- Darcie Caswell
Being outdoors in nature offers children endless possibilities to engage and stimulate their curiosity. If you can’t get your children outdoors for one reason or another, books are a great way to explore the wonders of nature further. Many children are keenly interested in animals and nature, and there are a nearly endless number of books for elementary-aged children and older where they can learn about plant and animal life.
Preschool children are also interested in nature, but sometimes the detailed books their older friends and siblings are reading may be too much. Fortunately, there are nature books written just for this younger crowd, with enough information to keep them engaged and even learn a thing or two, but not so detailed that they get bored. If your young reader wants to learn more, many of these books have extra information about the subject after the story—in the back of the book. For adult caregivers, this back matter can be a lifesaver in answering questions that may be inspired by the book.
Among a Thousand Fireflies, by Helen Frost and Rick Lieder, follows two fireflies as they search for each other among a thousand others. Photographs are softened to create a magical storybook feel but also include close-up details of the fireflies, allowing readers to get a look at these intriguing insects in a unique way. Children will delight in following the fireflies’ glow from page to page as the evening progresses from dusk to dark.
Listen to Our World, by Bill Martin, Jr. and Michael Sampson, is a fun way to introduce young children to a variety of animals from around the world, the sounds they make, and the habitats in which they live. The animals include some that kids may not encounter in person, such as parrots in the rainforest, Gila monsters in the desert, and kangaroos in the outback. Children can practice the sounds each animal makes: “Squawk! Squawk!” for the parrots and “Hiss! Hiss!” for the Gila monsters.
In Raindrops Roll, author April Pulley Sayre shows the dramatic effect a simple rain shower can have on plants and animals as the storm draws near, passes over, and then moves on. Animals feel the rain coming, and readers see the sky darken. Insects find safe places to hide, birds sit right out in the rain. Detailed photographs show the rain left after the storm has passed: beads of water weigh down a leaf of grass, causing it to bend to the ground; and tiny droplets of water cling to spider webs and cocoons. The bold photographs and sparse words encourage the reader to focus on the details of the images, details we likely would not notice on our own if we were walking through the woods after a rainstorm. This book gives readers a new way to see the world around them and may lead to more exploration the next time they are out on a nature walk. The back matter has details about the water cycle as well as explanations of the characteristics of water, such as why beads of water cling together and why water magnifies.
Some birds are huge; some birds are tiny. Some birds eat insects, some birds eat nectar. Some birds fly and some don’t. So, what makes a bird a bird? In A Bird is a Bird, author Lizzy Rockwell explores the diversity of birds in simple ways and shows how different birds can be from each other as well as what they have in common. The variety of birds in this book is extensive, and young readers are sure to recognize some familiar friends as well as being introduced to others they’ve never heard of.
This column originally appeared in The Free Lance-Star newspaper.