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Pre-K

Growing Reader

Books for a Better Planet!
16 Earth-Friendly Reads for Kids

by Melissa Taylor

Books for a Better Planet
Illustration: Elizabeth Graeber

Kids appreciate our planet and her precious resources when they can feel, touch, and see the natural world. When they’re not outside, kids can still expand their understanding of nature through books that celebrate the wonders of the world around them. Whether for Earth Day or every day, here are some great children’s books that facilitate a love and stewardship of planet Earth.

  • Saving American Beach

    by Heidi Tyline King, illustrated by Ekua Holmes

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    This beautiful story is about an opera singer turned environmentalist who saved a beach. When MaVynee was a girl, most of the beaches were for white people only. So her grandfather bought American Beach and turned it into a place where African Americans could enjoy its sunny shores. When the beach falls into disrepair, MaVynee works to preserve this important piece of her history. Combined with Holmes’ gorgeous illustrations, this book shows us that we can all make an impact on the world around us.

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  • We Planted a Tree

    by Diane Muldrow, illustrated by Bob Staake

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    A simple poem that packs a powerful punch reminds kids of all ages that trees have to offer: clean air, shelter for animals, fruit to eat, and so much more. Combined with Staake’s whimsical illustrations, this must-read will leave you eager to get planting.

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  • Wonder Walkers

    by Micha Archer

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    In this stunning book, Micha Archer combines poetic language and gorgeous collage illustrations to encourage readers to explore all of nature’s many mysteries. After reading, kids (and parents too) will want to get outside and embark on their own wonder walk!

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  • Compost Stew

    by Mary McKenna Siddals, illustrated by Ashley Wolff

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    Filled with collage illustrations and rhythmic text, this book is a delightful introduction to composting for kids. From apple cores to zinnia flowers and everything in between, get to know the ingredients for a wonderful compost stew — good for the Earth and good for us too!

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  • Don’t Let Them Disappear

    by Chelsea Clinton, illustrated by Gianna Marino

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    Following her bestselling picture book, She Persisted, Chelsea Clinton turns a keen and thoughtful eye to the plight of endangered animals across the planet — and what we can do to keep them from disappearing. Full of endearing facts about beloved creatures, it’s an eye-opening read for animal-lovers everywhere.

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  • Eco Baby Where Are You Koala?

    by DK

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    Where could koala be? Take your toddler on an adventure to the land down under in the newest book in the Eco Baby series. As your explorer navigates this plastic-free and completely recyclable board book, they’ll meet new and exciting animals like kangaroos, crocodiles, and so much more. Good for little adventurers and the environment too!

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  • The Water Princess

    by Susan Verde and Georgie Badiel, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds

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    Before she was a supermodel and activist, Georgie Badiel walked miles every day with a heavy pot perched on her head to bring home drinking water for her family. Badiel grew up in Burkina Faso, one of many places across the world that lacks access to clean drinking water. In striking illustrations and spirited prose, this book will deepen children’s understanding of a crucial environmental issue.

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  • The Amazing Planet Earth (StoryBots)

    by StoryBots

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    Your favorite wacky robots are back with a new book that is perfect for kids eager to start reading! Filled with vivid illustrations and rhythmic text, this book takes your child to the tallest mountains and deepest oceans of our beautiful planet.

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  • Penguins Don’t Wear Sweaters!

    by Marikka Tamura, illustrated by Daniel Rieley

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    In Penguins Don’t Wear Sweaters!, debut author Marikka Tamura manages to tell a story about the dangers of oil spills — and their wide-reaching effects on surrounding wildlife — in kid-friendly fashion. Based on a news story in Australia, in which humans tried knitting sweaters for penguins to protect them from oily water, Tamura touches on ill-advised rescue attempts, ecological responsibility, and the active lives of penguins.

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  • Kate, Who Tamed the Wind

    by Liz Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Lee White

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    Children learn early that trees are important for the oxygen cycle, but young Kate knows there’s another reason they make our lives better. Atop a steep hill, a voracious wind wrecks everything for the man who lives alone there. Kate comes up with a plan — involving a wheelbarrow of adolescent trees — to help her neighbor (and the Earth, too!).

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  • Here We Are

    by Oliver Jeffers

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    Created as a literary welcome to the world for Jeffers’s newborn son, Here We Are is a beautifully illustrated guide to living on Earth and being a good person. Jeffers walks little ones through the infinite wonders of our world — from the land, sea, and sky to people and animals of all shapes and sizes. He ends his tour with a gentle reminder to look after Earth, as we’re all on this planet together and it’s all we have.

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  • The Lorax

    by Dr. Seuss

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    Featuring one Dr. Seuss’s most iconic characters, this beloved picture book about preserving the planet’s natural beauty will inspire young readers to do their part in protecting the environment.

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  • The Bee Book

    by Charlotte Milner

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    This educational book from Charlotte Milner teaches young readers all about the wonderful world of bees and why they are so important. Follow the bees on their adventure from flower to flower, go inside the hive, and learn how we can help them survive. Your child will be buzzing about this dazzling celebration of bees.

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  • The Magic and Mystery of Trees

    by Jenn Green, illustrated by Claire McElfatrick

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    Did you know that trees take care of each other and that the whole forest is connected? Before I read this book, I didn't either. The Magic and Mystery of Trees takes children on a fascinating journey of exploration, showing them just how special these mighty organisms are. This gorgeously illustrated book gave me a new appreciation for a tree’s amazing capabilities.

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  • What a Waste

    by Jess French

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    This visually stunning information book from DK teaches young ecologists about our effect on the planet and it's current environmental concerns. It also shows how people are developing solutions to our waste and plastic problems, giving hope for the future. How can you do your part to save the planet? Author Jess French encourages kids to speak up, be a plastic-free family, and make positive changes.

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  • Zonia's Rain Forest

    by Juana Martinez-Neal

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    In this wonderfully inviting book, Zonia takes kids into the Amazon rain forest and into the Asháninka community. Through Zonia’s outdoor adventures, readers are introduced to all the diversity the rain forest offers. But when Zonia comes across a section of clear-cut forest, her determination to save her home will inspire your young environmentalist to take action.

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Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in 2016 and updated in 2021.