As we are raising children in a world with an ailing natural environment, it’s crucial that we help them learn how to care for that environment. Beginning this education now, when our childrens’ minds are open and curious, allows us to plant the seeds for a future filled with individuals dedicated to healing the Earth. This education can begin with something as simple as a book, as the words we read to children, and the illustrations they view, can lay the foundation for how they think of the world as they grow.
To get you started, we’ve pulled together five of our favorite books on the environment. These books provide insights into various aspects of the natural world, and offer ideas for how to appreciate and protect it.
Baby Loves Earth: An ABC of Our Planet
Author: Jennifer Eckford
Illustrator: Teresa Bellon
A great book for young children, “Baby Loves Earth: An ABC of Our Planet” provides simple language and illustrations that tell a tale of many of the most precious parts of our world, and some of the biggest dangers. For example, within the book you’ll find “E is for Elephant, T is for Tree, W is for Warming, and X is for eXtinct.” If your child is old enough to understand a brief explanation of how each creature, plant, or term in the book relates to the world, you can use each page as a prompt for teaching about the environment. For instance “T is for Tree” can be a catalyst to teach your child how trees provide oxygen, and “X is for eXtinct” can be an opportunity for you to explain how certain species will go extinct if we don’t take steps to save them. As an added bonus, this book exposes your child to the ABCs, and the concepts are great for mom and dad too.
We Are Water Protectors
Author: Carole Lindstrom
Illustrator: Michaela Goade
A timely book inspired by the Indigenous-led movements across North America to protect water supplies, “We Are Water Protectors” teaches children why it’s so important to prevent water pollution. The book specifically speaks of the harmful “black snake,” which is a metaphor for an oil pipeline. The author, Carole Lindstorm, was inspired to write this book when she learned about the Dakota Access Pipeline protests in Standing Rock in 2016. With a young child at home, she wasn’t able to physically go to Standing Rock to show her support, so she instead wrote this book to educate our youth about how to be caretakers of the water.
10 Things I Can Do to Help MY World
By: Melanie Walsh
This book offers ten simple, yet effective, ideas for how to be kind to the environment. The author Melanie Walsh covers everything from turning off the lights when you leave a room, turning off water when brushing teeth, throwing trash away, feeding birds in winter, and using both sides of a piece of paper, to reminding parents to unplug appliances when not in use, making toys with things from around the house, walking instead of driving, as much as possible, planting seeds, and recycling and composting. She also provides a brief explanation of why these actions help the planet. These eco-friendly ideas can even lead to your family making a commitment to one another, and the Earth, to make these positive changes a constant in your lives.
By: Michael Foreman
A gentle way to teach children about the impacts of pollution, specifically on the coast and in the ocean, “One World” tells the story of a brother and sister playing at the shore and discovering a rock pool. They create their own tiny marine world in a bucket with fish, shells, oil, and other items from the pool. Through their exploration of the pool, and creating their own microcosm, they begin to learn about how the actions of humans can harm the natural world. They also discover how their positive actions can reverse those harmful impacts.
The Great Kapok Tree
By: Lynne Cherry
This award-winning book tells the story of a man who is trying to cut down a kapok tree in the rainforest and falls asleep from the effort. As he sleeps, the forest’s inhabitants whisper in his ear about the importance of the tree, and how all living things depend on one another. The author and illustrator, Lynne Cherry, was inspired to create this book after her own journey into the rainforests of Brazil. This is a beautiful way to teach children about ecology and the impact of deforestation.
We hope these books support your mission of raising children who will be guardians of the environment, while also providing ample entertainment. As you read these books, use any opportunity the books, or your children, present to have an age-appropriate discussion about the environment. It’s likely these discussions will inspire both you and your child to take actions to protect this extraordinary planet.