By Christopher Smith
In Shel Silverstein’s poem “The Giving Tree,” a boy becomes friends with a tree and grows up with it. In his childhood, the boy climbs the branches of the tree; by the end of his life he has cut the tree down to build a house and a boat.
After “The Giving Tree” was read by retired Dalton Public Schools teacher Gertrude “Tut” McFarland Wednesday morning at the Dalton-Whitfield County Library during story time, the children went outside to plant seeds, not cut trees. The children planted a new garden outside the library as part of National Library Week, which concludes on Saturday.
“Libraries do all kinds of different things to celebrate National Library Week,” said Karol Radovich, director of children services at the library. “This is my first year here and we don’t have a children’s garden. I thought to myself, ‘What better week to start a new tradition?’ The children loved doing it.”
McFarland said the children, who were mostly 6 and under, “really enjoyed everything.”
“This is very important to me,” McFarland said of literacy. “Reading is the basis of all learning. Math, geography, social studies — everything has a basis of reading. I’m a bit older now. I retired from teaching in 1991. Reading to kids is one thing I really enjoy in old age.
“Just looking at those little faces looking up at me. It’s a real special thing. The children were just as sweet as they could be. They seemed to really enjoy the planting of the garden.”
The seeds the children planted are expected to grow over the summer; just like the library, Radovich added.
“My story time attendance is growing,” she said. “It depends on weather or whatever, but our story time numbers are growing. I see a lot more collaboration between the library and the community agencies and the school systems. There has been a real coming together of the community.”
Radovich ties the growth of library attendance to the Readers to Leaders initiative, a collaborative effort by community leaders and school officials with Dalton Public Schools and Whitfield County Schools that aims to get all local children reading at grade level by the third grade through several reading programs (www.facebook.com/R2LDaltonWhitfield).
“I don’t know how things were before I got here since I’ve only been here about a year,” Radovich said. “But there’s a collaborative effort in this community that is hard to find. That’s something the community needs. We need to focus on our kids. It’s a better workforce. That’s something the business leaders want. Literacy is the basic thing that’s going to bring our community all together.”