Kiddosphere: Love Our World – Books for Earth Day and Arbor Day

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Forty-eight and 146 years ago, respectively, Earth Day and Arbor Day were first celebrated in the United States. With Earth Day (April 22) and Arbor Day (April 27) take place in the same week, so let’s look at some terrific related books for young readers.

The Scientists in the Field series is one of my favorite nonfiction series; I love its unique subjects, beautiful photography, and the common occurrences of local people and international experts working together. Learn about piaba, the small fish that support sustainable practices in the Amazon rainforest in Amazon Adventure: How Tiny Fish Are Saving the World’s Largest Rainforest, one of the outstanding titles in this important STEM-related series.

Allan Drummond’s “green energy” informational picture books are must-haves for any environmental science collection for children; they impart hope and community spirit in a subject that can be daunting and scary for young learners. After the devastating 2007 tornado, the citizens of Greensburg, Kansas rebuilt their town using environmentally sustainable methods that would strengthen their protection against future tornadoes. Green City is told from the perspective of a child who survived the tornado, which adds greater poignancy and appeal.

I Love the Earth by Todd Parr book cover

I Love the Earth is great for very young listeners; Todd Parr’s immediately recognizable illustrations will endear the book to young children.

When I needed to update our environmental science section, I was happy to find the What Can We Do About Pollution? series, with up-to-date information about waste/pollution, including e-waste (discarded smartphones and such). Each title in the series explains the problem we have with the particular issue (household waste, fossil fuel pollution, and nuclear pollution), and steps that can be/are being taken to address the issue.

One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia is one of my favorite environment-related books in years (and makes for a great read aloud for elementary school students). Isatou Ceesay’s community in Njau, Gambia was being overrun by plastic bags casually being disposed of everywhere. They looked unappealing, collected water (which attracted mosquitoes), left a terrible stench when burned, and injured/killed valuable livestock. Although Isatou Ceesay’s idea to turn the bags into women’s purses/coin bags, phone holders, ornaments, and more was at first ridiculed, the benefits to her community (including raising funds for women’s literacy classes) have been long-lasting.

When I plan an Earth Day story time, I always include the 1957 Caldecott Medal winner, A Tree is Nice. This lovely tribute to trees is sweetly old-fashioned but timeless.

When Wangari Maathai returned to her childhood home in Kenya, she was shocked to see it stripped of the lush trees that she remembered. The nine seedlings she planted in the backyard eventually grew to an internationally recognized movement (and a Nobel Peace Prize). We have several books about Wangari Maathai, but Jeannette Winter’s Wangari’s Trees of Peace: A True Story From Africa is one of the best.

We Planted a Tree is a perfect Earth Day/Arbor Day blended story, as it celebrates both the enjoyment we get from trees and their importance to the air we breathe, the soil in which we plant our food, and more.

Toward the end of her career and life, Jean Craighead George wrote three exceptional books about animals that were successfully removed from near-extinction. The Wolves Are Back, The Eagles Are Back and The Buffalo Are Back. Each title recounts the amazing comeback of these American icons of nature, as well as the overall benefits of the ecosystems in which they live. These are superb read alouds for elementary school students.

Happy Earth Day and Arbor Day!

For program highlights and staff suggestions for children and young adult readers, make Kiddosphere your source for all the latest on what to read and what to do for kids!

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 

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