I thought about getting together a list of picture books for you for Earth Day tomorrow, but there are already several posts like that floating around the ol’ interweb, and I figure if you’re reading me, you read other homeschool blogs and have already taken advantage of their brilliant suggestions. If you’ve not seen it yet, check out my Story Time on The Giving Tree for some great craft and activities ideas if that’s what you want to do to celebrate the day. I promise, they’re awesome.
Earth Day Fun With Books
Instead of a list of picture books, I want to share with you how we’ll be celebrating Earth Day here at Lit Mama Homeschool. Oh, it involves books, never you fear, but it is also means spending the day outside. Because we’re supposed to be celebrating The Earth, not our floors and walls. There’s a reason they designated a spring day for this stuff.
My plan is to head out as early as possible to the fishing hole. This is such a brilliant time to hang out at a pond–everything, from red-winged blackbirds to butterflies to frogs and turtles, is waking up and preparing for a summer of delectable eating and procreating. The best time to spot turtles is now when they are first coming out of hibernation and using all this warm sunshine to heat their blood and bones.
We have a backpack that we take on nature walks with us. It’s been with us for 5 years and is well-used, so you’ll forgive me if I don’t try to make a pretty picture of it. Just imagine a worn, frayed, black backpack and we’ll go from there. Into that pack (well, honestly, Always In that pack) go magnifying glasses, nature study journals (which are really just 5×7 artist’s sketchbooks–they work wonderfully), pencils and colored pencils, scissors and specimen jars. And though we don’t carry our butterfly garden with us, we do take a small catcher in case we see a likely caterpillar that wants to become a butterfly in our classroom.
One of my favorite things to do in the whole wide world is read outside. In fact, during summer breaks you can often find me swinging in my hammock chair, curled around a good book. Since I want my Littles to know that joy, we always take books with us to the pond. But not just any books. Books that help us learn and know about the incredible things we see while we’re there. My favorites are the older nonfiction books written by naturalists. Here are the ones we use the most:
If you ask me which one I would rather read, I would be hard-pressed to pick a favorite. If you’ve been reading me for very long, you probably know Canada Geese are my favorite birds. I love the sound of them, the way they look in flight, the way they watch out for each other while feeding, how fiercely they protect their young. So Wild Goose, Brother Goose by Wisconsin naturalist Mel Ellis could be my fave. This book, about a wild goose who falls in love with a pinioned goose on the Horicon Marsh Wildlife Refuge and their subsequent romance, is Not A Personification. It is a realistic, true story about two geese who became mates despite odds, and it is, hands down, the best way to learn about Canada Geese and their reality I have ever come across. Also, it was first published in 1969, and the language Ellis uses is of that soft, slow pace so many books had back then. It is not fiction, but it is a story, and it’s beautiful. I think you can probably tell how dear this little book is to me.
But The Year of the Turtle by artist/naturalist David M. Carroll is an amazing way to learn about turtles, too. As the title implies, it goes through a year of turtle of observation, dated like a journal. It’s filled with the author’s renderings and so much information about turtles you will not know what to do with yourself. It starts with Emergence, or the turtle coming up from the mud of the pond to begin his waking year and ends with Hibernation. In between it covers Courting and Mating, Nesting, Hatching, and what turtles do all summer in between those things. My Littles really enjoyed this book. We literally read it for a year, saving each entry for the day it was dated and then heading to the fishing hole to see if we could spot the stuff we’d read about. It was heady. I fully intend to do it again, but for now we use it as a reference.
I’m not going to tell you all there is to know about all these books, but Grizzly Country does for bears what the other two do for geese and turtles. And what kid isn’t fascinated by bears? And Nature Through the Seasons? Richard Adams, people. The dude that wrote the amazing, incredible, awesome Watership Down. Um, yes, please. It is about Britain, so if you’re one of my British readers and you don’t have this book… Why not? If you’re a Yank like me, and you don’t think this book will apply, remember that we are roughly on the same latitudinal lines and a lot of the creatures and plants found in Britain are also found in parts of the U.S. and if they aren’t? Just think how cool it would be for your littles to know Britain so well. Yeah yeah. Who doesn’t want to know everything about Britain? I mean, send me there if you want to. I’m dying to go.
Of course, we also have a ton of field guides and picture books and general nature study books, and we tend to pack as many as we can so we can reference them as we go. Is this backpack getting heavy? Why yes, yes it is. But it’s so worth it. I need to get a butterflies of Indiana book, because even though I love my current butterfly book, it is worldwide and some of the butterflies I see around here have been left out of it as unimportant. Bleh.
Some of our favorites:
I found this brilliant box of wildlife cards at a yard sale a couple years back for a quarter. I don’t know how old it is, but it was well-loved when I purchased it. The cards are in excellent shape, though, as you can see, and we often throw a rubber band around them and toss them into the backpack because they are such a quick way to find what we’re looking for. The backsides are full of info about each creature. Love. Them.
And then there are my specific pond books. Those 4 that look like I put them together myself? That’s because I did, several years ago. You can download all 4 of them for free at LibriVox. That link is to By Pond and River, but there’s a search box to find the others. These are mostly 19th century naturalist books, and I can’t tell you how amazing they are–written for kids, mostly in story form, but full of facts. I just downloaded the pdfs, printed them in book form and gave them construction paper covers. We love to sit by the pond and read them. It gives us a different perspective. People looked at the world so differently back then. It still had tons of magic to it. I crush hard on those. Go download them.
Wonders of the Pond is a gorgeous old picture book that describes the life that goes on around the pond. And it can be gotten for a penny, so yeah yeah.
The Golden Guide Pond Life is one of my favorites. It’s this tiny book packed full of information about all things pond. I’ve probably read it a million times.
In the morning, I will surprise the Littles. I will wake them up after the backpack is packed. I will say, “Hurry up, get on your jeans and boots, there’s something you have to see outside.” I will lead them to the fishing hole. Halfway there they will realize what we’re up to.
“Mom,” they’ll say, “should we go back and get our fishing poles?”
Sounds like a class to me.
Want even more spring book fun? Check out:
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