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Beans Are the Best: Taking Literacy to the Garden – “Blueberry’s Clubhouse”

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  • Mary Spears Polk
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Jack & the Beanstalk

Do you like stories? I love stories! It’s a good thing I get to share lots of stories at the library. This summer we’ve been sharing lots of fairy tales. What is your favorite fairy tale? One of my favorites is the story of Jack & the Beanstalk, and I like it because the beans are the star of the story. Lots of people may say it’s Jack, but I think the beans are just a little bit more interesting that Jack.

Beans Are The Star

Why? Maybe it’s because the beans start off as small little seeds that grow into a gigantic beanstalk overnight. Maybe it’s because beans are food, and I like to eat beans. Maybe it’s because those bean seeds didn’t even need to be planted. Did you know beans will put down roots almost anywhere? Really, it’s because I think that all seeds are kind of magical whether or not they grow into giant stalks that reach all the way into the clouds.

Seeds Are Magical

When you stop and think about it, how can something so small as a seed grow into something so big as a plant? To bring the magic of beans to our patrons, we decided to take the story of Jack & the Beanstalk outside of the library building and into the library garden.

Growing a Beanstalk

Mr. Zack, our gardening librarian, planted some purple podded pole beans and built a support for them grow on and around.

Before we knew it, we had a beanstalk!

Ms. Mary and the Beanstalk at Faulkner County Urban Farm Project’s Fairy Tale Garden

And this beanstalk was perfect for pulling out some finger puppets and telling Jack’s story.

It was so much fun!

Beans, Beans, & More Beans

We did lots of other activities, too! We planted beans in dirt and, then, we recorded their growth. We planted beans in damp paper towels, put the paper towels in plastic bags and, then, taped the bag to a bright spot, like a window or a wall. Then we watched the roots grow.

We made beanstalks out of cardboard tubes and construction paper.

We heated up edamame (baby soybeans) in the microwave, tossed them with some butter and salt, and ate it. We shared different versions of the Jack & the Beanstalk story, comparing and contrasting them.

The Benefits of Sharing Stories Outdoors

Our brains are magnificent! Taking stories outside enriches the story and our experience of it; helping our brains build more connections than just reading a story alone. You don’t have to grow a beanstalk to do this! Just sharing a story outdoors makes a difference because the outdoors is right there to help you keep the story going in a variety of ways. Could you build a beanstalk out of rocks? Do you see any plants that have grown very tall? What about trees? Would you climb a tree if you knew there was a giant at the top? How would you escape from a giant in the clouds? Do you think a giant could like on one those clouds in the sky? What is a cloud made of?

Growing a Fairy Tale Garden

If you enjoy growing things, here are some other ways we took our summer fairy tales to the garden:

  • We planted peas for the Princess and the Pea.
  • We planted pumpkins for Cinderella.
  • We planted roses for Sleeping Beauty and Beauty and the Beast.
  • We planted marigolds for Rapunzel and Rumpelstiltskin.
  • We planted sunflowers for “The Bad Seed.”
  • We planted zinnias for “Zinnia’s Flower Garden.”
  • You got me. Those last two aren’t fairy tales, but I love those books!

    Faulkner County Urban Farm Project’s Fairytale Library

    More Jack & the Beanstalk Stories

    If you want more Jack and more beans, here are some alternate versions that we enjoyed this summer:

    Jack and the Beanstalk and the French Fries Cover

    ”Jack and the Beanstalk and the French Fries” by Mark Teague

    Waynetta and the Cornstalk Cover

    ”Waynetta and the Cornstalk: a Texas Fairy Tale” by Helen Ketterman

    Kate and the Beanstalk Cover

    ”Kate and the Beanstalk” by Mary Pope Osborne

    Thank you, beans, for reminding us that the biggest adventures can be found right outside our windows!

    - Ms. Mary


    For information about the Faulkner County community garden beds, garden volunteering, seed library, and story time programs, you find them online and on social!



    Faulkner County Library Children’s Department
    Faulkner County Urban Farm Project
    Faulkner County Seed Library
    Faulkner County Library



    Mary Spears Polk is the Storytime Programmer at the Faulkner County Library in Conway, Arkansas. A former preschool teacher, she enjoys early literacy education and sharing the magic of stories with her community. Mary lives in Conway with her spouse and their two teenage sons. If she’s not in the library building, you can probably find her in the library garden or her home garden.