8 Earth Day Picture Books for Upper Elementary

8 Earth Day Picture Books for Upper Elementary

One of my favorite topics of spring to teach is Earth Day! I love spreading the message to my students, that YES they CAN make a difference in keeping our planet safe and healthy, and so can your students!

When April comes around, I get so excited to dive all the way in to all things Earth Day, endangered species, pollution, and rainforests. No better way to learn about our planet, find ways to help protect it and see its beauty than with amazing picture books.

This list includes my favorite books to share with students during our Earth Day unit. It includes a wide range of books, from nonfiction titles to stories, and even biographies. Be sure to grab the free print and digital student activities that coordinate with these picture books at the bottom of this post.

Oil written by Jonah Winter

reading earth day activities for kids

If you love reading picture books about real-world events, this one is for you! This book is an extremely powerful telling of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Your students will be on the edge of their seats as they listen to the story and explore each beautifully illustrated page. This book truly shows how one accident can cause problems that last forever. The author's note at the end is just as powerful as the book itself. Since its release, this book has become a staple in my Earth Day book collection.

Magic Trash written by JH Shapiro

magic trash read aloud for kids

This book just made its way to my classroom library and I could not be happier! This book tells the true story of the painter and sculptor Tyree Guyton and the amazing art that he makes all inspired by his grandfather who told him to paint the world.  He used his talents to beautify his neighborhood and create community art. I love that this book sends the message to kids that you can turn trash into something beautiful! And bonus it aligns completely to my favorite Earth Day activity: The Great Garbage Challenge!

You are Home written by Evan Turk

reading about national parks for kids

You are Home is a beautifully illustrated picture book that tells about our country's National Parks. This book truly celebrates nature and National Parks in a fun way, with open-out pages and a large map in the back that shows which state each of the parks mentioned is located. Your students will ask you to reread this book over and over!

Marjory Saves the Everglades written by Sandra Neil Wallace

earth day reading activities for kids

Marjory Saves the Everglades is an interesting nonfiction picture book about the life of Marjory Stoneman Douglas. She was one of the first ecologists, truly fighting to protect our planet's precious everglades.  She used her skills as a writer to educate people about saving animals and special environments on our planet. This book is the perfect example of how one person can truly make a difference! This book pairs perfectly with the book S[ring After Spring, another nonfiction picture book about Rachel Carson who inspired the Environmental Movement. Read more about this amazing picture book HERE and add it to your picture books for Earth Day, spring and biography lessons.

Recycle written by Gail Gibbons

recycle books for kids

No picture book list is complete without a book written by the amazing Gail Gibbons! This book has been a staple in my upper elementary classrooms since my first year teaching and it is still so powerful! It pairs perfectly with your lessons on Earth Day or pollution. This book walks the reader through the recycling process step by step. It includes how plastic, paper, and glass are recycled. My students always learn so much from this book and the fun facts at the end of the book are always a class favorite each year!

What You Can Do to Stop Global Warming written by Lurie David and Cambria Gordon

global warming books for kids

This one is a great reference book for you and your students. It is easy to read, super kid-friendly, and will give you and your class all of the information that you need to know about pollution, global warming, carbon footprints, solar power, how to save the planet, and more! This book is just plain fun to read! Cute cartoon illustrations and nonfiction features like lists and cutouts fill each page. Must have for any Earth Day activity!

The Great Kapok Tree written by Lynne Cherry

Great Kapok Tree activities for kids

Rainforests studies are instant engagement activities for kids! This is one of my all-time favorite books to read any time of year, but especially during April for Earth Day! This book is all about saving our precious rainforests and lends itself perfect for your students to write persuasive writing pieces to stop pollution! This book follows the main character, a man charged with cutting down a large tree. After he falls asleep while chopping, he is visited by all of the animals that will lose their home if he continues to chop down the tree. Your students will learn many valuable lessons right along with the main character!

1000 Facts About the Earth written by Moira Butterfield

nonfiction reading activities for earth day for kids

This book is perfect to add to your classroom library and Earth Day book display! Your readers will always want to borrow this book again and again as it is chock full of amazing facts, pictures, and diagrams all about our amazing planet! Plantlife, rainforests, coastlines, and How to Save the Earth are just a few of the topics explored in this book. It is a great reference book and one everyone will love!

WAIT! There's more...Bonus Book Suggestions:

We Are Water Protectors written by Carole Lindstrom

This book was just recently recommended to me and I am so excited that I was able to grab it! This powerful picture book is beautifully illustrated and brings to life the Ojibwe culture.  This book celebrates Mother Nature, Earth, and the healing power of water. When a black snake threatens to destroy Earth, a group of people comes together to stop it. I love the message this book sends, the author's note at the end, and the Water Protector Pledge included that you and your students can take together! Definitely, a must-add to your classroom library!

earth day activities for upper elementary kids

Michael Recycle written by Ellie Bethel

This book is part of series about keeping our planet clean. The main character is a young boy turned superhero charged with cleaning up the planet! This is a fun read and most appropriate for grade 2 and grade 3. My third graders loved this one!

An Inconvenient Truth written by Al Gore

This book is perfect for you to use as a reference to guide your Earth Day lessons. I like sharing the photographs in this book with students, as well as certain paragraphs. I do leave this book on the whiteboard ledge for students to borrow, too! 

While I love using these books during my Earth Day unit, they live in my classroom library so that students can learn about our planet every day, not just on Earth Day! Read just one of these books to your students and watch their interest in our planet grow! You and your students CAN make a difference in the health of our planet.

Happy Earth Day, teacher friends!

You might be interested in reading:

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