Earth Day is almost here, though it’s always a good time to share with your kids the importance of caring for our planet! Here is a list of some great books that we have enjoyed reading that help kids understand the interconnectedness of our lives with the natural world and how to live in harmony with it.
Earth Day Books for Kids
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A new title from Wisdom Tales Press is When the Animals Saved Earth, retold by Alexis York Lumbard and illustrated by Demi. It is the fable about humanity’s arrival on a blue and green island and the disastrous consequences of their greedy, short-sighted treatment of the land and animals. To answer for their crimes they are brought before the powerful Spirit King. Now, lest you think this a very modern, hippy-dippy tale, the author’s note details its long pedigree, beginning in 10th century Iraq, through medieval Europe until recent times. It is sure to spark great discussions with your children about how to treat the earth, whether humanity should be punished for how it has abused nature, and if so, what should that punishment be?
I love the concept of Just Like Me, Climbing a Tree: Exploring Trees Around the World. The book works well on so many levels: The simple but lyrical text invites children to imagine themselves climbing in trees, hanging like monkeys or watching caterpillars, just as the diverse children in the book are doing. The twist is that each child in the book sits in a different tree, native to their country – from Cambodia to California. The trees are illustrated in beautiful detail, and it is easy to imagine oneself perched atop each one of them, looking down on the lively scenes below. Young readers can easily see the strong thread connecting all of us as we enjoy our natural world.
Another wonderful story from Wisdom Tales is The Otter, the Spotted Frog, and the Great Flood, a Creation tale from the Creek Indians retold by Gerald Hausman. It teaches a wonderful lesson about the importance of paying attention to even the smallest creatures. (Read my full review).
The beautiful book On the Day You Were Born, along with its companion On the Night You Were Born were given to us when we were expecting Monkey. Both books are beautiful imaginings of the joy a child’s birth brings to the natural world. Animals carry the news from one species to the other until they all are celebrating, including polar bears that stay up all night dancing (this is why they always seem so sleepy at the zoo!) The earth also pledges to hold the child in place with gravity, and the sun promises to bring a cheerful face to it each day. These are wonderful stories to help your little one see himself as a vital part of a loving universe, which watches over him with great joy and care.
We really enjoyed reading City Green by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan. I love that this book shows about how you can appreciate nature wherever you live, even in a big city. It is also about the power of coming together as a community and the importance of beauty to the life of the spirit. Through one girl’s passion and confidence, neighbors work together to transform an abandoned lot into a beautiful garden, and in the process re-awaken kindness in even the most unlikely people.
Giselle Shardlow of Kids Yoga Stories has a number of wonderful children’s books that gently teach about the importance of caring for the natural world. Sophia’s Jungle Adventure, for example, is the story of a young girl who travels to Costa Rica and in the process learns about how the natural habitat there is being threatened by humans. (Read my full review). In Luke’s Beach Day, a boy and his classmates visit an Australian beach only to discover signs of destruction by other people. In both books, young readers are empowered to follow in the footsteps of the protagonists as they pick up litter and vow to raise awareness about the importance of protecting wildlife. Plus, they learn really cool yoga moves in the process!
Interestingly, many children’s books about environmentalism (including Sophia’s Jungle Adventure above) are set in Costa Rica, which has a well-deserved reputation for environmentalism. Morpha: A Rain Forest Story by Michael Tennyson is a gorgeously illustrated book that follows the life of a young Blue Morpho butterfly as it learns to navigate the perils of the rain forest, including humans. See my list of children’s books about Costa Rica for more great books about caring for the natural world.
Set in Vietnam just after the war, Grandfather’s Dream by Holly Keller is a beautiful tale of faith in the power of the natural world to heal itself and the importance of our role in giving it space to do so. Nam’s grandfather believes that the cranes, who left their village when the wetlands were destroyed, will return with the season’s floods now that the fighting has ending. But if they do not, the land that he has set aside for them will be turned into farmland. It is Nam who discovers the birds’ long-awaited return, bringing joy to his grandfather and beginning the process of healing the wounds of war in their village.
Finally, the charming book from Lee & Low, I Know the River Knows My Name by Maya Christina Gonzalez, shows a young girl’s relationship with the river through the changing seasons of the year. Whenever she arrives, the river greets her, and the two friends always take care of each other. (Read my full review).
What are your favorite Earth Day books for kids?