There are enough great books about our natural world to keep your class reading all year long, but Earth Day, on April 22, is a great excuse to dive into a nice big stack. From animals, plants, and ecosystems to environmental change, conservation, and notable environmentalists, there are so many topics related to our environment that are important to explore with students. Below find our favorite Earth Day books for kids.
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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 for which 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 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. Chase the Moon, Tiny Turtle: A Hatchling’s Daring Race to the Sea by Kelly Jordan (K-4)
Baby sea turtles’ journey from sandy nest to open ocean has to be one of the shortest, but most harrowing, in nature. This poetic story is brief enough for littles but can be appreciated on many levels—and gives kids great practice making inferences based on the pictures, too.
5. 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. Just try and decide which ones to share with students! From descriptions of different species to odes to animal behaviors, this is one of those Earth Day books for kids that has possibilities for curriculum tie-ins.
6 & 7. The Bee Book and The Bat Book by Charlotte Milner (1–5)
With their engaging tone and fascinating facts, these Earth Day books for kids raise students’ awareness about the roles specific animals play in our environment through a Q&A format. Not a bee or bat enthusiast? You might be after reading these! If you love Charlotte Milner’s style, check out The Sea Book and The Rainforest Book, too.
8. A Place to Start a Family: Poems About Creatures That Build by David L. Harrison (1–5)
We love Earth Day books for kids 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.
9. 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.
10. Butterfly for a King by Susan L. Roth (2-6)
This story of Hawaii’s state insect, the Kamehameha butterfly, introduces so many important ideas: how the insect arrived in Hawaii, its life cycle, its place in the ecosystem there, and how expert and citizen science efforts have played a key role in supporting the population.
11. The Elephant by Jenni Desmond (2-6)
Besides bursting with interesting information about the world’s largest land mammal, this title gets major points for being an excellent mentor text for nonfiction reading and writing. Plus, it portrays a child of color engaged in scientific learning. Looking for similar Earth Day books for kids? Check out The Polar Bear and The Blue Whaleby the same author.
12. 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.
13. Follow Those Zebras: Solving a Migration Mystery by Sandra Markle (3–6)
How does an entire herd of zebras just disappear? Informational text guru Sandra Markle takes readers on a team of scientists’ journey to solve a fascinating mystery. Help students make connections between animal behavior, ecosystem characteristics, and environmental challenges like climate change.
Books About Plants
14. 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 goes 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.
15. Anywhere Farm by Phyllis Root (PreK–2)
If you’re looking for Earth Day books for kids with rhyming words, you’ll love this 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.
16. 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.
17. Zee Grows a Tree by Elizabeth Rusch (PreK-3)
We love, love, love this story of how a little girl’s growth connects to the growth of her Douglas fir tree—because, hey, there’s nothing more concrete for kids than thinking about themselves! Younger kids love the story, and there are lots of additional facts for older students.
18. 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.
19. Seeds by Carmen Lemniscates (K-3)
Seeds hold tremendous potential, both scientifically and metaphorically. One pumpkin seed can grow a dozen new pumpkins, each packed with hundreds more seeds. One act of kindness can be the seed of infinite happiness. This title is as compact but powerful as the seeds it celebrates.
20. Seed School: Growing up Amazing by Joan Holub (K–3)
This book manages to fit tons of information about seed and plant diversity in 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.
21. The Things That I LOVE about TREES by Chris Butterworth (K–3)
This book masters the delicate balance between poetic and informational. Muted watercolor and ink illustrations show 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.
22. 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.
23. 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.
24. The Wisdom of Trees: How Trees Work Together to Form a Natural Kingdom by Lita Judge (3-8)
What would trees say if they could talk? This poetry and informational text combo gets students thinking about the power of trees at all stages of their lifespans. It’ll give students new ideas to consider on a walk in the forest.
25. Let’s Eat! Sustainable Food for a Hungry Planet by Kimberley Veness (3–8)
If you’re looking for Earth Day books for kids that teach about sustainable food, check out this title. It lays out historic and current perspectives on agriculture for middle grade students in an engaging format. With a good balance of photos, 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, also.)
Books to Encourage Appreciation of the Environment, Learning, and Advocacy
26. Rocket Says Clean Up! by Nathan Bryon (PreK-1)
When Rocket finds a turtle tangled in a net on the beach, she does just what successful environmental activists do: she takes action. Rocket motivates those around her to help clean up the beach and protect nature—and will motivate students, too.
27. Only a Tree Knows How to Be a Tree by Mary Murphy (PreK-1)
Only a tree knows how to be a tree…and only a bird, fish, water, and Earth know how to be themselves. This celebration of uniqueness could inspire yoga or book theater, student poetry, artwork and more.
28. This Class Can Save the Planet by Stacy Tornio (PreK-4)
This encouraging and informative guide gives kids real-life ideas they can use right away to help the environment. For classrooms excited about doing their part to conserve resources and protect the earth, this is a go-to guide!
29. My Friend Earth by Patricia MacLachlan (PreK-3)
This fresh positioning of earth as a friend instead of “Mother” will enthrall kids. Gorgeous die-cut pages span seasons and continents as “our friend Earth” cares for plants, animals, and the land—and asks its inhabitant to return the kindness.
30. A Stone Sat Still by Brendan Wenzel (PreK-3)
Kids are experts at being playful in nature. Brendan Wenzel does it again with this gorgeous title showing how the simplest of nature objects—a stone—can be so many things, depending on how you look at it.
31. Zonia’s Rain Forest by Juana Martinez-Neal (K-3)
Zonia and her family are Asháninka, members of the largest Indigenous group of the Peruvian Amazon. Alarmed when she notices a deforested area in her beloved rainforest, she pledges to act to protect her home. This gorgeous book, from a Caldecott honoree, opens many important discussions.
32. 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.
33. Here and Now by Julia Denos (K-3)
Encourage children to be present in their own “here and now” and appreciate the interconnectedness of experiences around the planet. This title is a lovely addition to a general collection of mindfulness books but particularly poignant for Earth Day.
34. 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 are powerful. It will be hard to choose a favorite picture, though you should certainly have students try. Use the author’s note as a piece of nonfiction short text for older students.
35. Every Color of Light by Hiroshi Osada (K-5)
Experience a rainstorm and its bright aftermath with this quiet beauty of a book. It makes for a unique introduction to an art lesson about color and light in nature.
36. The Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom (1-5)
This #ownvoices title is written in honor of the many tribal nations that oppose oil pipelines from invading their lands and waterways. The lyrical text and compelling illustrations give students plenty to think and talk about. The “Earth Steward and Water Protector Pledge” included in the back matter is particularly perfect for setting Earth Day intentions.
37. 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.
38. Mario and the Hole in the Sky: How a Chemist Saved Our Planet by Elizabeth Rusch (2-6)
Mario Molino, a Mexican American chemist, changed the course of science and conservation by publicly highlighting the ozone crisis in the 1980s. Besides introducing kids to an important figure in environmental history, this is a great discussion-opener about current global warming concerns.
39. What is a River? by Monika Vaicenavičiene (2-6)
A river is a home, a meeting place, energy, flow, and so much more. This title will really get your class thinking and talking about features of the natural world in new ways. Inviting students’ own “What is…” writing or projects would be a fantastic follow-up!
40. 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.
41. Plastic: Past, Present, and Future by Eun-ju Kim (3-6)
The effective mix of true stories, facts, and visual information will definitely build students’ background knowledge on the impact of plastic on our environment. You’ll also want to pull out sections to use as mentor texts for nonfiction or persuasive writing.
42. 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.