Environmental Books for Kids

our kids reading in the kids reading room in the Library of Congress

Kids Reading Room at the Library of Congress

I’m speaking tomorrow at one of our local elementary schools about recycling. I decided that it might be nice to have some follow up books to recommend to the teachers, so I stopped by our local library and asked about some recycling books for children. She recommended some books that I’ve been reading to my children over the weekend.

Just A Dream by Chris Van Allsburg

This is a great book for instilling basic values of reducing, recycling and general care for the environment. It was written in 1990’s, but the 1950’s style pictures are very captivating. My 4 year-old was captivated by the book and my 9 year-old kept coming over to see the pictures. “I like it because he learned something very important.” -Christor, age 9. When I showed it to my daughter she remembered having heard it in school several years ago.

Here Comes the Garbage Barge by Jonah Winter

This is  based on the true story of the garbage from Islip, Long Island in 1987. It was a good way to illustrate to children that if we don’t reduce and recycle we just won’t have room for all the garbage we produce. The pictures are fascinating, they are photographs of objects put together with actual garbage!

10 Little Rubber Ducks – Eric Carle

This is a non-fiction book that I read pieces of out-loud to my 9 year olds. It is written in a way that someone without knowledge of tides, currents, and ocean trash issues can really learn and understand what is going on. I appreciated that it was written such that it expects the audience to be intelligent, but not knowledgable. After reading this book I finally understand what the Great Garbage Patch is and how it got to be there. I’ve always had trouble explaining it to others, but now I really get it. It was fascinating to learn that they have truly studied ocean currents by tracking spills of goods transported by ocean vessels.

Tracking Trash – Flotsam, Jetsam and the Science of Ocean Motion by Loree Griffin Burns

 Many years ago I read 10 Little Rubber Ducks by Eric Carle to my children and there was a note in the beginning that it was based on a true story. Tracking Trash is about the person who actually made the rubber duck spill famous by using it as an ocean current tracking study. When I read the true story of the rubber ducks to my children, it was much more meaningful to them because they remembered the Eric Carle story from when they were young.

I particularly recommend Tracking Trash to homeschooling families, as this book provides very clear explanations of longtitude & latitude, ocean waves, tides, currents and gyres. It also is very clear about the real problems of trash in the ocean in a way that both adults and children can understand.

For more environmental reading recommendations see Children Love Books That Reflect Their Values.

Happy Reading!



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  1. Tracking Trash sounds like a fabulous book. This year our Daisy/Brownie troop is doing the water journey. This book would be perfect!

    • Barb, it would definitely be a good choice. It was very helpful to me to understand more about the oceans. One of the 4th grade teachers took it straight to the principal and asked if they could get a copy for the school library!

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