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Let's Read: Oliver's Vegetables

by Vivian French

Read this Lesson in Spanish


Children will see, touch or taste at least one vegetable.

MATERIALS: Book: Oliver's Vegetables by Vivian French, Orchard Books, New York, 1995. $13.95.


  • Touching and smelling: The raw vegetables Oliver ate (carrots, spinach, rhubarb, cabbage, beets, peas or potatoes).
  • Tasting: Samples of the vegetables Oliver ate. Spinach and cabbage can be eaten raw. Other vegetables can be canned or cooked fresh. Small paper cups, spoons, napkins, prepackaged hand wipes.
  • Drawing: Small paper plates, crayons or magic markers.
  • Mystery Boxes: One shoe box per vegetable and enough cloth to drape over the shoe box to cover it while a child's hand is inside. Put one raw vegetable inside each box.

Books for Parents to Read at Home:

Contact your local library to see if Oliver's Vegetables by Vivian French is available. If it is not, get a list of books on nutrition for children from one to five years of age. You may want to put a copy of the book in your lending library for clients to use.

Teaching Tip: To promote creativity, give children a blank sheet of paper to color. Unlike coloring books, a blank sheet of paper lets children draw. It allows them greater freedom of expression.

Learning Activities:

1. Tell the children the name of the book, its author and illustrator. Discuss with them the drawings inside the front and back covers. Ask them questions such as:

  • What do you think that the book will be about?
  • Who is Oliver? What is he holding?
  • Can you name a vegetable?
  • Do you eat vegetables? What kinds?
  • What is this inside the front cover?

2. As you read the book ask the children to pretend to eat with Oliver and pretend to get vegetables from the garden with him. To add interest use different voices for the mother, grandfather, grandmother and Oliver as you read.

Ask the children questions such as these as you read to them:

  • Where does Oliver live?
  • Has anyone visited their grandparents?
  • Where do Oliver's grandparents live?
  • Has anyone seen a garden growing?
  • Have you ever planted vegetables?
  • What is the dog's name?
  • Do all vegetables look the same?
  • Can anyone see the carrots growing in the picture?
  • What does the spinach look like?
  • Has anyone ever had rhubarb? What color are its stalks?
  • Where is the cabbage in the picture?
  • Has anyone had cabbage?
  • What do the beets look like? 
  • Why did Oliver have to pull them out of the ground? 
  • What color are they? 
  • Where are the peas in the picture? 
  • Did Oliver have to pull them? Why not? 
  • Why did it take Oliver so long to find the potatoes? 
  • How are the pages inside the front cover different than the pages inside the back cover? 
  • What is growing on the cover pages?

Children can pretend to taste each new vegetable along with Oliver and repeat his words about how much he liked it. Remember to take time to respond to the questions and comments of the children as you read.

3. Pick one or more of the activities to do in class:

Pass around the raw carrots, spinach, rhubarb, cabbage, beets, peas or potatoes as they are mentioned in the book. If you cannot locate all of them, pass around the ones you have. Let the children touch and smell them.

Optional: At the end of the reading lesson ask the children to tell you what they think the vegetable is like inside. Then cut it open and see how their imagination compares with what you find.

Ask children to pick a vegetable they will eat at home.

Before class, prepare samples of the vegetables Oliver ate for taste testing. Spinach or cabbage can be eaten raw. Other vegetables can be canned. Put the vegetables in small cups and have spoons available for the children to use. Have enough spoons and cups for each class member.

Make sure that the children use a hand wipe before the tasting starts. Have everyone taste the vegetables at the same time. Ask the children if they remember what Oliver said about the vegetable when he tried it. Find out if anyone has had the vegetable before, and ask who would like to eat it at home.

Give each child a small white paper plate. Let them pick out crayons or magic markers. Have them draw the new vegetable they will try at home on the plate. Ask the older children to name the vegetable they drew.

Children can take the plates home to put on their table as a reminder to try the new vegetable.

In this game children try to guess the vegetables in the boxes. Put one vegetable from the book per shoe box. Drape a cloth over each box so that children can smell and feel the vegetables without seeing them. Ask children to guess what is in the box. Tell them that each box contains a vegetable Oliver ate. Four and five year olds can tell you why they made their guess. After the guessing is finished, open up each mystery box to see what is inside. Ask children which new vegetable they will try.

4. Activities to do at home.

Details on how to do the activities are on the attached Let's Read at Home! activities sheet. Here is an explanation of what each activity accomplishes for the child.

"1. Have the vegetables Oliver ate for dinner.
Even picky eaters can be willing to try new vegetables after reading about how another child enjoys them. Talking with a child about how Oliver ate a vegetable like carrots can inspire a child to try it."

Talking about how Oliver ate the same vegetable as the child will make the book come alive for the child. The discussion of the book will also encourage additional reading.

"2. Like Oliver's grandfather, your child can grow plants. 
Children may not realize that many foods come from plants or that plants can be grown. This exercise helps the child see how a bean can turn into a plant."

Some children will want to see how a plant's roots grow underground. Parents can sprout beans so that the roots will show. In a small jar, such as a baby food jar, put a moist paper towel and a bean. Leave the lid off. Put the jar on the window ledge and watch the bean begin to grow. Parents will have to keep the towel moist for sprouting to take place. Children can plant the bean in dirt after it has sprouted.

"3. Spend time in the produce section of the grocery store with your child. 
Parents can talk with their child about the book while shopping for produce. Talking about the book in the produce section is another way to make the book a part of the child's life."

In addition, the produce section has a wealth of other information to discuss with the child. Parents can help children learn shapes and colors there. Older children can learn the difference in fruits and vegetables. Plus, spending quality time in the section may make fruits and vegetables more appealing to the child.

"4. Make a book": 
This is a great way to find out about new fruits and vegetables, as well as getting children to try them. This exercise has the added bonus of encouraging reading. Making a book will help interest the child in other books.

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Last updated January 5, 2011