The Best Seven Books to Get Your Kids Excited about Saving the Planet
Photo by Carl Jorgensen
While COVID-19 has forced us to reassess many of our plans for the summer, thankfully, curling up with a good book doesn’t have to be one of those detours. Here is a great list of books that will provide ideas to help us give back to our communities and have a lot of fun in the process—even if we have to shelter-in-place again. (Look for my adult MUST-READ list next month). NON-FICTION: “Follow the Moon Home: A Tale of One Idea, Twenty Kids and a Hundred Sea Turtles” by Philippe Cousteau & Deborah Hopkinson
Follow the Moon Home is a beautifully illustrated true story of one student’s idea for a class project that brought a whole community together and saved the sea turtles of the South Carolina coast. Renowned activist, Philippe Cousteau, and respected author, Deborah Hopkinson, do an excellent job of capturing the power young people have to reshape the world. Action Items: 1. Protect the Sea Turtles - Help your child identify ways that their decisions can help protect the endangered sea turtle species, such as the reduction of single-use plastics. The use of single-use plastics has surged during this pandemic. We can’t forget that shielding ourselves from COVID-19 isn’t the only way we secure our future. We must protect our planet too. 2. Community Action Project (COVID-19 Safety Measures in Place) - Viv’s journey in the book started with the search for a community action project for her classmates. Encourage your child to explore ways they can meet a need in their community. If it’s possible, partner with your child’s teacher to turn your child’s idea into a mission for the whole class. NON-FICTION: “One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia” by Miranda Paul One Plastic Bag is the remarkable true story of one woman’s quest to recycle the bags that were destroying her community. This story is equal parts beautiful examination of the Gambian culture, environmental call-to-action, and a powerful testament to the difference one person can make to the environment. Isatou’s solution-focused approach to problem-solving is a great reminder for all of us. Action Items: 1. Keep Plastics Out of Landfills and Oceans - Ishtou found a creative way to repurpose plastic bags in her community. Instead of throwing away single-use sandwich bags, straws, or grocery bags--repurpose them. Kids can use plastic bags strips to create bike streamers, crochet coasters as gifts for grandparents, create eco-friendly holiday wreaths, or create gifts for neighbors who are high-risk for COVID-19. 2. Start a Ban - In addition to saying “no” to single-use plastic in your home, partner with your local school district to ban the use of single-use plastics in vending machines, classrooms, and campus activities. NON-FICTION: “The Boy Who Grew a Forest: The True Story of Jadav Payeng” by Sophia Gholz
The Boy Who Grew a Forest takes readers to an island in northern India ravaged by the effects of deforestation and erosion. When the monsoon season arrives, Jadav notices the consequences of animals losing their natural habitats. His decision to plant a tree for those animals leads to a lifelong mission to restore his home’s natural environmental wonders. Action Items: 1. Plant a Tree - Did you know that April 26th is Arbor Day? You can support their mission to plant 1 million trees in forests and communities by 2022. Visit www.arborday.org and shop their online tree nursery, become an Arbor Day Foundation member, and much more. Reach out to your local mayor to learn about your city’s Green Infrastructure plans and where new trees are needed to support the city canopy. 2. Care for a Tree - In addition to needing more trees, most cities in the US are struggling to care for the trees they have, which increases their deficit. Contact your local city hall to discuss which programs are available for you to adopt-a-tree in your community. In addition to caring for the tree you adopt, your children can start a “Tree Journal,” and record the changes they see in the tree, and the steps they take to care for it. They can take the journal in for show-and-tell on Earth Day. NON-FICTION: “A River Ran Wild: An Environmental History” by Lynn Cherry A River Ran Wild is the wonderfully crafted, true story of how the descendants of Nashua Indians, and European settlers came together to fight the pollution that was ruining the Nashua River in Massachusetts. This book provides valuable lessons that we can explore with our children, and the back of the book includes additional information about clean-up initiatives, and ideas for kids to kick-start their life as a planet activist. Action Items: 1. Recycle - If you already practice recycling in your home, work with your children to explore ways they can improve recycling at their schools, churches, and community centers. Do your children know what happens to the non-perishable items they throw away during the day? It might be a great place to start. 2. Plan a Community Clean-up - Help your child select a location in need of a clean-up. If the site is on public land, reach out to local government agencies, such as City Hall, for permission before you conduct a clean-up on public lands. When you seek permission, include the number of people you plan to have help with the clean-up, and specific information about the area you want to cover. Make sure the location you select has access to a restroom. Don’t forget to bring plenty of drinking water, face masks, and make sure your volunteers are all familiar with proper health and safety practices, including proper hydration, work gloves, closed-toed shoes, sunblock, and maintaining 6ft. of space or more between each family group. NON-FICTION: “A Green Place to Be: The Creation of Central Park” by Ashley Benham Yazdani A Green Place to Be introduces us to the birth of one of the world’s most recognized and photographed urban landscapes. In an urgent bid to carve out a green space for families in the city, Central Park is an excellent example of how one idea can benefit generations. The book walks readers through the process that turned swampland into a vibrant gathering place and highlights ways that kids can cultivate and support green spaces in their communities. Action Items: 1. Support Central Park - It’s a big job to make sure Central Park is clean and inviting for the over 25 million people that visit the park each year. If you would like to help keep the park picture-ready for your next trip to the city, visit https://www.centralparknyc.org/ to see how you can support the park through donations and other acts of conservation. 2. Create a Community Green Space - Is there a neighborhood or lot in your community that could use some additional trees or wildflowers? Does your elementary school have a garden or green space? Green spaces reduce stress, increase productivity, and cognitive ability, and improve the immune system. Share these facts with your school administrators to create value in your idea. When you begin to create a vegetable garden or green space on school grounds, don’t forget to research which plants are native to your area to ensure that they thrive in your local ecosystem. FICTION: “Miss Fox’s Class Goes Green” by Eileen Spinelli Miss Fox’s Class Goes Green helps kids experience the positive ripple effects that can happen when they take a stand for the environment. Filled with practical examples of how kids can “go green” in their life, this simple tale makes saving the planet an achievable, fun goal for everyone. Action Items: 1. Join Miss Fox’s Class - Throughout the book, there are several ways that students in Miss Fox’s class go green such as - taking shorter showers, riding their bikes instead of driving, turning off lights, and other electronics. How many of these tasks can your family practice at home? 2. Start a Movement - Ask your teacher if you can share the book with your class - Use the book to teach others about ways that they can go green in school, home, community centers, and churches. Create a pledge to “go green” in these locations and encourage your friends and family to sign it. FICTION: “Compost Stew: An A to Z Recipe for the Earth” by Mary McKenna Siddals Compost Stew is the perfect kid’s guide to how to support the planet through composting. The A-Z format makes this important activity easily digestible for all ages. If you’ve ever wondered how to start a compost pile, or what to include in it, this book explores the answers to those questions and more. Action Items: 1. Set up a compost pile - After you finish reading the book, follow the steps from A-Z to help reduce landfill waste, and emissions, support the earth’s natural nutrients in the soil and fight land erosion. Invite your children to follow the steps with you, thereby teaching them the valuable benefits of composting now, and in the future. 2. Compost in the Community - Start by selecting a community partner such as a school, supermarket, or restaurant. Once you’ve selected an organization you would like to team up with, invite your child to share with them the reasons why composting is necessary for our planet. Letting your child take the lead in the conversation is an excellent way to build your child’s confidence, and to start planting the seeds of advocacy in your child from a young age.