By Asst. Prof. Jennifer Turner
College of Education
University of Maryland
I have known about "going green" for some time, but I didn't really understand its importance until my 6-year old son, Elijah, came home from school one day and started saying, "Be green." He would remind us to turn off the lights, saying with a sweet smile, "Mommy we need to be green." He'd unplug appliances that were not in use, turn off the water when he brushed his teeth, and constantly ask me to get a recycling bin for our plastics and glass.
Curious to know where he had learned this phrase, I emailed his kindergarten teacher to ask what books she had read. She told me that she had read several books within a popular curriculum series on recycling and going green for Earth Day. She had also read How Do Plants Get Food?, by Meish Goldish (1989), a wonderful book that has interesting science facts presented in a kid-friendly manner. Reading books and talking about the Earth was a very enjoyable activity for Elijah, and this started his quest to greener living.
Going green has also become popular through children's television channels like Nickelodeon. Nickelodeon is doing a great job of helping kids "be green" through their programming and through their website. On their website, they have an entire page filled with ideas about living, learning, and playing in environmentally-responsible ways. Their initiative empowers kids to make a difference by making environmentally-friendly changes in their everyday lives.
So this year, I have decided to share books and web resources that help kids and parents to "be green." Enjoy the summer reading books and checking out websites that help keep our Earth clean AND maximize our fun!!
Prof. Turner is interested in issues of culture and cultural diversity as they relate to classroom reading instruction, and is particularly concerned with the improvement of reading achievement for African American students in public elementary schools.
Books for Kids Aged 3-8
* Why Should I Save Energy? (Why Should I?) (Jen Green, 2005, Barron's Education Series)
Author Jen Green has written an amazing, four-part series of books which demonstrate the importance of protecting nature. The other titles include WHY SHOULD I Protect Nature?, WHY SHOULD I Recycle?, WHY SHOULD I Save Energy?, and WHY SHOULD I Save Water? This series answers these questions through stories and illustrations in a fun, light-hearted way. What is especially great about this series are the notes in the back of the books, which provide suggestions for ways to use this book for parents and teachers.
* The Giving Tree, ( Shel Silverstein, 2005, HarperCollins)
This poignant book centers on a tree "who loved a boy," and follows the relationship that the tree develops with the boy throughout his life. Through this story, we learn about the different kinds of relationships that humans can have with nature. Some relationships between humans and nature are very harmonious, however there are other times when humans may take advantage of nature by using it solely for personal benefit. Because there are many eco-friendly messages in this book (e.g. don't take away from trees without giving something back, be thankful for trees, trees are important to us and we should not take them for granted), this book is great for reading aloud and talking with children about the importance of giving.
* Recycle: A Handbook for kids (Gail Gibbons, 1992, Little Brown Young Publishers)
Gail Gibbons is a phenomenal writer whose informational books help kids learn new and interesting facts. And she doesn't disappoint with her book on recycling. This book is very readable and well-organized, and helps children really get a sense of what landfills are and why we need fewer of them. Gibbons does thorough research in order to write her books, so when she describes how to recycle, why it's necessary, and its benefits, you know the information is accurate. The book ends with some interesting information about the ozone layer and the limited potential for recycling polystyrene, followed by 14 facts about garbage.
*Earth Day Hooray!!! (Stuart Murphy, 2004, HarperCollins Publishers)
In this book, children can learn about going green AND doing math! The story focuses on Ryan, Luke, and Carly, who are good friends with a plan for celebrating Earth Day. They want to buy some flowers for Gilroy Park, but they don't have enough money. So, they decide to collect and recycle 5,000 aluminum cans to earn the money. As the three friends collect cans, they discover that keeping track of the daily totals is somewhat of a challenge, until they begin to sort using bags of 10, 100, and so on. With this book, kids will have fun learning about place value, as well as celebrating the joy of working together to accomplish a green goal.
Books for Kids Aged 9-12
* Earth Book for Kids: Activities to Help Heal the Environment (Linda Schwartz, 1990, Learning Works Publishers)
This cool activity book shows children how to care for the Earth. The book is divided into four sections: (1) Energy, resources, and recycling; (2) Air, Land, & Water; (3) Plant & Animal Habitat; and (4) More Ways to Make Every Day Earth Day. The simple format makes the book really easy to read, and the information is presented in a very kid-friendly way which makes the main terms and ideas easy to understand.
The hands-on activities are really fun, and could be used for at-home science projects or to take away the rainy day blues. For example, the book describes acid rain, then gives instructions for a project to measure the amount of acid in your own rainfall. At the end of the book, there is a section called Where to Write & Glossary which provides a page on how to request information and also provides many different resources/organizations that children and parents can use.
* Brainiac's Go Green Activity Book (Mara Conlon, 2008, Peter Pauper Press)
Brainiac's Go Green! Activity Book is a cool activity book with an eco-friendly theme. The book presents fascinating scientific information about the Earth as well as important concepts and ideas for being environmentally-conscious. Kids will love doing the word finds, crosswords, connect the dots, mazes, and countless other activities within the book. And parents will love the green tips that are in the book, all designed to help families live their lives a little greener.
*Garbage and Recycling (Rosie Harlow, 2002, Kingfish Publishers)
This book is filled with interesting facts and information about recycling. The easy-to-use table of contents helps readers find ideas and information quickly, and helps organize the "big ideas" in the book in an accessible way (e.g., chapters include Waste not, want not; Garbage that won't rot; cans count; recycle your rags). One of the best features in this book are the "How Can I Help?" Boxes, which give helpful suggestions for children who want to recycle at home.
Books for Kids Aged 13-17
* The Green Teen: The Eco-Friendly Teen's Guide to Saving the Planet
(Jenn Savedge, 2009, New Society Publishers)
We all know that teenagers are a tough crowd to please. So how will they ever get interested in going green if the books are too boring, too babyish, or too dense? The Green Teen is a handy, go-to guide that will help teens learn to make environmentally responsible choices without being too preachy. Each section follows the same simple format: (1) How to Green something, (2) Top 5 Ways to start, (3) Why Bother doing it, (4) G2G Green Tips, (5) Planning stage with ideas and tips on how to go about it, (6) How to Get your Parents Involved and (7) Surfing Sites! What is awesome about this book is that it includes interviews with real teens who have made an impact with their projects, which will inspire other teens to make green choices in their daily lives.
* Generation Green: The Ultimate Teen Guide to Living an Eco-Friendly Life (by Linda Sivertsen, 2008, Simon Pulse Publishers)
Generation Green is a very interesting book that helps us to understand that using technology more than just something that is "cool"--- it's actually "green!!" The book describes how texting friends, chatting online, and downloading emails and music are all examples of green activities that teens naturally enjoy and do on a daily basis. In fact, the concept of green living is the theme of the book, and many chapters provide tips on how to shop, dress, eat, and travel the green way. Now some teens (or even adults!) may not truly believe that they can live life in a greener way, but this book shows that anyone can do it. There are a number of interviews with teens who are involved with eco-friendly projects, and they talk about what living green means to them and how easy and natural it can be. The most powerful message in this book is that any green changes we make, even those that may seem small, have a huge impact on our Earth, our family and friends, our community, and our future.
By Asst. Prof. Jennifer Turner
7/13/09 | Posted by Brian Scott at 7:29 AM