My son and I spend a lot of time outdoors. I enjoying sharing with him the special places I’ve found in the fields and forests, at the ocean, and along our rivers and streams. I’m not a scientist of any sort, but still I want to teach Abel about nature – the life cycles of plants and creatures, and the importance of caring for the earth. While our explorations may include looking closely at a tree, a bubbling brook or an old stone wall, I rely on story books to teach him nature-related facts and concepts.
There are lots of nature-themed books for young children, however many of them are bogged down with diagrams and technical information. While interesting, they aren’t exactly what you’d define as “a good read.” Still plenty of captivating nature stories for children do exist. What follows is a list of some of our family’s favorites.
Herman and Marguerite: An Earth Story by Jay O’Callahan
Herman the earthworm and Marguerite the caterpillar team up to save a sad and lonely orchard, and discover the importance of believing in themselves and in each other. This wonderful story of friendship and teamwork includes collage drawings by Marshfield native (and author’s daughter) Laura O’Callahan. Field Trip: go apple picking!
Make Way For Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
Learn about the habits of waterfowl while enjoying this enchanting, classic story of a duck family that makes its home first on the Charles River and later in the Boston Public Garden. You’ll never forget the image of Mrs. Mallard and her eight ducklings strutting down the city street, stopping traffic. Field trip: visit the Make Way For Ducklings statue in the Boston Public Garden!
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
A caterpillar with a seemingly insatiable appetite eats his way (literally – there are holes in the book!) through some surprising foods, then forms a chrysalis and transforms into a butterfly.
The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle
A tiny seed flies through the air and eventually blooms into a majestic flower. Learn about the seasons and how plants grow and propagate, while enjoying the gorgeous collage paintings for which Carle is known. Field Trip: Visit the Eric Carle Picture Book Museum in Amherst, MA!
The Lorax by Dr. Seuss
Learn the concepts of extinction and exploitation of natural resources while hearing about the plight of the Truffula Trees and the Brown Bar-ba-loots. The Lorax teaches us the importance of saving endangered species as well as the forests, fields and streams they inhabit. Field trip: learn first-hand about ecosystems at the South Shore Natural Science Center’s EcoZone in Norwell!
Blueberries For Sal by Robert McCloskey
“Kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk.” Sal and her mother go blueberry picking and encounter a mother bear and her cub. The story notes the similarities of the two families gathering food and preparing for winter. Field trip: visit a pick-your-own blueberry farm!
Christmas Farm by Mary Lyn Ray
Parker, age 5, and his gray-haired neighbor, Wilma, work together over the span of several years to grow 600+ Christmas trees. As the trees mature, we learn all about how they are grown and the creatures with whom they share the terrain. Field trip: buy your Christmas tree at a family farm this year!
On Meadowview Street by Henry Cole
Caroline and her family move onto Meadowview Street . . . but where is the meadow? Caroline finds a wildflower growing on her lawn and stakes off the area as a wildflower preserve. With her parents support, eventually she turns the whole yard into a sanctuary for birds, bugs and wild plants. Field trip: look for wildflowers on your own lawn . . . and let them grow!
Come Again, Pelican by Don Freeman
On vacation at the beach with his parents, a boy befriends a pelican and learns first-hand about the tides and the habits of seabirds. Field trip: go to the shore and observe the habits of whatever birds you find there!
A Day at the Beach by Mircea Vasiliu
This unassuming, slim paperback is packed with useful information about the creatures and features of the seaside. Families play in the surf and explore the intertidal region, learning about erosion, shellfish, seaweed and much more. Field trip: see what you can find within the wrack line (the trail of seaweed at the high water mark)!
We’re Going On A Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury
A family sets off on a bear hunt. They make their way through long wavy grass (swishy, swashy; swishy swashy), a deep cold river (splash, splosh; splash, splosh) thick oozy mud (squelch, squerch; squelch, squerch) and more, as they seek the bear in his cave. Then havoc ensues! Field trip not recommended.
By Kezia Bacon-Bernstein, Correspondent
Kezia Bacon-Bernstein’s articles appear courtesy of the North and South Rivers Watershed Association, a local non-profit organization devoted to the preservation, restoration, maintenance and conservation of the North and South Rivers and their watershed. For membership information and a copy of their latest newsletter, contact NSRWA at (781) 659-8168 or visit www.nsrwa.org. To browse 13 years of Nature (Human and Otherwise) columns, visit http://keziabaconbernstein.blogspot.com.