Nature plays a big role in most children’s books — usually it’s a lush, sunny paradise with talking animals. But few books explore the complexity of the natural world, and the impact humanity has on it.
Today, more than ever, our kids have a huge stake in the environment as they inherit a world with 7+ billion inhabitants and a climate out of whack. The impacts of climate change could be devastating in many major U.S. cities by 2050; that’s in 37 years, when our 5-year-old daughters will be 42 and may have 5-year-olds of their own. As our kids grow up, we want them to love the sunny playground of nature, but also to understand its power and its fragility.
Getting kids outdoors is surely one great way to foster a respect for natural world and help kids feel invested in its wellbeing. Reading good books is another.
Below we’ve listed our top 10 children’s books about nature and the environment, including picture books for the younger set and chapter books for tweens. Each in its own way illuminates not just the beauty of nature, but the complex relationship between humans and the environment. And each inspires young readers to become part of the solution.
There are some great titles we left out when narrowing the trove down to 10, including the many gems in the animals genre, from Little Bear and Charlotte’s Web to The One and Only Ivan. Big thanks to our friend and kid-lit savant Hope Moeller who teaches second grade at Ensworth school in Nashville and shared some of her faves for this list. We consider it a work-in-progress and want to hear your own favorites. Please post your top titles in the comments section.