Sharing picture books with young children is one of my favourite things. Picture books can fill children’s minds with wonder, curiosity and imagination, and their hearts with love. Picture books lead them gently into the world beyond their own front doors. They allow children to explore the previously unexplored in the comfort and safety of their own familiar surroundings, at home or at school.
In this post, I share some books that will help children develop an interest in and concern for the environment through reading and discussion.
A good place to start is with publisher Ethicool Books. I recently interviewed Stuart French, the founder, who explained their goal of engaging children in discussions about issues such as climate change, ocean pollution, poverty and gender equality through stories told in their beautiful picture books. While you can find a full list of their books on their website, these are some of my favourites:
Remembering Mother Nature by Stuart French introduces children to the concept of Mother Nature and encourages them to take an active interest in the environment and help to save the planet.
My Rainforest Classroom by Stuart French introduces children to the beauty of the world’s environments and its inhabitants. It shows how easily the environment can be damaged and urges them to take action to protect it.
Watermelon Pip by Sharna Carter introduces children to the importance of sharing, sustainability and the problem with overconsumption.
Kim Michelle Toft
There are also all the beautiful books that honour the ocean environment by Kim Michelle Toft, whose books I have featured many times on readilearn, including here and here. Kim’s vibrant silk paintings bring the oceans to life in the hands of readers who will wonder at the beauty, and precariousness of life, that lies beneath the waves. I always appreciate the addition of facts about the featured creatures that Kim adds to her books. It is difficult to know where to stop listing Kim’s beautiful books. These are just a few of my favourites:
One Less Fish by Kim Michelle Toft and Allan Sheather counts down the disappearance of fish from our oceans and provides an explanation of the ways in which the ocean environment is being destroyed. It can be enjoyed simply as a beautiful counting book, or as an introduction to ocean conservation.
The World That We Want introduces children to some of North Queensland’s unique ecosystems in a story based upon the rhyme ‘This is the House that Jack Built’. It is a winner of the Environment Award for Children’s Literature.
Coral Sea Dreaming is a stunning book that introduces children to the beautiful creatures of the coral reef. It is also a winner of the Environment Award for Children’s Literature.
Turtle’s Song tells the story of a green sea turtle from its birth in the sand on a beach near a coral reef, through its ocean wanderings, until its return to the same beach to lay its own eggs. Kim’s beautiful silk paintings illustrate the story written by Alan Brown.
You can find out more about Kim Michelle Toft’s beautiful silk paintings on her website and even watch videos of her at work, including this one.
Jeannie Baker’s beautiful collage-illustrated books never cease to amaze and inspire. These are just four of my favourites. Find out about more on her website.
Window is a wordless picture books that shows the changes that occur in the world seen from a window as a baby grows into an adult and a once pristine environment becomes part of a bustling grey urban world.
Circle follows the migratory path of the godwit birds as they leave the Arctic Circle and fly thousands of kilometres across the Pacific Ocean. It shows the interconnectedness of life on Earth and the importance of preserving the environment for the benefit of all.
Where the Forest Meets the Sea explores a tropical beach where the rainforest meets the sea. As a young boy explores the area, he imagines how it may have been in the past when dinosaurs roamed or when the first Australians lived there. He imagines how it might be in the future as urban life progresses and consumes.
The Hidden Forest takes us on a journey into the hidden underwater kelp forest. Along with Ben and Sophie, we develop wonder at the hidden world we discover.
The Curious Garden by Peter Brown is a story about the difference that one person can make. Liam lives in a city that is grey and drab. One day he comes upon a garden and he decides to care for it. Over time, the garden spreads out across the city, transforming the urban landscape into one of lush greenery.
The Weed by Quentin Blake has a similar theme to The Curious Garden, showing the importance of caring for each other and the environment.
One Tree written by Christopher Cheng and illustrated by Bruce Whatley is another that tells of the importance of our connection with nature and the environment and of how one person can make a difference in transforming a drab city landscape to one that is green with life.
Leaf Litter by Rachel Tonkin is a beautiful lift-the-flap book that encourages children to look closely at the world beneath their feet, hidden in the leaf litter. The detailed illustrations teem with images of life, inviting children to explore and discover. At the end of the book, Tonkin provides a list of things for children to find on each page and a glossary of explanations.
Stripes in the Forest by Aleesah Darlison and illustrated by Shane McGrath tells a story of the last wild female thylacine (also known as Tasmanian tiger) as she endeavours to protect her cubs. The story, another winner of the Environment Award for Children’s Literature, offers hope for the future if we all work towards preserving our endangered species.
One Careless Night by Christina Booth is another story telling of the last of the thylacines who died in captivity after they had been hunted to extinction. The book offers a glimmer of hope for other species if we have learned our lessons from the fate of the thylacines.
‘Slowly, Slowly, Slowly,’ said the Sloth by Eric Carle introduces us to animals who share the sloth’s rainforest home. The other animals wonder why the sloth is slow and boring, but the sloth, who uses over ten adjectives to describe those aspects of himself, is happy to be who he is, stating, ‘That’s just how I am.’ The book has a foreword by Jane Goodall who hopes that Carle’s book will encourage people to take a greater interest in the environment, including that of the sloths, and work towards its conservation.
This list is now available to download free in resources.
What books would you add to my list? Please let me know in the comments.
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