In 1970, Dennis Hayes organized the first Earth Day. I can’t believe that Earth Day has been around that long and yet it still manages to sneak up on me every year. Much like Groundhog Day, I almost always miss celebrating Earth Day with my class. That is why I am so thankful that I have a stock of fantastic Earth Day books that I can pull out and read on April 22 each year. Use this list of Earth Day books to help build your classroom library with environmentally friendly texts.
Michael Recycle by Ellie Bethel, illustrated by Alexandra Colombo
Move over Batman, Thor, and the X-Men, Michael may be my new favorite superhero. A fun font, rhyming text, and adorable illustrations make this a book that your students will want to hear multiple times. Don’t be surprised if you suddenly have students with their fists in the air as they are “flying” to the recycle bin. The last several pages feature the wonderful Michael Recycle’s "Going Green Tips."
It’s Earth Day! by Mercer Mayer
The world has come to know and love Mayer’s Little Critter books. If you aren’t aware of Little Critter, pick up this book, as it’s a great introduction to that character, his surroundings, and friends. This series has many, many titles and may be one you want your students exposed to early on. Little Critter has helped many students become not just readers, but serial readers.
Earth Day, Birthday! by Maureen Wright, illustrated by Violet Kim
Monkey is trying to tell people that it’s his birthday, but since he was born on April 22, everyone is focused on Earth Day instead. Monkey helps multiple jungle friends plant seeds, recycle, go shopping with cloth bags, and pick up litter. Will Monkey's friend ever understand that it’s his birthday and Earth Day? Your students will learn ways to save our planet’s resources as they worry that Monkey's birthday won't be celebrated.
I Can Save the Earth! by Alison Inches, illustrated by Viviana Garofoli
I love my classroom themes. The year that my classroom was "Mr. Smith's Monstergarten," I became obsessed with books that featured monsters. This book is adorable! Every year my kids love it, especially the year my students were labeled, "Mr. Smith's Little Monsters!" I adore when Max the Little Monster starts being called Max the Little Green Monster so we can discuss the term "being green" that has become associated with Earth Day.
We are Extremely Very Good Recyclers by Bridget Hurst, characters created by Lauren Child
The main characters of this book are the brother and sister duo, Charlie and Lola. They were created by Lauren Child, and were featured on a show on Playhouse Disney when my daughter, Ella, was younger. My whole family loved Charlie and Lola, and Ella even named her Bitty Baby Lola after this adorable character. These characters are British, so I dust off my best Harry Potter accent every time I read one of the books in this series.
The Tree Lady by H. Joseph Hopkins, illustrated by Jill McElmurry
I was very lucky to travel to San Diego recently. While there, I took a trolley tour around the city. During the tour we were taught about Katherine Olivia Sessions, who planted one hundred trees a year for several years in San Diego’s Balboa Park. I can’t believe that I was able to see that great park and those amazing trees. The next day, I was introduced to this book. I had to have a copy. This nonfiction text with hand-drawn pictures captures kids' interest and expands their view of how they can make the world a better place.
Luna & Me by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw
If you have the book, The Tree Lady, consider getting Luna & Me as well, because these two books are such perfect companions! Every classroom should get to experience the phenomenal conversations and ideas that students are able to generate after hearing both stories. This book focuses on Julia Hill (whose nickname is Butterfly), who sat in a tree for over two years in order to save it from being chopped down. The story is amazing, and just like The Tree Lady, it is nonfiction text with beautiful illustrations. Pair these books together to ignite your students and create real classroom engagement.
Junkyard by Mike Austin
If you view Earth Day as a “tree hugger” day and you worry that you don’t want to get all “natural” or “granola” for a day of teaching, then this is the book for you. Two Munching Machines, one red and one green, begin eating all the junk in the junkyard. As old cars and buses, crooked airplane wings, jelly jars, and so much more is eaten, you watch the junkyard begin to disappear. The Munching Monsters have a grand plan for the junkyard, and as your class sees it become a reality they will get excited. It’s a great rhyming book that students love, especially the boys! Michael Recycle and Junkyard will be two of your male student’s favorite Earth Day books.
Little Factory by Sarah Weeks, illustrated by Byron Barton
I found this book years ago. I have no idea if it’s even in print any longer, but if you can find a copy I highly recommend it. It comes with a CD where the author sings a song that goes with the book. It’s a catchy tune about a little toy factory that expands. Due to the expansion, it creates more pollution. The little workers begin to choke and cough on the smoke until the man who runs the factory changes over to solar power. My students love this book every year. This is the Earth Day title that gets the most requests for repeated readings. The illustrations are colorful and basic in just the perfect way.
The Friendship Garden by Jenny Meyerhoff, illustrated by Eva Chaterlain
This is your chapter book read-aloud for the month of April. The main character, Anna, is a third grader who is the new kid at school because her family just moved to Chicago from a rural part of New York State. She misses her friends, and she misses her garden. There are a couple of twists and turns throughout the story that lead up to a fun and engaging ending. The chapters build suspense that will have your students begging you to read just one more chapter. Also, don’t worry if you struggle with reading books where the main character is a female because you feel like you will lose your boy audience. This book has a great male character named Reed who exhibits the typical boy characteristics that your students will easily identify with. This book will be available August 25, 2015.
This classroom project is great because you can start it on April 22, or at any point before Earth Day, making April 22 as your completion date goal. I got this idea from the recycling poster that came with my copy of the book We are Extremely Very Good Recyclers. It’s super simple and immediately creates a classroom environment where students want to recycle.
On a large piece of poster board, draw a tree trunk and branches with no leaves. Use different shades of green construction paper or even old magazines and newspapers to cut out leaves. Put all the leaves in one container ("Going to Recycle" basket) and place an empty container ("I Recycled" basket) beside the leaf container. As students recycle things throughout the day, they take a leaf from the Going to Recycle basket and place it in the I Recycled basket. At the end of the day students glue the leaves in the I Recycled basket to the tree. Kids love seeing their tree fill up as they begin recycling more and more recyclable materials. Of course, this is much easier if your school does have a school-wide recycling process, but it is not impossible to recycle as a single classroom.
Don’t forget to use the Scholastic Word Workshop tool to make your Going to Recycle and I Recycled basket labels. It’s quick, easy, and best of all, it’s free!
Here is another great online resource that you can use for Earth Day, The Power of Green. Take notice of the contest that students can enter. Earth Day fun for everyone!
I can’t wait to see you next week.