Environmental Books for Preschoolers

We love books in our house.
… to the point where we have numerous book cases overflowing with books, and the kids know that I will almost never say no to buying another book.
I put together a list of environmental books to introduce preschoolers to the environment and environmental issues.

15 Books to introduce preschoolers to the environment and environmental issues

1. Me … Jane by Patrick McDonnell

This book tells the story of a young Jane Goodall and her toy chimpanzee named Jubilee. The young Jane observes the world around her and aspires to grow up to help and live “a life living with and helping all animals”.

Dr. Jane Goodall is a renowned humanitarian, conservationist, animal activist, environmentalist, and United Nations Messenger of Peace. She founded the Jane Goodall Institute to empower people to make a difference for all living things

2. The Lonely Polar Bear Hardcover by Khoa Le

This sweet children’s picture book presents a moving story, set in a fragile Arctic world threatened by global warming. A little polar bear wakes up alone after a furious storm. With his mother nowhere in sight, he makes friends with a mysterious little girl and various animal companions. All of the friends come together in the magnificent polar sky. In the end the little bear sits peacefully, enjoying a winter day lit up by beautiful northern lights. Featuring exceptional illustrations from talented Vietnamese illustrator Khoa Le, The Lonely Polar Bear offers an accessible way to introduce children to climate change issues.

3. I Want to Go Green! But What Does that Mean? by Dr Jill Dunn

This fun, rhyming story for elementary-aged children explores what it means to “Go Green.” The adorable character in this beautifully illustrated picture book takes readers on a silly yet educational adventure as he discovers simple ways to conserve resources and keep the Earth clean.

4. Don’t Let Them Disappear by Chelsea Clinton

Young readers are introduced to a selection of endangered animals, sharing what makes them special, and also what threatens them. Don’t Let Them Disappear talks about rhinos, tigers, whales, pandas and more while providing helpful tips on what we all can do to help prevent these animals from disappearing from our world entirely.

5. Why Should I Protect Nature? by Jen Green

When children take a trip to the countryside, some of them are rowdy and careless, breaking tree branches and scattering trash. But if everyone acted that way, there would soon be no trees, no birds, and the fields would be ugly and unsafe for both animals and people. Part of every child’s development involves asking questions. Today, some of the most important questions kids ask are related to the natural environment. The enlightening and entertaining four-book Why Should I? series demonstrates the importance of protecting nature. Books present brief, entertaining stories that answer children’s questions and feature amusing colour illustrations on every page.

6. Spring After Spring: How Rachel Carson Inspired the Environmental Movement by Stephanie Roth Sisson

I happen to love Rachel Carson.

As a child, Rachel Carson lived by the rhythms of the natural world. Spring after spring, year after year, she observed how all living things are connected. And as an adult, Rachel watched and listened as the natural world she loved so much began to fall silent. Spring After Spring traces Rachel’s journey as scientist and writer, courageously speaking truth to an often hostile world through her book, and ultimately paving the way for the modern environmental movement.

7. Compost Stew by Mary McKenna Siddals

Apple cores, Bananas, bruised, Coffee grounds with filters, used. Just add to the pot, and let it all rot into Compost Stew!

From eggshells to wiggly worms, this delightful recipe in bouncy verse features items–some familiar and some not so–that are fit for the home compost bin and will nourish Mother Earth. Vibrant collage illustrations use recycled and found materials to further a timely message. And to keep young environmental chefs fully informed about composting do’s and don’ts, there’s a note in the back about what’s not fit for the bin.

A great environmental book for preschoolers as it something practical that they can easily do at home to help. It made my youngest excited about composting.

8. My Friend Earth by Patricia MacLachlan

Our friend Earth does so many wonderful things! She tends to animals large and small. She pours down summer rain and autumn leaves. She sprinkles whisper-white snow and protects the tiny seeds waiting for spring. And just as she nurtures the habitats of all the animals — and the lands on which we live — we need to tend to and care for her, too!

9. Hey, Water! by Antoinette Portis

“Portis narrates in a conversational tone — ‘Hey, water! I know you! You’re all around.’ But her story tackles a tricky cognitive task — recognizing an element that masquerades in different states…. The same element can exist in several different forms, the words imply — our senses don’t always tell us the truth about identity. Notes at the end with additional illustrations provide more information about states of matter, the water cycle, and conservation.”

— Publishers Weekly

10. Outside In by Deborah Underwood

Outside is waiting, the most patient playmate of all. The most generous friend. The most miraculous inventor. This thought-provoking picture book poetically underscores our powerful and enduring connection with nature, not so easily obscured by lives spent indoors.
Rhythmic, powerful language shows us how our world is made and the many ways Outside comes in to help and heal us, and reminds us that we are all part of a much greater universe. Emotive illustrations evoke the beauty, simplicity, and wonder that await us all . . . outside.

11. Kaia and the Bees by Maribeth Boelts

Kaia is the brave type. Like hottest-hot-pepper brave. But there is one thing that scares her: BEES! And right now, thousands of bees live on her roof because Kaia’s dad is a beekeeper. Her dad says that the world needs bees and that’s why they are beekeepers. But only he goes on the roof, not Kaia — unless she can find a way to be the brave girl she always says she is.

Buzzing with story-time potential, Kaia and the Bees is an honest and relatable tale about bravery and compassion, as well as the importance of bees to our world and is a great addition to your collection of environmental books for preschoolers.

12. Miss Fox’s Class Goes Green by Eileen Spinelli

When Miss Fox shows up at school riding her bicycle, Mouse asks, “Do you have a flat tire?” “No,” Miss Fox tells her students. “I am going green!” Soon everyone in the class is working to keep the earth healthy. Mouse takes shorter showers (and does her singing after!); Bunny brings a cloth bag to the supermarket; and Possum turns the lights off when he goes out. And Miss Fox’s simple act has ripples even beyond her own students…soon the whole school starts riding their bikes–including the principal.

13. Jane: My First Jane Goodall by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara

Yes, another Jane Goodall book.
I don’t even remember how it happened now, but my middle kiddo learned about Jane Goodall and was immediately amazed and inspired by her. They even dressed up as Jane Goodall for Halloween and their little sister dressed up as a monkey. It was the closest we could find to a little gorilla costume.

This board book version of Jane Goodall—from the critically acclaimed Little People, BIG DREAMS series—introduces the youngest dreamers to the world’s foremost expert on chimpanzees.

14. Finding Wild by Megan Wagner Lloyd

There are so many places that wild can exist, if only you know where to look! Can you find it? Two kids set off on an adventure away from their urban home and discover all the beauty of the natural world. From the bark on the trees to the sudden storm that moves across the sky to fire and flowers, and snowflakes and fresh fruit. As the children make their way through the woods and back to the paved and noisy streets, they discover that wild exists not just off in some distant place, but right in their own backyard.

A lovely, lyrical picture book with gorgeous illustrations that explores the ways the wild makes itself known to us and how much closer it is than we think.

15. Mama Miti: Wangari Maathai and the Trees of Kenya by Donna Jo Napoli

The true story of Wangari Muta Maathai, known as “Mama Miti,” who in 1977 founded the Green Belt Movement, an African grassroots organization that has empowered many people to mobilize and combat deforestation, soil erosion, and environmental degradation. Today more than 30 million trees have been planted throughout Mama Miti’s native Kenya, and in 2004 she became the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Wangari Muta Maathai has changed Kenya tree by tree — and with each page turned, children will realize their own ability to positively impact the future.

… and of course

The Lorax by Dr. Seuss

The Lorax inspired me as a child to care about environmental issues.
I even have “Unless” tattooed as a reminder that unless someone cares, things won’t change. My tattoo artist, being a hippie, thought it was one of the neatest things that she had done. It is simple yet powerful.

I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees.

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.

Dr. Seuss’s beloved story teaches kids to speak up and stand up for those who can’t. Published in 1971, The Lorax is an ecological warning that still rings true today amidst the dangers of clear-cutting, pollution, and disregard for the earth’s environment The Lorax allows young readers to experience the beauty of the Truffula Trees and the danger of taking our earth for granted, all in a story that is timely, playful, and hopeful. The book’s final pages teach us that just one small seed, or one small child, can make a difference. 

This book is always on the top of my list of books about environment for kids, but seems like such an obvious choice that I added it at the end to highlight some new books.

reading the lorax environmental books for kids

There are so many great books that it was hard to narrow it down.
Are there any environmental books for preschoolers that you would suggest?

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Endangered Species? Threatened Species?

Endangered Species Threatened Species at Risk

Wildlife has intrinsic value and is also valued for it’s aesthetic, cultural, spiritual, recreational, educational, historical, economic, medical, ecological and scientific reasons. Since 2003, we have had the Species at Risk Act (SARA) in Canada to help maintain the biodiversity.
The Species at Risk Act was established to protect Canadian indigenous species, subspecies, and distinct populations from becoming extirpated or extinct, to provide for their recovery and to encourage species management of other species to keep them from becoming “at risk”. The Act also established the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) to independently access and identify the species which may be at risk.

Classifications of Species in the Species at Risk Act

There are essentially five classifications that species can fall under:

  • Special Concern
  • Threatened
  • Endangered
  • Extirpated
  • Extinction

Species of Special Concern

The species that fall under this classification are vulnerable and may become threatened or endangered.

Threatened Species

Threatened species refers to those wildlife species that are likely to become an endangered species if nothing is done to reverse the factors leading to its extirpation or extinction.

Endangered Species

Most people are familiar with this term. An endangered species a wildlife species that is facing imminent extirpation or extinction. Endangered species may be at risk due to factors such as habitat loss, poaching and invasive species.

Extirpated Species

When a species no longer exists in one area, but does else where, it is considered to be extirpated. It is like a local extinction.

Extinct Species

Next to endangered species, this classification is probably the most known. This is when a species no longer exists — anywhere.
Think of the dinosaurs, or the dodo bird.
For an even more recent example, the passenger pigeon.

Species at Risk

Threatened, Endangered and Extirpated Canadian Species

Swift Fox (Vulpes velox)

Status: Threatened Species

The Swift Fox is smaller, more slender and lighter in colour than the Red Fox. Swift Foxes were once found in the dry prairie habits from Canada to Texas. Extirpated from Canada in 1928, they were reintroduced in the 1980s. In 1999, the status of the Swift Fox was down-listed from “extirpated” to “endangered” with 279 foxes in the wild. November 2009, the species was reassessed as “threatened” by COSEWIC. In 2012, the SARA status has been changed to “threatened”.

Swift Fox

Southern Resident Killer Whale (Orcinus orca)

Status : Endangered Species

Killer whales are the largest member of the dolphin family and are easily recognised by their tall dorsal fins and distinctive black and white markings. The known range of the Southern Resident Killer Whale extends from northern British Columbia to central California. One of the most critical aspects of Southern Resident Killer Whale habitats is the availability of food, namely the Chinook Salmon. The acoustic environment is important as well as Southern Resident Killer Whales need an ocean quiet enough for the transmission and reception of their echolocation clicks and vocalisations which are essential for navigation, foraging, cultural and social purposes.

The population of Southern Resident Killer Whales is small and declining, and the trend is expected to continue. They are limited by the availability of their principal prey, the Chinook Salmon. There are forecasts of continued low abundance of Chinook Salmon. Increasing physical and acoustical disturbance, oil spills and contaminants continues to threaten the species.

two black and white dolphins on body of water

Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina)

Status: Extirpated Species

Designated as “Extirpated” in November 2014, the Eastern Box Turtle lived in Ontario based on archaeological evidence and Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge. Less than ten of these turtles have been documented in Ontario, but all of them were released into the wild and are not native Canadian Eastern Box Turtles. It is believed that habitat modification is to blame for the extirpation of this species.

What can we do?

Get outside!

Getting out and experiencing nature is one of the best ways to build a bond with the natural world which will help encourage people to protect it.
Especially in children.

Earth Rangers

My kiddos love Earth Rangers.
We heard about it a couple of years ago from their school.
It’s a non-profit conservation program directed towards youth. It helps educate children and their families about biodiversity and gives children missions to complete. It empowers children to become involved in helping animals and their habitats.

Plant some trees!

The middle kiddo wanted me to link to #TeamTrees.
$1.00 plants a tree, and they’ve already planted over 22,000,000 trees world wide. My kids really want to physically plant trees, but we live in an apartment. I am hoping that next summer we can find a local project to volunteer for and help in tree planting. For now, they occasionally donate their allowance to help plant trees.