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Climate Change and Children's Books

By: Giorgia F.

Photo from: Unsplash


“Read to your child”. It’s a phrase pretty much every parent will hear, whether it be from parenting books or from relatives. But reading to your child a book about a hungry caterpillar is different from reading them a book about climate change. Or is it? This is the question on the minds of many parents today as they struggle to approach discussing the complicated, and oftentimes depressing, issue of climate change with their young children.


As more people become aware of the direness of climate change, data from the Nielsen Book Research has found that the number of children's environmental books has “more than doubled”. This is promising, right? After all, climate books for children have the potential to simplify this complex and multidimensional climate crisis issue, so young children can understand. But, it is important to be careful of the way this extensive and heavy information is presented.


Climate-anxiety or growing stress over the precarious state of our planet is on the rise and there is a fear that giving young children books detailing the horrors of the climate crisis may do more harm than good, from a psychological perspective. While ignorance may be bliss, today’s children will surely face the most intense consequences of anthropogenic climate change, and will soon not have the privilege to ignore this catastrophe.


So what is the solution?


Children have a right to understand, at least at the basic level, what is happening to their planet. To do so effectively, environmental children’s books must be informative, compelling children to take action instead of provoking climate anxiety. Wildlife journalist and author Ben Hoare believes that fiction may be the best approach. Not many 5-year-olds want to pick up a hefty encyclopedia to read before bed but instead a story filled with excitement or fantasy. The key is to take ecological phenomenons related to climate change, such as wildfires or melting ice caps, and integrate them in the fictional stories that children love. This way, children are still actually learning about climate change, but in a manner that is not intimidating or anxiety-provoking.


Most children’s books that are being praised with their handling of climate change are fiction.

4 recommended children’s books on climate change (Harsimran Gill)


George Washington University Professor Micheal Svoboda suggests that climate centered children’s books must empower children to act rather than leave them fearful of what the future holds. Many of the climate change oriented children’s books constantly on the bestseller’s lists are doing just this. They allow parents to begin the discussion around the climate crisis while not being overwhelmingly pessimistic.


Not all education happens in a classroom . Parents reading their children climate focused books at bedtime, or anytime, prove this point. After all, individuals cannot become compelled to advocate for systemic change that combats the climate crisis without any prior environmental knowledge. Today’s children are tomorrow's leaders so they must begin to understand the issues that will certainly impact their futures, climate change being near the top of that list.


At the end of the day, it is important to remember that children are still children that deserve to live free of climate anxiety. They should not have to worry about whether they will have clean drinking water but instead about which stuffed animals are going to come to their tea party.


Children’s books on climate change are an integral step in effective environmental education. They should be used as a starting point for parents to begin discussing climate change with their children that inspires these future leaders to achieve comprehensive climate litigation rather than deeply upset them.


Discussion Questions:

  • Do you think it's important to discuss more severe aspects of climate change, such as the climate migration crisis, in children’s books?

  • Should environmental books be read in preschools/elementary schools?


Works Cited:


Barkham, P. (2020, February 27). Tears at bedtime: Are children's books on environment causing climate anxiety? https://www.theguardian.com/books/2020/feb/27/tears-at-bedtime-greta-thunberg-effect-behind-boom-in-childrens-climate-crisis-books.


Gill, H. (2019, September 19). 8 Books To Help Your Kid Learn About Climate Change. HuffPost. https://www.huffpost.com/archive/in/entry/8-children-books-climate-change_in_5d7f7a7fe4b077dcbd6164f7.


Svoboda, M. (2018, August 31). Children's Books About Climate Change . Yale Climate Connections. https://yaleclimateconnections.org/2018/08/childrens-books-about-climate-change/.


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