Better late than never, hey?
I had this post planned adequately in advance of Earth Day so I could publish it in time for you to buy the five books I discuss to arrive by today. Yet, here I am, typing on the day.
But, I realise I am talking about books that our children will hopefully look back on and say, “The literature and experiences of my childhood helped prepare me to implement sustainable solutions to the needs of my local/global ecosystem just in time.”
So, it is better I tell you about these today than never.
Here are the five books I selected from Dawn Publications for my family this Earth Day:
1. Inside All by Margaret H Mason and Holly Wech
With only a few words of text on each page, I was tempted to assume the book was only for toddlers. However, it immerses readers of various ages in the concept of interconnection between all things in the universe, including little you.
We’ve discovered its few words can open enormous conversations about oneness, love, and spirituality – and it is likely to be a book that remains in frequent use for years.
2. Forest Bright, Forest Night by Jennifer Ward and Jamichael Henterly
This is the first counting book I’ve used for which the reader has to identify the creature she is counting before she counts. There are two animals represented on each page; one diurnal and one nocturnal being. The choice between one or the other is ideally pitched for young children. And naming, identification, and classification of creatures into sleepers of the night or day is engaging for both early years and primary age children (who have already learned confidence counting to ten).
Where we live, ants trail to and from our food waste bucket throughout the summer. I have tried to stress to the children that the ants were here a long time before we were, and that they only cause us to rearrange how we manage food waste for part of the year. After reading this book, and its wonderous depiction of creatures sharing the earth harmoniously, we all seem to have softened towards the ants.
3. Because Brian Hugged His Mother by David L Rice and K Dyble Thompson
Gosh. This book is brilliant. Through a story, it demonstates the value of caring for people and the reality of our interconnection with one another.
Perhaps, like me, you follow a few accounts on social media run but people who post uplifting reminders. Things like, you never know how far your smile will be pased on, how valuable your understanding can be to a person, or how much you will help a stranger by sharing your story. Perhaps, like me, you also want to keep Instagram out of childhood. And there isn’t any need to include it. This book is a rich tool to enable children to grasp and love developing a compassionate mindset.
4. Pass the Energy Please by Barbara Shaw and Chad Wallace
Written in rhyme, this book shows the reader whom eats who in food chains within different ecosystems, including the ocean, meadow, and woodland. There is a refrain repeated which recognises that ‘Passing the energy needed to live, is a difficult thing for a creature to give’. And the book’s ending invites us to learn from natural systems in order to implement sustainable management of the earth.
I am truly grateful for this book. I was uncomfortable about ‘teaching’ my children about food chains – because, although I reluctantly accept that it is natural for some creatures to be prey for others, I am ashamed of the way humans have abused the role of predator. But this book encourages us to be responsible, caring, and thoughtful. During the time we’ve been reading it, my children have advanced their aspirations from managing an allotment to working in animal rescue.
5. Sharing Nature with Children by Joseph Cornell
Packed with activities for playful learning outdoors, this book is very likely to be in use for decades in our family. I am currently at the ‘reading and psyching myself up’ phase of engagement with the text but I have set myself a goal of being a ‘user’ of the book by the autumn insha’Allah. Loosely, this is the kind of goal I set myself over a decade ago – to live in harmony with the earth. But I seem to have mostly kept a ‘comfortable’ distance from insects and creatures I can’t name for weeks upon months upon years. I haven’t deepened my integration with nature for a long time, so my sustainable ‘efforts’ have been quite disconnected, somewhat superficial, and honestly inadequate.
I want – and the world needs – my children to be able to build upon the foundations of their childhood literature and outdoor adventures and say, “I am unstoppably ready to care for the earth.”
This year, it is time for me to change.
I know you are with me. What goals have you set for this year and what books can you recommend? Please tweet me @elizabethlymer or leave a reply in the comments.
In between home educating four little people, Elizabeth Lymer is a children’s author of Muslim and interfaith books, including a spiritual ecology book called Peace and Thanks on the Farm Colouring Book.