Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Reading for the Earth

When I think about my children’s future, I don’t think about college or what career they will choose or what lifestyle they will live.  I think about the Earth they will inherit. 

Everyday, we make choices that either improve our world a smidge or make it just a bit dirtier.  Compost or garbage can?  Cloth or disposable diapers?  Walk or drive?  Through our combined efforts, we are all nudging the see-saw up and down.  Will we find a balance between human needs and the needs of the planet?  Or will we hit bottom one day and wonder what we could have done differently?
Our kids see everything.   Modeling is a fabulous teaching tool. When they see us recycle, plant a garden, or reuse a bag, they learn what we deem important.  Conversations can be built around these simple acts and books that teach about the environment in a non-preachy way are just another tool we parents can use to raise eco-conscious kids.

Here are some book suggestions to get you started:
(In no particular order)

1.        The Lorax by Dr. Seuss (ages 6 +)

Written in 1971, this book couldn’t have more contemporary relevance.  This is the story of greed and a decimated environment.  When the Lorax tries to speak up, “I am the Lorax.  I speak for the trees,” his warnings go unheeded.  While filled with the dangers of environmental short-sightedness, it ends with the hopeful message that we have the power to make good choices for the Earth.  This classic is going to be a movie soon, opening in theaters March 2, 2012.  If you are like me and have to read a book before you see the movie, get to the library! 

2.       Footprints on the Roof: poems about the earth by Marilyn Singer (ages 8+)

Ink drawings paired with free verse poetry make the subtle message of Earth-care an integral part of enjoying nature’s magnificence and mysteries. 

3.       I Can Make a Difference All Around My House: An Earth-Friendly Lift-the-Flap Book by P.A. Bonner (ages 2+)

In this sweet rhyming book shaped like a house, a boy invites the reader to see how to be “green”.  Flaps to lift engage the youngest readers while they learn what they can do to help the Earth right at home.

4.       The Green Mother Goose: Saving the World One Rhyme at a Time by Jan Peck and David Davis (ages 4+)

No Little Boy Blue in this collection.  Instead you’ll find Little Boy Green. As the book jacket states, “Mother Goose’s lively rhymes have been recycled as fun, eco-friendly verses with a wonderful mission.” 

      5.       Common Ground: The Water, Earth, and Air We Share by Molly Bang (ages 9+)

Molly Bang uses the example of the common ground in a village to help young readers visualize the role we play on our planet.  Will we use our natural resources wisely or exploit them?  She offers a bold warning at the end.  “…what will stop us from destroying our whole world-our common ground?...we don’t have anyplace else to go.”

6.       The Earth and I by Frank Asch (ages 3+)

With minimal text, watercolors tell the story of a boy and the Earth as friends.  They share playful times and sadness, too.  Even the youngest readers will identify with the idea that our relationship with the Earth needs to be in balance for both to thrive.

7.       Brother Eagle, Sister Sky: A message from Chief Seattle paintings by Susan Jeffers (ages 8+)

Chief Seattle spoke these words in a speech during white settlement negotiations in the 1850s in the Pacific Northwest.  Incredibly relevant to our modern-day ecological movements, Susan Jeffers brings his words to life through her art. 

8.       The Great Kapok Tree: A Tale of the Amazon Rain Forest by Lynne Cherry (ages 4+)

A rainforest full of animals whisper all of the reasons their home should not be cut down to a sleeping man with an ax.  Attractive for its exotic rain forest animals and its message of conservation, this book clearly invites the reader to save the rain forest.

9.       The Earth Book by Todd Parr (ages 3+)


With the opening line “I take care of the earth because I know I can do little things everyday to make a BIG difference”, Todd Parr takes young readers on a colorful and practical journey,  showing children how they help the planet stay healthy.
10.   100 Things You Should Know About Saving The Earth by Anna Claybourne (ages 8+)

This nonfiction book is chock full of facts, quizzes, and tips on how to live green.  Photographs, diagrams, and cartoons effectively illustrate the text.

11.   Compost Stew: An A to Z Recipe for the Earth by Mary McKenna Siddals (ages 3+)


A clever A to Z rhyming book with fabulous collage illustrations made from recycled/reused materials. 

I’d also like to highlight the DK: Made with Care series.  Titles include Love Your World, Grow Organic, and Make It!  This series of nonfiction books range in reading age from toddler to teenager, so there is one perfect for your child.  The books themselves are made with recycled paper, vegetable inks, and are produced without a dust jacket to conserve paper and energy.
I hope this list inspires you to read to your children about what it means to be green.  And to find more great books on the subject.  Make GREEN your favorite color!


  1. I am more than a little excited to see this here. It will fit nicely with the ongoing blog Perfect Picture Book Friday by Susanna Leonard Hill. I will connect you two.

    This green picture book list is all something we have been waiting for. Thanks for creating something we can all use and be proud to read aloud to our kids and grand kids.

  2. Thank you for sharing this Laura! I have been looking for some titles that will actually teach Ronan as well as tell a story. He is such a sponge, and I really want him to enjoy learning! We have been reading Dr Suess There's No Place Like Space and he remembers so much from it. The planets names, if they are hot or cold etc. this book is what sparked me to look for more serious books. Can't wait to try some of the ones on your list!

  3. Love this, Laura! Best of luck to you.

  4. What a wonderfully diverse list of books for showing kids all the small ways they can make such a big difference. Thanks for including Compost Stew, and for encouraging your readers to spread a little green in the world, one simple act at a time...

  5. Thanks, Laura, for including Compost Stew in such a distinguished list of books that are both beautiful, fun AND encourage care for the earth.