Editor’s note: This is the first of a weekly guest spot by children’s media consultant Ashley. Ashley is a television and online producer and Executive Editor of Children’s Media Consultant.com. She holds a B.A. from Columbia University and a M.A. concentrating in children’s educational media and preschool ecology from New York University. She resides with her family in downtown New York City. You can visit her blog at childrensmediaconsultant.com.
The Green Series: Eco Kids Books
I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately on how families and children can “go green” without spending a fortune. Let’s face it: bamboo cribs, cork floors and reusable diapers aren’t for everyone. Additionally, there’s an issue about how to teach kids about the environment. Parents and caregivers are in a position to either foster an appreciation for the natural world, or, unfortunately, terrify their kids into submission (no more polar bears!).
The truth of the matter is, media can sometimes play a hindering role in eco-education, challenging families to stay indoors and watch TV rather than go outside and jump in the leaves. But not all the time. Children’s media has its role on the green bandwagon, too. So with that idea comes the first in what will hopefully be more of Children’s Media Consultant’s The Green Series.
Eco Kids Books
Here’s a list of just a few of my favorite ecology-themed children’s books. These books all teach how to appreciate and care for the Earth, including ideas of conservation, reusing materials, and animal appreciation.
The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss
Ages 4 – 8
‘The Lorax’ tells the story of a money-hungry Once-ler who takes for granted the beautiful Truffula trees, using their tufts to create Thneeds (sort of a knitted jumpsuit, of sorts). Eventually he cuts down so many of these trees that the animals and creatures that live in their shade must abandon the land. It’s a sad — but not scary — lesson about materialism, where things come from, and how actions can affect others’ environments. The final message says it best: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” Hands down, ‘The Lorax’ is the best pro-environment children’s book I’ve read.
Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White
Ages 8 – 12
Although ‘Charlotte’s Web’ is one of my favorite books, it also makes its way onto The Green Series because of the story’s themes of animal appreciation, ecosystems, and, of course, life cycles. ‘Web’ gives us the story of a young girl, Fern, who saves a runt pig, Wilbur, from the seemingly inevitable fate of becoming breakfast. Along with the help of an articulate spider named Charlotte, Fern and the other inhabitants of the barn team up to tell a beautiful story of friendship. I’m partial to the book over the recent movie version, however both media provide opportunity to compare the versions, as well as ample occasions to expand vocabularies.
The City of Ember, by Jeanne DuPrau
Ages 9 – 13
Although not an overtly ecologically conscious children’s book, ‘The City of Ember’ finds a habitat of people who live in an oppressed (post-nuclear?) society doomed to eternal darkness. The world our 12 year-old heroes Doon and Lina live in is run on hydro power (how green!). But when food and light bulbs begin to run out, a mystery *ignites*, catapulting them on a journey to find an elusive city of light. If you haven’t read ‘Ember’ yet, the book may provide a little post-Potter solace. The first book is the best of the three book series. Also, apparently there’s a movie coming in 2008.
The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein
In Silverstein’s tender story about a tree “who loved a boy,” we learn about the harmonious relationship humans can have with nature. While many interpret the story as a message about taking and not giving back, others find messages about appreciating all that nature (in this case, the tree itself) can provide us, and how we should not take it for granted.
Blueberries for Sal, by Robert McCloskey
Ages 4 – 6
McCloskey tells the story of the innocent sense of wonder inherent in young children. While Sal goes picking blueberries with her mother, a bear cub and her mother wander the fields in pursuit of a snack. As the little ones get progressively further away from their mothers, distracted by juicy berries and rolling hills, we witness the kids in a comedy of errors. A perfect read aloud.
50 Simple Things Kids Can Do to Save the Earth, by The EarthWorks Group
Ages 9 – 12
This book provides the perfect primer for older kids who already have expressed interest in saving the planet. Chock full of compelling, age-appropriate statistics, each “simple thing” starts off with an environmental problem, and then offers several solutions. Most of the activities suggested do require some parental supervision, and include everything from going on nature walks, to what to tell a cashier if you don’t want to use the plastic bag, and how to make a birdhouse out of a milk carton.
The Great Kapok Tree, by Lynne Cherry
Ages 4 – 8
‘Kapok’ is a simple story about a man who is compelled to chop down a large tree in the Amazon rain forest, only to hear the pleas of the animals – including a snake, butterfly, jaguar, and a child – who wish to show the interconnectedness of all living things. Although a sweet and simple narrative, the story includes a powerful messages of conservationism and deforestation.
The Empty Lot, by Dale H. Fife and Jim Arnosky
Ages 4 – 8
Closely related to the messages in ‘The Great Kapok Tree,’ ‘The Empty Lot’ teaches conservationism from a closer-to-home perspective. The story finds Harry who decides to sell the empty lot that was once part of his grandfather’s farm. After some careful thought about the tree, stream, and other natural wonders that have inhabited the land, Harry realizes the empty lot isn’t empty, after all.
Be Green About It
In order to be truly green, you might want to consider borrowing these titles from your local library, or buying them used. Alternatively, you can read books online (although it’s preferable to limit time in front of the screen and actually hold a physical book in hand!)
The books above are just a few of my favorite green kids books. Do you know any you think I missed? How are you going green with your family? Email me or post a comment below!