Spring is very much under way where I write from (UK). Seedlings are showing, spring flowers opening, and birds are busy in the trees. We are immersed in nature in my household and I’ve got good words to share about the fantastic ‘nature focussed’ book we are reading: The Bearfoot Book of Earth Tales.
However, first I am bursting to tell you about The Milk and the Jasmine Flower and Other Stories.
I put this book on the shelf a few weeks ago, along with some more books from other faiths, hoping that my children would be ready to enjoy them as time went by. Over last weekend, my child, who has been most opposed to hearing stories that aren’t from his own faith, actually selected the book – which delighted me and caused a little apprehension at the same time.
We began with the title story in which Guru Nanak explains that there is always room for more holiness in the world by floating a flower upon a full bowl of milk. My children cheered. Then there was a little debate about whether to repeat that story before or after reading another. Next we read how Guru Hargobind freed over fifty captives and my children jumped up and down. Then we read about Guru Har Rai recognising that simple food is more delicious than delicacies when it is made with love and holiness – a calmer, more reflective story than the previous two which invited us into a little discussion.
Today I realised that we inadvertently skipped a story; I am excited to let them know there is more to enjoy.
Also on the shelf for a while has been The Bearfoot Book of Earth Tales. After recently reading a couple of non-fiction picture books about ecological role models I picked up the book in search of more non-fiction … and discovered that tree hugging to prevent felling was successfully practised by a young girl – and followed by the women of her village – back in 1730! Amrita’s story is our favourite so far, but we have also appreciated the warning against greed in the Nigerian story about why the sky is far away, and the lesson about consideration for neighbours, within our means, in the Welsh story ‘Stink Water’. The stories come from oral traditions and it is pleasing to find that the author delivers each story in a style of oral storytelling. I hope to learn one of the stories to tell it outdoors, perhaps by candle light.
The book also includes activities, and we are very interested in the water garden. In a book about Japanese Culture we discovered that a water feature is one of the six core elements of an ornamental garden. Now we are motivated to try and achieve all six – either in the garden or at our local allotment.
In Indian Culture we looked at a picture of children covered in colours for Holi and one child remembered this from Food and Faith, thinking it to be a Sikh festival custom. We checked and found it to be Hindu, of course.
Reading Chinese Culture, we were impressed that Dong people plant trees when a child is born to be used to build their house when they become adult at 18. This resonated with the Bishnoi tribes’ (Amrita’s tribe, India) practise of harvesting dead trees rather than green ones, and with the principle of planting before felling that my children love to speak of in terms of the example set by Noah before he began work on the ark (Islamic tradition).
I got confused talking about the spring lantern festival in China, accidentally attributing it to Japan. Again we checked and corrected ourselves. Every time we talked about a new country I stressed that there are many different people within the country. We talked about ways we could learn from other people to beautify our own celebrations with lanterns and colours. We celebrated that opportunity. By this point my former apprehension seemed almost ridiculous. But I couldn’t have known that our previous reading sessions had successfully enabled my child’s appreciation for others to germinate and begin to grow.
So, as you can see, I am excited by the potential I see for growth around me this spring, in the natural world and in learning from its human diversity, and I am overwhelmingly delighted at the new buds I see developing.
Although I don’t celebrate ‘Mothers Day’ in sync with the UK calendar (or any other), or celebrate blossom and flowers, I do feel like, through being a part of sharing diverse knowledge with children who’ve appreciated it, I have been given numerous, beautiful, springtime gifts.
If you celebrate the early days of spring with a seasonal festival, with Holi, a Lantern Festival, Hanami, and/or Mothers Day, or you don’t, I hope you and your family find beautiful gifts in the worlds of nature, people, and books.
How is your family’s spring reading going?
I am the author of Religious Rhyme Time, an Abrahamic children’s interfaith book, as well as Islamic Nursery Rhymes. I love eating chocolate while I write, and, with strictly chocolate-free fingers, I also create Muslim and interfaith children’s gifts for book people at my Etsy shop, BarakahBedtimesUK.
I’m on Twitter @elizabethlymer.
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