College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences; Public Service and Agriculture

Clemson Extension launches author series aimed at improving food literacy for SC youth


Continuing its quest to give young people around South Carolina a better understanding of the food they eat, Clemson Extension has teamed up with South Carolina Farm to School to launch a series of virtual events this summer to introduce educators to books that will help students do just that.

Geared to school and community gardeners, educators, librarians, Master Gardener volunteers or really anyone who works with youth, gardening and nutrition, the Readers to Eaters Food Literacy Summer Author Series aims to get more young people around South Carolina involved in growing and eating fresh fruits and vegetables and reading great books, Clemson Extension’s Statewide School and Community Gardening Coordinator Amy Dabbs said.

“We knew this summer we wanted to focus on food literacy, and we had an opportunity to collaborate with book publisher Readers to Eaters and hear from some of the authors they have published,” she said. “The founders Philip Lee and June Jo Lee started Readers to Eaters to focus on helping young people connect with growing, cooking and eating good food and one way to do that is through storytelling and books.”

The program “directly supports our mission,” said Ben Sease, program coordinator for South Carolina Farm to School, the agency sponsoring the summer author series.

“Food literacy or the understanding the impact our food choices have on our health, environment and economy are built into the core elements of our programs,” Sease said.

The first virtual event in June featured Jacqueline Briggs Martin, who has penned 22 books including Caldecott award-winner “Snowflake Bentley.” During the program, she discussed how she found and connected with three “food heroes” that have shaped the way Americans view food and eating. The series includes “Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table,” “Alice Waters and the Trip to Delicious” and “Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix.”

As Martin shared her experiences as a young girl in 4-H and recounted how integral food is to her farming family, “you could just feel people’s energy rising,” Dabbs said. (Watch the recorded program here.)

Katherine Pryor head shot

The second in this free summer series will be held on Wednesday, July 14, from 1-2:45 p.m., as Katherine Pryor, author of “Sylvia’s Spinach” and “Zora’s Zucchini,” will present “Growing Food Literacy: Connecting Kids, Books, and Gardens.”

Pryor will discuss creative approaches to connect kids with books that inspire healthy eating and gardening. She will share how educators and nutrition advocates are building partnerships to increase access to healthy food and get more books in kids’ hands. She will also discuss fun ways to introduce fresh foods to inspire a life-long love of fruits and veggies.

Those interested in more information or who wish to register can do so here.

In the final virtual event, on Tuesday, August 10 from 1-2:45 p.m., award-winning author Rick Swann will present “Libraries Full of Life: School Gardens and Literacy.”

Swann is the author of “Our School Garden!” that received the Growing Good Kids Book Award from Junior Master Gardener and the American Horticultural Society. A picture book in a series of linked poems, the book tells the story of Michael, new to a school, who discovers not just how vegetables grow but how a community can grow from a garden.

“Our School Garden!” focuses on the main character’s first day of school and his discoveries in the school garden,” Dabbs said. “I appreciate this book because woven into the illustrations are the teachers utilizing the school garden to teach subjects like science, language arts and history, while in the foreground students are developing teamwork and learning to value and nurture life in their gardens.”

Swann was a school librarian before he started leading the Slow Food Seattle school garden program and working with the Seattle School Garden Network.


Swann says, “Being in a garden is like reading a good book. Conversely, a book set in a garden can transport you outside and into that garden even if you’re trapped inside on a rainy day. In this talk, I’ll use ‘Our School Garden!’ as well as other award-winning garden-themed books and resources to examine ways educators can bring literacy and literature into the school garden.”

In this final session of the summer, Tracy Miskelly, director of South Carolina Ag in the Classroom, will welcome educators back to school sharing information about the SC Ag in the Classroom Book of the Month program.

More information and a link to register for the August 10 virtual event is available here.

For those who were unable to the live programs, the virtual events are available on YouTube: Jacqueline Briggs Martin is available here, the session with Katherine Pryor can be viewed here and Libraries Full of Life is linked here.

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