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  • An Earth Optimism Reading Guide for Kids

    Earth Optimism doesn’t end with the Folklife Festival. There was so much to learn, see, and do, but the Earth can’t be saved in a day—or even two weeks! Let’s keep the learning going with a collection of books for young readers addressing some of the same themes as the activities at the Festival.

    At the People-Powered Science tent, we learned a lot about gardening, how pollinators help plants, how to explore the world around us like scientists, and how to make less trash. All those lessons can be applied to daily life at home and in school. These fifteen books can help kids learn more all those topics and put their new eco-friendly knowledge into practice.

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    Let’s Garden

    By Clara Lidsrom and Annakarin Nyberg (Little Gestalten, 2016)

    This book is for kids only! This step-by-step DIY guide is designed for young ones to start gardening with only minimal help from grownups. It’s great for the “I can do it!” kid.

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    The Secret Life of Bees

    By Moria Butterfield (Words and Pictures, 2021)

    Follow Buzzwing as she shows off her life in the beehive and shares folk stories starring bees. Kids will learn all about bees and what makes them so crucial to our environment.

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    Diary of a Worm

    By Doreen Cronin (HarperCollins, 2003)

    Cronin’s books always have a unique sense of humor, and Diary of a Worm is no exception. Learn fun facts about worms and all about the struggles of wormhood, like how no one is able to tell your face from your bottom!

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    Recycled Science: Bring Out Your Science Genius with Soda Bottles, Potato Chip Bags, and More Unexpected Stuff

    By Tammy Enz and Jodi Lyn Wheeler-Toppen (Capstone Young Readers, 2016)

    Reuse your trash for fun science projects! Older children and young adults will enjoy these interesting and useful crafts while exploring scientific principles. Some projects will require adult help.

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    The Outdoor Scientist: The Wonder of Observing the Natural World

    By Dr. Temple Grandin (Philomel Books, 2021)

    An influential animal rights activist and a leader in the autism rights movement, Temple Grandin has a unique view of the world. The Outdoor Scientist encourages children who are fascinated with how the world works to go explore everything from their backyards to outer space.

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    My Friend Earth

    By Patricia MacLachlan (Chronicle Books, 2020)

    Take some time to read and appreciate everything our friend the Earth does for us. Die-cut interactive pages make this Earth Day book special, and young children will be inspired to be a better friend to the planet that is so good to us. 

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    If You Come to Earth

    By Sophie Blackall (Chronicle Books, 2020)

    Blackall shares the insights she gained from meeting thousands of children from around the world. She reminds us that we are all human, sharing the same planet, and we need to care for it and each other. If You Come to Earth is a meaningful and crowd-pleasing read.

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    We Are the Gardeners

    By Joanna Gaines (Thomas Nelson, 2019)

    Starting a family garden isn’t always easy. You’re going to make mistakes, and things aren’t going to work the way you thought they would. This book encourages new gardeners to learn from their mistakes and grow a beautiful garden.

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    Old Enough to Save the Planet

    By Loll Kirby (Harry N. Abrams, 2021)

    This is book two of the ChangeMakers series. It focuses on twelve young activists already making a big difference in ending climate change. If these kids can do it, so can you!

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    Our World Out of Balance: Understanding Climate Change and What We Can Do

    By Andrea Minoglio (Blue Dot Kids Press, 2021)

    Climate change is intimidating to talk about. Why is the ocean rising? What is pollution? Why is plastic bad? It can be hard to understand what’s happening to our planet, and this book helps break it down in ways kids can understand.

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    It’s a Wonderful World: How to Protect the Planet and Change the Future

    By Jess French (DK Children, 2022)

    It’s a Wonderful World looks at both big and small ways we can take care of our planet. There’s a lot just one kid can do, but we can do more when we speak up. Remember to rest and recharge along the way though!

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    Little Turtle and the Changing Sea

    By Becky Davies (Tiger Tales, 2020)

    There’s a new thing in this turtle’s home, and it’s making a huge mess. People have been dumping garbage all over the beautiful ocean! This story will have kids motivated to help Turtle clean up her ocean home.

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    What a Waste: Trash, Recycling, and Protecting Our Planet

    By Jess French (DK Children, 2019)

    Every piece of plastic ever made is still out there somewhere, and a lot of it is floating around in the ocean. But never fear! Some ordinary superheroes are already working to clean it up. Learn how you can help by recycling and making less trash.

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    Our Planet! There’s No Place Like Earth

    By Stacy McAnulty (Henry Holt and Co., 2022)

    Our planet is unique in the galaxy and the only one in the solar system that can support life. We Earthlings are very lucky to have such a good home, but Earth isn’t very lucky to have us. Told in Earth’s voice, this book helps teach kids how to save our world.

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    How to Change Everything

    By and Naomi Klein with Rebecca Stefoff (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2021)

    How to Change Everything is a look at the root of climate change for preteens and up. It pulls no punches while still offering hope. Even though we are facing a lot of problems, we still have a chance to fix our mistakes. It’s a big book, but kids looking to change everything will be up for the challenge.

    Connie Brown is an intern at the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage and a library science and museum studies master’s student from Oklahoma.

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