Education is key in the face of the climate crisis. As the younger and future generations are and will suffer the worst impacts of global warming, it is now more important than ever that we teach young children the environmental problems of today, and ways we can help change and protect the planet. Whether they will be inspired to become climate activists or simply developing environmentally-friendly habits, these are our selection of great environmental books for kids.
Best Environmental Books for Kids
1. City Green, by DyAnne Disalvo-Ryan (1994)
Considered by many to be a classic children’s book on nature and the environment, City Green is a charming yet educational story about a girl named Macy and her efforts to plant a garden in the vacant lot of her city block. From petitioning and organising to getting an official permit to build a community garden, author DyAnne Disalvo-Ryan shows how one young individual can have the power to take action and make a difference. Accompanied by delightful watercolour illustrations depicting the monotonous brown landscapes, which are effectively contrasted by the colourful spectrums of the plants when the garden is completed, City Green is one of the all-time best environmental books for kids. The book also comes with a handy guide on how to start your own community garden.
2. We Are Water Protectors, by Carole Lindstrom (2020)
This New York Times bestseller is a powerful and inspiring book about environmental activism of Indigenous peoples, highlighting the importance of safeguarding our precious water resources from pollution and corruption. Inspired by many Indigenous-led movements across North America including the Sioux Tribe’s protest at Standing Rock, We Are Water Protectors is told through a young girl’s point of view as she takes part in a protest and stands up for environmental justice. The combination between Lindstrom’s poetic text with Michaela Goade’s depiction of the protagonist’s fierceness and lush landscapes makes for an empowering read for both children and grownups alike.
3. Pangolina, by Jane Goodall (2021)
Written by none other than the world’s foremost expert on gorillas and legendary primatologist Jane Goodall, this heartwarming children’s fiction tells the tale of a pangolin and its plight after it was captured for illegal wildlife trading and trafficking. The main character, aptly named Pangolina, was eventually rescued by a young girl. Young readers are taught the power of empathy and how all animals have feelings, just like us. With the help of Daishu Ma’s beautiful illustrations, it is wonderfully informative, highlighting the problems and solutions to wildlife trafficking as well as the importance of endangered species conservation, making it one of the best environmental books for kids.
4. Don’t Let Them Disappear, by Chelsea Clinton (2019)
A fantastic introductory text for young readers about endangered animals in the world, Don’t Let Them Disappear shines a light about what are some of the biggest threats to the world’s wildlife and ways to help prevent their extinction. Clinton – and the former first daughter of the US – details fun and interesting facts about 12 species including tigers, whales and pandas, while paying special attention to what makes them special and important to us and the planet.
5. The Water Princess, Susan Verde (2016)
Based on Ivory Coast-born model Georgie Badiel’s childhood, who now runs a non-profit organisation committed to providing clean water and sanitation to the people of Burkina Faso, The Water Princess follows a young girl’s perilous journey of bringing clean drinking water to her West African community. The crown the princess wears is the heavy pot she carries on her head every day to collect the water while dreaming for a day in which clean water can be easily accessible. Shedding light on the struggle that continues to plague many across the world today, the book is not only packed with powerful images but teaches children not to take water for granted, and to fight for a future in which all children will have access to clean drinking water.
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6. Kate, Who Tamed the Wind, by Liz Garton Scanlon (2018)
This book encourages younger readers to read aloud with its easy cadence and repetition as it chronicles the adventure of a young girl who came up with a plan to tame the wind. It’s a wonderful tale of problem-solving and determination, demonstrating the protagonist Kate’s thought process in figuring out how to protect howling wind by planting young trees. In this book, Liz Garton Scanlon educates children how trees play a crucial role in our lives and the planet, and the importance of nature-based solutions.
7. Greta and the Giants: Inspired by Greta Thunberg’s Stand to Save the World, by Zoë Tucker (2019)
The real-life inspiration of this picture book, young Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, has galvanised thousands of young people around the world in taking action against the climate crisis. Turning her fight against climate deniers and sluggish world leaders into a more accessible story, this allegorical fiction is about a girl named Greta who lives in a beautiful forest where giants have moved in and started chopping down trees until there is hardly any forest left. Greta and the Giants is able to simplify an important subject targeted towards readers aged four to seven, while still making it a fun read. What’s more, the book is printed on 100% recycled paper and every purchase donates 3% of the cover price to 350.org, an international movement working towards the end of the fossil fuel age.
8. Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist, by Jessica Keating (2017)
Eugenie Clark fought against gender norms and expectations, as well as the overwhelming misconceptions of sharks, to become the renowned zoologist she is today. In illustrating her journey to achieve her dream and her devotion towards learning – and later educating people – how sharks are not ugly and scary creatures, the book shows how women can be great scientists through tenacity and determination. It’s also packed with Clark’s discoveries and accomplishments, which earned her the nickname of “Shark Lady”, along with plenty of fun facts about sharks.
9. Compost Stew: An A to Z Recipe for the Earth, by Mary McKenna Siddals (2010)
This picture book is the perfect educational tool to teach kids how to compost and encourage children to develop life-long habits to help protect the environment, as well as combating climate change. Young readers are guided through every letter of the alphabet with bouncy rhymes and vibrant art collages – printed on recycled and found materials no less – and learn more about the do’s and don’ts of each compostable item, from eggshells to wiggly worms. Children will discover a whole new respect for food scraps.
10. The Lonely Polar Bear, by Khoa Lee (2018)
Climate change can be a tough and difficult subject to talk about to children for the first time. But with this picture book, it doesn’t have to be. The Lonely Polar Bear is a sweet and moving story where young readers can learn about the fragile Arctic and how the changing climate is affecting wildlife through the journey of a little polar bear, and his friendships with other animals. Get transported by the beautiful words and illustrations of Vietnamese artist Khoa Lee and discover the wonders of the northern lights and snow caps in the Arctic.
For more kid-friendly content, head to Kids.Earth.Org