Picture Books for Sharing Planet Earth and Rainbow Craft
Earth Day is just around the corner! We encourage you to share books with young people that inspire them to pursue lives of service - to value the interconnectedness of all living things, and to care for and act as stewards of planet Earth.
We have curated a list of some of our favorite books that celebrate the beauty, complexity and importance of caring for the place we call home. Each and every one of these books can be used to facilitate conversations about the natural world, environmental activism, and climate justice, and are appropriate for a wide range of ages.
We have selected ten of our favorites to share in greater detail below, and have indicated whether they are fiction or nonfiction. You can read about all of our selections on our Bookshop page.
In addition to this book list, we want to share a quick and easy art craft that uses mostly recycled materials. We chose to make rainbows but you can also have children complete the same process using Earth templates, or even tree and flower ones to celebrate Earth Day!
Cardboard, cereal boxes, or brown paper bags cut into the shape of your choice
Colored collage paper (we used torn scrapbook paper, pre-cut color squares, and ripped construction paper)
Children will each start out with a cardboard template and a selection of colored collage paper. Again, we chose to make rainbows, but Earths and other things found in nature would turn out wonderful as well.
We sorted the paper ahead of time so that our young students could easily select whichever colors they wanted to work with. It’s also fun to invite kids to sort the colors, though - this process promotes collaboration amongst peers and language development related to color knowledge.
Next, children will cover their entire template in glue and get to work! It is fascinating to see how students interpret the project - you’re likely to see some who very precisely place items in ROYGBIV, and others who could care less about the “rules.” No matter how they approach the project, each and every child will make something unique and beautiful.
If you give this project a try, we’d love to see the completed works of art! You can tag us (@madisonreadingproject) in your photos online and they may be shared on our social media.
Books Recommendations on Sharing Planet Earth:
What Can You Do With a Rock?
Author: Pat Zietlow Miller | Illustrator: Katie Kath | Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
This book is for every child who sees the “magic underfoot” - rocks! Rocks can skip and hop and help you climb, they can fill a beach and the ocean floor, provide shelter and so much more. They can teach you so many things about the natural world, like how old it is, and how it was formed.
What Can You Do With a Rock? is a joyful celebration of a natural wonder that children have long adored. It also has a new non-fiction twist that will open their eyes to new learning and discoveries. We love that this book was written by a local Madison author and MRP supporter!
The Thing About Bees
Author/Illustrator: Shabazz Larkin | Publisher: Readers to Eaters
This book is a beautiful poem from a father to his two sons, and a much deserved celebratory tribute to bees and all they do for us. Readers will learn all about different types of bees, how not to get stung, and about all the wonderful things bees pollinate that we enjoy eating!
Children will learn to be appreciative of and grateful for bees and all the ways they help our world. It also has a wonderful message that reminds us all that many times, what we initially fear may just be things we don’t yet understand.
Lobstah Gahden: Speak Out Against Pollution with a Wicked Boston Accent!
Author: Alli Brydon | Illustrator: EG Keller | Publisher: Sourcebooks Explore
Lobstah Gahden is a rare gem that will make your kids laugh and learn. This book is about two grumpy lobsters and their quest for victory - both want to win the Swell Gahdens contest, but they discover they have to rely on each other to save their gardens from the trash threatening them both.
We highly recommend reading this hilarious book in your best Boston accent to really get the whole effect, and by the end, we guarantee you will feel inspired to better protect and care for the ocean.
Dear Little One
Author: Nina Laden | Illustrator: Melissa Castrillon | Publisher: Simon and Schuster
This book is a celebration of the world we all share, and a wondrous and lyrical call to action for children to experience as much of it as possible. It features short yet powerful sentences and colorful illustrations that showcase all the different components that make up planet Earth.
It challenges us to show gratitude and express awe for the many tiny treasures that we get to experience every day. Dear Little One would also be a perfect gift for new caregivers and adventurous spirits.
We All Play
Author/Illustrator: Julie Flett | Publisher: Greystone Kids
We All Play received multiple awards for being one of the best children's books of 2021. This book was written by one of our favorite Indigenous creators who beautifully depicts the interconnectedness between humans and nature. In this story, babies, toddlers and young children will notice how they like to play in so many of the same ways as animals!
What’s in Your Pocket: Collecting Nature’s Treasures
Author: Heather L. Montgomery | Illustrator: Maribel Lechuga | Publisher: Charlesbridge
What’s in Your Pocket: Collecting Nature’s Treasures is an informative and engaging nonfiction book that showcases how nine scientists’ love for the outdoors as children transformed into lifelong passions and careers. Children will learn about George Washington Carver, Diego Cisneros-Heredia, Jane Goodall, Bonnie Lei and five other incredible scientists who have left a mark on this world.
This book is as informational as it is inspirational - we hope it will inspire you and your young scientists to continue nurturing their curiosities! You never know what they will accomplish in the future.
111 Trees: How One Village Celebrates the Birth of Every Girl
Author: Rina Singh | Illustrator: Marianne Ferrer | Publisher: Kids Can Press
This nonfiction book focuses on and was written in collaboration with, Sundar Paliwal, a man from a small Indian village who wanted his town to value women as much as men, and for it to take care of its natural environment. He launched an initiative to plant 111 trees to celebrate the birth of every girl - and now, his village has more than a quarter of a million trees planted that provide food, water and opportunities for women to make a living.
This book includes high-quality, thoughtful teaching resources as well, and is an incredible tool to facilitate conversations about environmental awareness, sustainability, stewardship, and ecofeminism. It is incredibly engaging and well-researched, and will captivate any group of readers.
Let’s Go for a Walk
Author: Ranger Hamza | Illustrator: Kate Kronreif | Publisher: Ivy Kids
We chose Let’s Go for a Walk as part of our Books We Love program in 2021 - it’s one of our favorite interactive stories! This book was written by a real life Ranger who loves the outdoors, and asks readers to take him (and the book!) on a walk where they live. It includes prompts, like asking kids to look for something red, or to try feeling different textures, or to stop, and take in the smell of their surroundings. It encourages them to be present in nature, and ultimately, helps anyone to feel more grateful and connected to the world around them.
It includes lots of new vocabulary and information that will help children learn about nature and the environment. We also love that the paper this book is printed on is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council and 100% recyclable - no new trees were needed to produce it.
The Keeper of Wild Words
Author: Brooke Smith | Illustrator: Madeline Kloepper | Publisher: Chronicle Books
This is a wondrous intergenerational story about a grandmother and her granddaughter who enjoy spending time in nature. While exploring together outside, Grandma shares some of her favorite words, like wren, monarch and brook - words that will only be remembered and tended to if people know them. She shares her wisdom with her young granddaughter in hopes of instilling the same love and appreciation for nature.
Each word is accompanied by new learning and thoughtful and detailed illustrations that children will cherish. It also includes a call for readers to become their own “keepers of wild words.”
Author/Illustrator: Juana Martinez-Neal | Publisher: Candlewick
Zonia’s Rainforest is about a little Asháninka girl who lives in the Amazon rainforest. It beautifully showcases her bond with nature and her environment, and follows her along one day as she explores and plays in the rainforest. She visits well-known animal friends, like a family of sloths and a speedy jaguar, and revels in the beauty and wonder of her home.
Zonia is shaken when she comes across a patch of land that’s been ruined by deforestation. This book teaches us about the strength and resilience of the Asháninka community, and are reminded of the importance of acting as stewards and caretakers of our planet. This book includes informative backmatter about the Asháninka people and the Amazon rainforest.
This is just a sampling of some of our favorite books that celebrate environmental awareness and stewardship, we encourage you to visit our Bookshop page for a complete list of our recommendations.