Biodiversity. Varied landscapes. Natural resources and important conservation causes. There’s so much about our environment worth talking about with students. Whether for sharing around Earth Day, a science unit, or at any point during your year, these Earth Day books for kids are some of our newest favorites for the classroom.
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Books About Animals
1. This Is the Nest That Robin Built by Denise Fleming (PreK–1)
This text by a classic early childhood book author shows how a robin prepares its nest for its offspring’s arrival. This is a perfect addition to a study of birds or as a stand-alone read-aloud.
2. A Mammal Is an Animal by Lizzy Rockwell (PreK–1)
This introduction to animal classes features the straightforward text and illustrations that the Rockwell family is best known. We love how the book ends with an interracial human (and therefore, mammalian) family, in which mom nurses a baby.
3. Hello Hello by Brendan Wenzel (PreK–2)
Deceptively simple yet chock-full of discussion opportunities. Each set of wonderfully illustrated animals shown on these pages is linked in some way. Some share traits, such as color. Others share features and behaviors. The back matter names each creature and also lists its endangered species status.
4. Song of the Wild: A First Book of Animals by Nicola Davies (K–5)
This book has so many beautiful poems and illustrations celebrating the animal kingdom. It will be hard to decide which ones to share with students. From descriptions of different species to odes to animal behaviors, the possibilities for curriculum tie-ins are endless.
5. The Bee Book by Charlotte Milner (1–5)
This question-and-answer book introduces bees, a very diverse and interesting animal population. It also shows bees’ important role as pollinators and the issues contributing to their decline. Read just one section to address a class question. Or, read the entire text for a thorough overview.
6. A Place to Start a Family: Poems About Creatures That Build by David L. Harrison (1–5)
We love books that combine a unique angle on a topic with excellent vocabulary and informative content. This winning poetry collection describes the building habits of different species, from prairie dogs to paper wasps. Back matter includes more information to help you answer your students’ questions.
7. Animals by the Numbers: A Book of Infographics by Steve Jenkins (2–6)
For students interested in numerical data, this book is a treasure trove. Steve Jenkins supplements standard statistics with lots of “wow!” and “gross!” facts to hold students’ interest. There are lots of charts, graphs, and other visual features. Students can also practice different ways of gathering information from a nonfiction text.
8. Beauty and the Beak: How Science, Technology, and a 3D-Printed Beak Rescued a Bald Eagle by Deborah Lee Rose and Jane Veltkamp (3–6)
The title captures the amazing story the book tells. It opens with plenty of information and stunning photos of the US’s most symbolic bird. It also tells about the tragic hunting event that destroyed a young eagle’s beak and how a creative and dedicated raptor biologist took up the bird’s cause.
9. The Search for Olinguito: Discovering a New Species by Sandra Markle (3–6)
What’s cooler than discovering a brand-new animal? Informational text guru Sandra Markle tells such a story. In this book, students will read about the real-life science inquiry that led to the surprising discovery of the olinguito species in Central and South America.
Books About Plants
10. The Digger and the Flower by Joseph Kuefler (PreK–1)
It’s a classic construction story with a naturalist twist. All the other vehicles are busy building a drab, concrete city. But Digger is going out of his way to protect a lone wildflower growing on the site. Even when another rig eventually digs up the flower in haste, the flower’s impact on the landscape remains, showing the enduring power of living things.
11. Anywhere Farm by Phyllis Root (PreK–2)
We love this rhyming story. It shows young kids that being a gardener doesn’t mean you have to live in a special place. “For an anywhere farm, here’s all that you need: soil and sunshine, some water, a seed.” Children in the book make planting in old crates, buckets, and discarded items look completely doable. The way they turn an empty lot into a vegetable garden and neighborhood farm stand will get anyone’s green thumb twitching.
12. Gorilla Gardener: How to Help Nature Take over the World by John Seven (PreK–3)
What starts as a simple summary of how to make a “seed bomb” quickly turns fantastical. Gorilla Gardener imagines a world where everyone—even grumpy grown-ups—plays outside among the plants. Back matter brings the text back to facts about planting. It also provides a summary of the (actual) guerrilla gardening movement. This is a unique and fun read-aloud. It will definitely inspire class planting projects.
13. Kate, Who Tamed the Wind by Liz Garton Scanlon (PreK–3)
When the wind won’t stop beating on her neighbor’s hilltop house, clever Kate draws up a creative answer. She loads up her wagon with saplings and comes to his rescue, cultivating a new friendship in the process. Use this story to spark a conversation about the many positive impacts of trees.
14. Seed School: Growing up Amazing by Joan Holub (K–3)
This book manages to pack a great deal of information about seed and plant diversity into a cute package. The newest student at seed school can’t figure out what kind of plant he’ll grow up to be. The illustrations let your students in on the secret, but they’ll still enjoy his informative search for an identity.
15. The Things That I LOVE about TREES by Chris Butterworth (K–3)
This book masters the delicate balance between the poetic and the informational. Muted watercolor and ink illustrations portray a plum tree throughout the seasons of a year. The main text describes the features the narrator loves, while the smaller text adds interesting facts. The simple ideas for games and activities involving trees at the end are the perfect final touch.
16. Drawn from Nature by Helen Ahpornsiri (1–4)
This book brings new meaning to “natural beauty.” Illustrations of various flora and fauna are made totally out of pressed flowers and leaves for a distinctive and mesmerizing effect. Give students a lot of time to pore over this one.
17. A Seed Is the Start by Melissa Stewart (1–4)
Another solid National Geographic Kids title, with their signature engaging vocabulary and top-notch photographs. This primer on plant life is an asset to any science unit.
18. Let’s Eat! Sustainable Food for a Hungry Planet by Kimberley Veness (3–7)
This title lays out historic and current perspectives on agriculture for middle grade students in an engaging format. It includes plenty of beautiful pictures of kids and adults. With a good balance of conceptual information and memorable facts, this book will definitely get kids thinking about what’s on their plates. (Don’t miss the rest of the titles in the Orca Footprints series.)
Books to Encourage Environmental Learning and Advocacy
19. Our Gift-Filled Earth by Eun Hee Na and Ha Jin Jung (K–3)
Broaden students’ understanding of how the Earth provides for us with these foldout descriptions of how staples like sea salt, glass, cotton, and paper are produced from natural materials and used in countless ways.
20. Penguins Don’t Wear Sweaters! By Marikka Tamura (K–3)
It starts as a cute story about penguins in woolens. But it becomes a chance to talk about the importance of seeking out a fully informed perspective. The author’s note explains how the book was inspired: a photo of penguins in sweaters popped up in her social media feed and the extra research she did to find out more about what’s actually most helpful for penguins after an oil spill.
21. Thank You, Earth: A Love Letter to Our Planet by April Pulley Sayre (K–6)
Wow. Just … wow. The photographs and word choice in this appreciation for Earth’s diverse beauty is powerful. It will be hard to choose a favorite picture, though you should certainly have students try. The author’s note stands alone as a nonfiction text teaching opportunity for older students.
22. Wild World by Angela McAllister (2–5)
Each poem in this collection artfully presents a collection of details about one of Earth’s habitats, from the rainforest to the outback. Back matter delivers an urgent message about how human behaviors threaten each location. It also gives suggestions for positive action.
23. All That Trash: The Story of the 1987 Garbage Barge and Our Problem with Stuff by Meghan McCarthy (3–5)
Once again, Meghan McCarthy takes a little-known story from history and turns it into an informative and engaging tale for children. When local landfills were running out of space, a barge full of New York’s trash traveled over 6,000 miles looking for a dumping spot. McCarthy’s use of quotes from real newspapers and broadcasts is really interesting. It’s also a good way to discuss informational writing.
24. Rising Seas: Flooding, Climate Change and Our New World by Keltie Thomas (3–7)
Climate change is an important topic for today’s students. This book tackles it from a less common angle: the rising sea levels in places around the world. Read all the examples or just a few. You’ll help students learn the link between human behavior and climate change.
25. Life on Surtsey: Iceland’s Upstart Island by Loree Griffin Burns (3–7)
The Scientists in the Field series covers many different topics. This edition tells the little-known story of the ongoing research on an Icelandic island formed by a volcanic eruption in 1964. Surtsey gives scientists an unusual chance to learn about how species populate a new location over time.
What are your favorite Earth Day books for kids? We’d love to hear about them in our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook.
Plus, check out our list of meaningful Earth Day activities.