education should read it too.

When Alison Peacock became headteacher of a failing school she transformed it, not by replacing her staff but by inspiring them!  She implemented her belief that teachers and children need to be supported and trusted to take control of their own development and education rather than being labelled.  If you buy this book I think that you will find yourself nodding in agreement with much of what is written in it.  Instead of saying to yourself “If only it was like that in my school but ……”  I challenge you to make as much change as you possibly can to your own practice and attitudes to benefit your children.  If we were all to do that I think that countless children would benefit.

Gardening Books for Adults

The Playground Potting Shed by Dominic Murphy

playground potting shedOne of the things that I really like about this book is that the author is quite clearly speaking from experience.  Other books and advice that I have read often recommend growing plants which I know are unlikely to crop in term time, or seem to think that there will be someone available during the school holidays to care for crops at a vulnerable stage of their life cycle.

In contrast this books suggests activities for each term based upon his own experience about what will work.  He also talks about the perennial problem of disappearing watering cans (I thought that it was just my school) and the reality of children watering plants to death!  As well as suggesting loads of activities he gives the pros and cons of each activity which would make it easier for adults to decide which ones would be worth while in their own situation.

I wish that I had had a copy of this book before I started gardening in school with children and would thoroughly recommend it to anyone who runs a gardening club.

Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots by Sharon Lovejoy

roots shoots buckets and boots


This beautiful book is a joy to handle.  The pages are speckled as if they have been made  from hand made paper, and each page is beautifully illustrated by the author who is an experienced gardener.  inside book.PNG

Unlike the previous book this one is aimed at families rather than schools.  Nevertheless there are some lovely ideas which might inspire teachers and other adults gardening in school.  Wouldn’t it be lovely, for example, to grow a flowery maze?  Another idea described in the book is to grow the ‘Three Sisters’ in the way of the Native Americans.  The three sisters are maize, beans and squash; each plant providing benefit to the other.  The corn provides support for the beans, which fix nitrogen with their roots thus providing nutrients for the other two plants.  The understorey of squash provides shade for the roots and outcompetes weeds.  Another idea described in the book is to grow a ‘Pizza Patch’ with as many ingredients as possible to make a pizza topping.

One draw back is that many of the ideas would require more space than is available in the average back garden or than could be spared from a school grounds.  Also, the author is american and her experience is consequently slightly less useful for a British audience.  Nevertheless, this book has found a place in my gardening library and would make a lovely addition to a school library or a gift for a family who enjoys spending time outside with their children.