In 2006 I watched British chef Jamie Oliver's 4-part BBC documentary, "Jamie's School Dinners," in which he interviewed children and found that many didn't know the names of vegetables. As a girl who grew up picking vegetables on her grandparent’s farm, that shocked me. I had to do something.
I’d already been worrying about childhood obesity because of my work as a visiting author in schools; I see about 17,000 school kids each year. I’ve noticed that some audiences are sluggish, having a tough time brainstorming, asking questions, and responding quickly and creatively. It just seems like they’re not feeling good. These audiences also seem to have the highest numbers of kids struggling with obesity, and the worst time to speak with them is soon after a greasy school lunch.
After watching the BBC show, I wondered, how could these kids change their eating habits? How could they find, choose, or prepare healthy foods such as vegetables if the entire vegetable aisle was a foreign country to them?
I knew from my work, and from my previous chant books, that kids can easily learn new words if they are in a chant form. Then, when kids are out in the world and they see a chant word, they connect with it. Perhaps I could do something in this small way.
Rah, Radishes: A Vegetable Chant (Beach Lane Book/S&S, release June 14, 2011) is about having fun with vegetables—and with delicious words, colors, and shapes. I photographed the book at our local South Bend Farmer’s Market over the course of four years. The farmers are so excited about the book. (They know which carrot or celery is theirs!)
Once kids read the book, I hope they'll have vegetable names, colors, and shapes in their heads. Perhaps they'll stop and actually point at a potato, laugh at a rutabaga, try broccoli for the first time.
Of course, this book is just a tiny piece of what needs to be done to help kids have healthier lives. So many people are putting their hearts and hands into the work of providing kids with better food choices. My hope is that folks doing this important work will find the book—and any joy and conversation it sparks—helpful in their efforts.
What a great, fun idea, April. Here's hoping we hear thousands of kids chanting vegatble names while jumping rope, playing tag, running like joyfully possessed nut-cases. More power to veggies!
And let's hope they spell better than I do.
Thanks, Jim. Beware: a fruit book is on its way next year. No fresh produce is safe from the chant! I am, as you can tell, a longtime veggie nut and gardener. I believe the woodchucks are sneaking out to enjoy my carrots now.
I can't wait to read the new book. During the years when we lived in Australia, Jamie Oliver was hugely popular. He has a big heart and is truly trying to change a broken system of food production and preparation. If you haven't seen his program where he cooks from his amazing garden, check it out. It's called "Jamie At Home."
I was saddened by this, too, April. The disconnect between our food sources and our tables is so disheartening. Many kids have no idea that ketchup is made from tomatoes or that plastic wrapped boneless chicken breasts came from an actual chicken.
I look forward to the release of this latest book. I hope it helps educate our nation's children and leads to lasting changes.
Love this book, April. Can't wait for the fruits! :)
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