Great Books to Start a Conversation with Young Kids About Sustainability

Books are a fantastic way to encourage children to connect with and contribute to the environment. Reading helps children visualize and understand issues. Nowadays, we are spoiled for choice with a wide range of books about sustainability for young children – and from every perspective – Indigenous connections, caring for our waterways, reducing waste, protecting forests, the life cycle of plants and more! Have you read any of the books below with your kids? If your local library doesn’t have these books – ask them to get them in. You can also find readings of most of these books on YouTube. 

Keep reading to find out some of our favourite books to help children (0-5) develop an awareness of and responsibility for the world around them. Reading ages suggested are a guide only.

Welcome to Country

Aunty Joy Murphy, Lisa Kennedy
(5+ years)

Understanding sustainability is about understanding the history of the land we live on and developing respect for it and for those who have cared for it for thousands of years.

Where the Forest Meets the Sea

Jeannie Baker
(3-5 year olds)

This classic 1987 story invites you into the 130-million-year-old Daintree Rainforest in Far North Queensland. It follows a young boy’s natural curiosity as he explores giant trees and experiences the wildness of the forest. Where the Forest Meets the Sea is a warning about deforestation and all that we are losing by clearing forests for development. The book includes beautiful collages of photos taken by the author in the Daintree, with glimpses of what once was or could happen in the future.

Backyard Birds

Helen Milroy
(0-3 years)

Backyard Birds introduces readers to common birds found in Australian cities and some of their quirky habits. Learning about animals that share your neighborhood is a fantastic way to build appreciation for our local feathered friends. From appreciation often comes the desire to help protect. Author and illustrator Helen Milroy is a descendant of the Palyku people in Western Australia. The bright and cheerful images will help keep the attention of younger audiences. Also in the series is Backyard Bugs.

Tiddalick the Frog

Tiddalick is an Aboriginal Dreamtime story of a greedy frog who drinks all the water in the country. The other animals come up with a plan to get back at Tiddalick. Children will love this fun and easy to understand story. 

This story is a favourite of GEKA Centre Road Kindergarten children. Four year old Zack shares: “he ate all the water. The animals were sad and they tried to make him laugh and the water came out of his mouth. All the animals drink it.” 

If you are looking for this story in a printed format there are lots of options including:

  • Tiddalick the Frog Who Caused a Flood (retold by Robert Roennfeldt)
  • Tiddalick the Greedy Frog (retold by Nicholas Wu)
  • Molok the Thirsty Frog (retold by L. & G. Adams, illustrated by Chris Riordan)
  • What made Tiddalick Laugh? (retold and illustrated by Joanna Troughton)
  • Tiddalick the Frog (retold by Barbara Ker Wilson, illustrated by Jan Holloway)

Isabella’s Garden

Glenda Millard and Rebecca Cool
(0-5 years)

A beautiful story about the seeds planted in Isabella’s garden and the changing of the seasons. The predictable, rhyming text helps children learn how plants grow and how everything is connected. The poetic text contains lots of alliteration to help children learn different sounds, visualize and explore nature. Bright and colorful, folk-inspired drawings.

Worms – the Mechanics of Organics

Kellie Bollard
(3-5 years)

This book beautifully balances a cute, rhyming story with instructions and practical visuals on how you can start your own worm farm or compost system. It provides a step-by-step guide of the entire process; from collecting organic scraps in your kitchen, what you can and can’t put into the worm farm, making worm tea and fertilizing the garden. All presented in a fun and simple format for kids and educators to understand. 

One Plastic Bag

Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of Gambia
(4-5 years)

The inspiring, true story of how Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of Gambia found a solution to the plastic bag problem in their small village. This story draws upon the knowledge of the elders in the village and looks at the impacts that disposable plastic was having on the animals in the village, as well as the family’s that relied on those animals for food/ income. This book covers all perspectives – where the problem came from, a look at why we need to take responsibility for how we dispose of something after we don’t need it anymore, a creative solution to the problem and positive female role models. For older kids, you’ll find documentaries online with more information on the innovative ways Isatou is tackling waste.

Trapped! A Whale’s Rescue

Robert Burleigh
(4-5 years)

The true story of a whale that was trapped in discarded fishing nets off California in 2005. Without anthropomorphizing the whale, we see that it is a clever animal that suffers as a result of human carelessness. Aimed for older readers, this book is a warning for why we need to dispose of our rubbish carefully. This is one of our favourite books about sustainability for young children.

Charlie and Lola – We are Extremely Very Good Recyclers

Lauren Child
(3-5 years)

Based on the TV show, brother and sister Charlie and Lola learn about how to responsibly dispose of broken toys. Charlie explains to Lola that if she throws her trinkets in the bin they will go to landfill and sit there forever. He then teaches her how she can instead recycle her trinkets to be turned into something useful, inspiring Lola to take on a recycling challenge that requires the support of the whole school. Get involved and participate in your own recycling challenge!

The Lorax

Dr. Seuss
(0-5 years)

This Dr. Seuss classic from 1971, tells the story of a greedy businessman who makes his money cutting down the Truffula Trees and turning them into a product nobody needs. The Lorax seeks to protect the trees. There are many memorable quotes from this book, often seen on posters at the School Strike 4 Climate rallies, such as “unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better” and “we speak for the trees”.

Change Starts With Us

Sophie Beer
(3+ years)

A bright and colourful book loaded with simple suggestions on how we can all live more sustainably. Full of inspiration to help embed sustainability into your regular activities. Tip: make sure you clearly communicate why you are doing the activities so children understand the issue and can be part of ideas for solutions.

Too Many Toys!

Heidi Deedman
(3-5 years)

A great book to read to your youngster before getting more toys or doing a toy clean out. Too Many Toys is the story of a little girl who accumulates too many toys and decides to give them to all her friends, keeping only her one special toy. A gentle reminder that you can’t play with all your toys at once. If the kids are a fan of Bluey (TV series), episode 38, season 2 (Mr Monkeyjocks) covers this topic.

Do you have any books about sustainability for young children that you would recommend? Comment below!
Happy reading!

Written by Chelsea Chapman (Little Sprouts Program) and Elspeth Marson-Thomas from Glen Eira Kindergarten Association Centre Road.

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