little girl sitting before a full bookshelf

We all know that reading to our children every night is important for their overall reading skills, but the content of the books we read also helps teach children important lessons.

Caring for the planet, including plants and animals, and looking carefully at consumption are all important teachable lessons for our children. These topics may sound sophisticated for children but actually they are quite simple and are covered in many children’s books.

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Many books give you an opportunity to talk to kids about these concepts. Here are some favorites for boys and girls with varying interests:

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

The The Giving Tree offers lessons about consumption and environmentalism that are easy for young children to grasp. The tree gives every part of itself to the boy throughout his life. After reading this book, talk to your children about consumption and respect for nature. You can discuss how nature plays a part in our everyday life from what we eat (the apple in the book) to our homes.

The Lorax by Dr. Suess

Although it was written in 1971, the environmental lessons in The Lorax still ring true today. The book discusses consumerism, deforestation, and even pollution. If you’ve seen the movie adaptation, be sure to read the book, which is much more powerful. You can adapt discussions from this book for kids of all ages.

Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey

Written in 1948, this may not seem like the logical pick, but Blueberries for Sal has environmental lessons on every page. Sal and her mother head out to the forest to pick blueberries they will can for the winter. While out, they encounter several other animals including a baby bear and his mother who are eating blueberries to store up for winter. It is easy to teach even young children about the food chain and nature by discussing Sal’s adventure.

Little Pirate: Why Do We Recycle? by IKids

Little Pirate: Why Do We Recycle? is a great resource to help explain to children what the recycling process is and why we do it. Many children enjoy reading about the mechanics of things and why we do what we do. This is an excellent book for “hands-on” kids. They will enjoy the interactive feel of the book’s pop-ups and other features they can manipulate on each page.

Emeraldlicious by Victoria Kahn

Many girls love the Pinkalicous books, and Emeraldlicious is perfect for your pink-loving, budding environmentalist. In this book, Kahn teaches an environmental lesson in the whimsical manner that only the Princess of Pink can do. As Pinkalicious is at the park with her brother, she uses her magic wand to make garbage into new things and, in the end, cleans up the litter-ridden park.

Look for the environmental message in other children’s books you read. You will be surprised how many books have even a simple message you can share with your children.

What children’s books would you add to the list? Share your comments.

Feature image courtesy of Yellow

Editor’s note: Originally published on October 3, 2014, this article was updated in December 2018.

By Leigh Garofalow

Leigh Garofalow is a self described 'born environmentalist' who won a recycling poster contest in 3rd grade and has been green ever since. She is a mother of two children under the age of 6 who think taking a cloth napkin and their own utensils to school is normal. She loves writing about anything related to health, wellness, and the environment. One day she hopes to make every up-cycled item and recipe she pinned on Pinterest!