Green Living Books for Children
The Blue Marble, home to millions of different forms of life, hasn't been feeling too well recently. Some of its children — a group of animals who call themselves Homo sapiens, or humans — have been rather careless and selfish. In their never-ending pursuit of progress, they have barely had the time to stop and think about the consequences of their actions. The humans' myriad technological advances have caused all kinds of drastic changes in the environment, including a rapid increase in global temperatures over the past several decades, and are threatening countless numbers of their siblings — from the quiver trees of southern Africa to the polar bears in the Arctic Circle.
Fortunately, there is still time to act. Though the damage we humans have done so far is largely irreversible, we can take steps to prevent the further destruction of the planet. In order to do so, not only do we have to switch to greener styles of life, but we must also teach our children not to repeat the mistakes of their forefathers. Though it seems a difficult topic to approach, many books have been written specifically with the purpose of informing children about the importance of minimizing the damage done to the environment.
Start 'Em Young
Green Living Children's Books
You don't have to wait until your child reaches their teenage years before you start educating them. Picture books like Bee and Me by Alison Jay can help you introduce your little one to the dangers of human haphazardness. Jay's wordless picture book tells the tale of a little girl who befriends a bee and is consequently made aware of the threat caused by humanity's negligence. The bee shows the girl how even she can help other living beings.
Of course, no article about children's books would be complete without mentioning one of the most successful children's authors — a man by the name of Theodor Seuss Geisel, more commonly known as Dr. Seuss. As he was no stranger to political propaganda (he worked as a political cartoonist for the New York City-based newspaper PM, and wrote propaganda films while in the U.S. Army), many of his books contain political messages. His anti-consumerist leanings can be seen in the picture book The Lorax which talks about the interconnectedness of both living beings and non-living objects. The Once-ler, a personification of corporate greed, cares only about his business and income. In his endeavor to grow his business, he pollutes the lakes, skies, and land causing all the creatures in the area to leave. Eventually, he awakens to the destruction he has caused and teaches the protagonist how to protect the environment.
A book illustrating the negative consequences of human selfishness was written by Shel Silverstein and is called The Giving Tree. The protagonists are a little boy and an apple tree. As a child, the boy would often play with the tree, but as he grew older he visited the tree less and less often, and only when he needed something material from it (apples, branches, etc.). Eventually, the tree is reduced to a stump. Even in that state, however, it keeps on giving. The boy returns as a weary old man, and the stump serves as a place for him to sit and rest.
Roald Dahl is another well-known author of children's fiction. His picture book The Magic Finger can serve to reinforce the convictions of your young eco-warriors. Julian Lennon's interactive Touch the Earth and Lily Williams' If Sharks Disappeared could serve as a transitional point along with E.B. White's classic Charlotte's Web. Charlotte's Web is a heartwarming story about a pig named Wilbur who is saved from being slaughtered with the aid of the spider Charlotte.
Middle Childhood and Early Adolescence
Now that your little one can read by themselves, we can again look to Roald Dahl and his posthumously published book The Minpins. In this lovely story of childhood and friendship, Little Billy befriends the miniature Minpins and helps them get rid of the monster trying to destroy their forest.
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, everyone's favorite children's book, is sure to catch your child's attention. It, too, contains valuable lessons about life in general as well as about environmentalism. The little prince took good care of his home planet, cleaning the volcanoes and removing the baobab trees which threatened the planet. He also made a glass globe for the rose that started growing on the planet's surface. On Earth, the little prince meets a fox which wants to be tamed, i.e. wants to befriend the prince. It is clear that this book has some environmentalist undertones and as it has always been popular among children, it's an excellent choice for your kid.
Marcus Sedgwick's Floodland is a slightly more serious book, set in a dystopian version of the United Kingdom which is almost entirely underwater. They Came From Below by Blake Nelson is another interesting title for young adults. Friendly aliens Steve and Dave have come up from deep under the sea in order to help save the oceans from global pollution.
If, however, your child is getting bored with fiction, consider the book Seeds of Change: Planting a Path to Peace by Jen Cullerton Johnson. It is a biography of the environmental political activist Wangari Muta Maathai — the first African woman ever to receive a Nobel Peace Prize. She founded the Green Belt Movement in 1977, an organization dedicated to environmental conservation and women's rights. Besides the biography, Seeds of Change also contains beautiful illustrations. Paul Fleischman's Eyes Wide Open provides an excellent overview of key issues related to climate change. Fleischman draws on history, sociology, and psychology to explain how we got here and why psychology is as important as the technology causing these changes.
Teaching your children about sustainable, green living does not have to be a hassle. There are hundreds of books on the market made specifically for that purpose, whether they be guidebooks for recycling or fictional dystopian narratives. We hope this article offers a good enough starting point for the eco-warrior youth.