It is never too early for children to learn about the environment and how to take care of it. Picture books can teach little kids about the natural world and living sustainably in it.
Instead of the gloom and doom that burdens books for adults, the picture books in this list are filled with ideas for action and examples of people who have made a difference, making for bedtime reading that is both comforting and educational for the whole family.
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Fox and Bear, by Miriam Körner
In this modern fable, Fox and Bear are happy foraging and playing in the forest until Fox starts making inventions to forage more efficiently. Soon the machine-filled forest isn’t a nice place to play anymore, and maintaining his inventions takes all of Fox’s time. Can Bear help Fox sort his priorities?
Cece Loves Science and Adventure, by Kimberly Derting and Shelli Johannes
The second book in the Adventure Girls series has Cece and her troop using STEM skills on a camping trip. While learning typical outdoor skills, Cece also uses meteorology and math to determine the location of a storm; engineering to build a shelter; and technology and math to calculate the length of the trek back to the campsite.
The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss
Ignore the bad movie adaptations and return to the original classic book about speaking up when the trees start coming down. Leave it to Dr. Seuss to sum up the entire environmental movement in one easy-reader sentence: Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.
We Are Water Protectors, by Carole Lindstrom
The author and illustrator – both Native Americans – of this contemporary classic picture book present a call to action to readers of all ages to take inspiration from indigenous-led movements to protect our most precious resource.
Saving the Countryside, by Linda Marshall
Everyone knows Beatrix Potter’s stories about woodland creatures and rural life. But not many realize that she spent the money raised by Peter Rabbit and friends to buy thousands of acres of farmland and countryside for preservation. Potter’s properties are still preserved by England’s National Trust today.
Jayden’s Impossible Garden, by Melina Mangal
City boy Jayden has to work hard to get the adults to see the nature that surrounds them – from squirrels and birds in the trees to dandelions in the sidewalk. But with help from a friend, he plants the seeds of a community garden that makes nature easy for everyone to see. This book includes activities to make some of Jayden’s projects, like a milk jug bird feeder, at home.
Charlie and Lola: We Are Extremely Very Good Recyclers, by Lauren Child
Even adults can feel overwhelmed by big environmental issues like climate change, and it’s hard to feel like you can make a difference on far away topics like animal extinction. But even small children can help out by recycling, as beloved siblings Charlie and Lola demonstrate.
On Meadowview Street, by Henry Cole
Like an environmental Big Orange Splot, this picture book tells the story of a girl who slowly converts her home’s boring lawn into a biodiverse meadow. In the process she inspires her neighbors, who turn the whole street into a green corridor. You might find your family similarly inspired.
Butterflies Belong Here, by Deborah Hopkinson
The protagonist of this story is a young immigrant girl. Relating to the journey of the endangered Monarch butterfly and to a shy caterpillar’s shedding of its skin, the girl leads her class in a project to plant a butterfly way station filled with milkweed and nectar-producing flowers.
Where’s Rodney?, By Carmen Bogan
A little boy who can’t sit still in class, Rodney doesn’t think a field trip to a park sounds very exciting. But his class doesn’t visit the sad city park he’s expecting. Instead, Rodney experiences a transformative day out in the wide-open spaces of a national park, where he discovers the freedom to be as active as he wants.
The Story of the Blue Planet by Andri Snaer Magnason is more of a book with illustrations than a picture book. But its story of children who are tempted by and then overcome the temptations of commercialism is a surprisingly delightful allegory that will appeal to readers of all ages.
Enjoy reading with your kids!