Reading to my kids is a favorite part of the day. I love to overstuff my daughter’s rocking chair with our bodies, snuggled together under a cozy quilt my mom made or a dear friend knitted, their heads still damp from the bath at nose height so I can deeply inhale the sweet smell from their scalps. Each one chooses a book, and the parent reading that night gets to choose another. That way, a new book taps into the rotation to break up the pleasant monotony of Goodnight Moon or Green Eggs and Ham that often plays on repeat.We have a robust county library system, and we take advantage of it frequently. Usually the best discoveries come from grabbing a few good books from the shelves. They have sections of children’s books organized by themes– Nature & Outdoors, All About Me, Classics, Things that Move, etc. They also have many of the books facing out, with the covers visible and at a child’s eye level. Let’s face it– I judge a children’s book by its cover just as much as my kids do! I attempted to adopt this model with my children’s bookcases, and I marvel at how much an oldie but a goodie can be revived simply by putting it in front, cover out. Another easy way to do organize them are in a bin or basket where a child can easily flip through. I use the inter-library loan system to supplement our reading supply with seasonal and holiday reads, or specific books or media I wish to borrow, and there is rarely a dull moment at “Book Time.”
I have learned so much from reading to my kids. Once I grabbed Lailah’s Lunchbox, a heartwarming story of a girl coming of age during Ramadan while practicing her family’s Muslim faith in America. Of course I did not know all of that before I checked it out from the library, but it had the requisite pretty cover. While I was reading it to the girls, I found myself fascinated by the story. I had no idea what Ramadan was, no clue that fasting was involved, no knowledge of this practice. I soaked up the knowledge in a simple yet moving story, learning right along with my children. At the end, there was a glossary and a note to quench some of my questions. This book, and a few others I will list at the end, had me pondering about all the things I didn’t know until I read a book to my kids, and how reading to them was just as beneficial to my learning of the world as it was to them.
Extrapolating this concept to our mission to “teach our children to live with a lighter footprint, and secure a healthy planet for their future” is not far reaching. Bea Johnson says in Zero Waste Home,
Bring awareness: Your local library is a haven of wealth. Borrow movies and books with an underlying environmental message. Use them as an educational support to explain ecological issues and how our actions can impact the health of the planet. Point the the importance of change, and discuss how the smallest effort can have a positive impact on the environment. (185)
Here are a few of my favorite children reads that have inspired a positive impact of the environment, both for me and my girls. Check them out, I hope you enjoy and find some inspiration.
Sophie’s Squash– Caution, no butternut will be safe in your home. Hide your sharpies and squashes!
All the World– a methodic poem, Caldecott Honor recipient that depicts family, community, old and new, music, and natural beauty. “Hope, and peace, and love, and trust, All the world is All of us.”
On The Day You Were Born– Captures the wonder and interconnectedness of the planet and celebrates your child’s birth into it.
Glasswings– About a unique species of pollinator butterfly, who creates colorful beauty and community with other beneficial insects in an urban community garden.
The Curious Garden– An urban wasteland comes alive with a creeping garden that will have you and your wee one noticing nature venturing in unexpected and unlikely places.
The Lorax– “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” Colorful, it rhymes, my kids love it, a Dr. Seuss must-read.
Mr. McGinty’s Monarchs– Did you know that Monarchs are so amazing??? I gave out milkweed seeds to trick or treaters instead of candy after I read this book and took my daughter’s to the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary in Pacific Grove, CA.
Luna and Me– Gorgeous and whimsical pictures will be sure to inspire the little activist in your life.
Miss Rumphius– About a woman who spreads lupine seeds to make the world more beautiful. Lily and Marylin spread wildflower seeds in areas near their home and their lupines are not only beautiful but they may host a nesting site for the endangered mission blue butterfly that is native to our county. American book award winner.
And they lived happily ever after.