During the summer of 1996, I volunteered for Great Parks of Hamilton County helping with children’s summer camps. Throughout camp, I assisted the staff in guiding several nature activities, crafts and hikes with the kids. On the last day, I was asked to take the lead and read a story to the younger participants. This wasn’t the first time I had read aloud to children, but it was the moment I realized what career path I would take … nature education.
As a nature interpreter of 20 years now and a mother of five, stories of/with nature have a special place in my heart. As the holidays are approaching, I feel it’s a good time to suggest some book titles that just might make a nice last-minute gift for that special little one in your life. (Hmmm, now how to narrow the list?)
“Wonders of Nature” by Jane Werner Watson
I’m starting with this book as it is the newest to my collection. My children have read several other Little Golden Books, and I just found this one in an insectarium gift shop. It was originally published in 1957 with several more popular Little Golden Books, like “The Poky Little Puppy.” “Wonders of Nature” is written with each page starting with “Isn’t it a wonder … ” and goes on to ask the same question of bugs, birds and forest animals. It’s a great way to start the curiosity of nature with your child.
“Forest Bright, Forest Night” by Jennifer Ward
This is a book I use more for teaching with, but my children have read and enjoy it as well. “Forest Bright, Forest Night” is really two-in-one: As you read the book from the front, it takes you through a forest. You get to see which animals are active and living in the forest during the day. When you flip the book over and read through it backward, you see the same forest but at night. This time, nocturnal animals are in the same habitats but exploring in the moonlight. This is a great example of how nature never rests.
“There’s a Hair in My Dirt! A Worm’s Story” by Gary Larson
OK, to be clear, this isn’t really a children’s book, but it’s definitely on my favorites list as well. I would suggest this one for ages 13 and up. In classic “The Far Side” humor, this book is about a young worm that is angry when he finds a hair in his meal. The father worm is then prompted to tell a story about how the hair in the dirt is really a story with a happy ending. Let’s just say the father’s story gives a few truths to what really happens in nature. I can’t give this one away – you’ll just have to read it! Make sure to pay attention to all the details in the pictures; Gary Larson is always good for a laugh.
“The Salamander Room” by Anne Mazer
I must admit this book is one of my favorites! “Mom, can I get a pet?” … “Ms. Julie, do the animals in your nature programs make good pets?” These are two phrases that I commonly hear. My answer is almost always the same: Do your research and determine if your house is the best home for the pet you want! This book nails it! A little boy wants a salamander, but soon realizes that the salamander needs more than the boy’s bedroom can handle. With beautiful illustrations, this book helps to teach about our ecosystem and how everything in nature is connected.
“Do Princesses Really Kiss Frogs?” by Carmela LaVigna Coyle
I have twin 9-year-old girls who couldn’t be any different from each other. This is just a cute little story. A young girl takes a nature walk her dad and asks the questions every child wants to know. This simple book helps inspire children to be who they want to be.
“Whose Nest?” illustrated by Guy Troughton
I picked this book up at our school’s Scholastic book fair. This beautifully illustrated book shows several nests and what animals created them. The artwork is astounding and helps to show how every nest is different, yet is beautiful in its own way. With flip pages to discover who’s behind the nest, children will enjoy the pictures alone.
There are so many stories to choose from. Try reading one of these books or any nature story with your little ones. Take the time to read to a child. You never know how one little story will inspire their future.
Regional Education Manager, Sharon Woods