INSIDE: Picture Books that Inspire a Love of Nature
I remember exactly where I was when I found my literary teaching inspiration. My kids and I were sitting on the couch together as I read aloud from Anne of Green Gables when we came to this section:
“Mrs. Lynde says it made her blood run cold to see the boys climbing to the very tops of those big trees on Bell’s hill after crows’ nests last Friday,” said Marilla. “I wonder at Miss Stacy for encouraging it.”
“But we wanted a crow’s nest for nature study,” explained Anne. “That was on our field afternoon. Field afternoons are splendid, Marilla. And Miss Stacy explains everything so beautifully.”
Miss Stacy is my hero. She took Anne and her classmates out of the classroom and encouraged them to experience the natural world around them and to “think and explore and discover for themselves.” We all want that for our children, don’t we? After all, that’s a solid foundation for raising life-long learners.
As a homeschooling family, we have made nature study and time in nature a part of our learning every week. I believe this is an important facet of helping my kids think and explore and discover for themselves. Homeschool or not, every family with children of any age can make nature study a regular part of their life with a handful of great books and some peaceful pockets of time to explore.
Why Do Nature Study?
Some of you might feel solid on the concept of nature study already, but others might feel uncertain. Maybe you don’t think your kids will enjoy it. Or maybe you don’t enjoy the thought of nature hikes in the great outdoors.
Trust me. There’s a version of nature study for everyone, and everyone in your family will benefit.
So what are these potential benefits? Nature study can do the following:
- Encourage curiosity and investigation skills
- Strengthen observation skills and awareness of surroundings
- Lay groundwork for other areas of science
- Cultivate relationships to things recognized in nature
- Build nature stewardship
- Creates fun opportunities to connect with your family
Nature study is about creating a habit of noticing. It’s not just seeing something in nature and appreciating it. It’s taking time to notice the details and wonder at it.
What nature study is not: Look at that bird! What a pretty color red. *moves on*
What nature study is: Look at that bird! What a pretty color red. I remember reading that the male birds are sometimes brighter. There might be a female close by to compare. Do you see its short, sharp beak? I wonder if the bird uses it for breaking open hard seed shells to eat. Let’s watch and see what it does.
This effort of slowing down is contradictory to our fast-paced lives and quick headline-reading culture. However, like all skill building, it gets easier with practice. And it’s so worth it.
Carving out space in your weeks to slow down, be still, and simply observe nature will add heaps of value to your family’s quality of life.
How to Begin
First, let’s talk about some simple ways to get started on nature study.
Here are some easy steps:
- Begin in your own yard. Observe and identify trees, plants, birds, and insects that come to you. Plant a butterfly garden and identify insects that visit. Chart the changes you observe throughout the seasons. You could do this and nothing else for a whole year and increase your family’s nature IQ by tenfold.
- Take nature walks and notice things. An inquisitive spirit is contagious. If you start wondering aloud, your kids will pick up on the habit. A little enthusiasm goes a long way.
- Start a nature journal to record observations. Encourage each family member to keep a nature journal to draw what you observe and make a few notes to solidify the knowledge in your mind. Sometimes it can be hard to draw certain things in nature (such as moving animals). Consider taking a picture and journaling at a later time or identifying and journaling from a field guide.
- Create a nature pack. Having an outdoor adventure pack with tools and resources ready to go is extremely helpful for getting out the door. No excuses if you have time to explore and everyone has on shoes. Simply grab your pack and head out.
- Encourage nature study at home with picture books. There are some beautiful picture books about nature that offer a wealth of information to inspire an interest and love of nature exploring. Let’s discuss some of our favorites.
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Nature Study Picture Books
Dianna Aston Books
This nature book series written by Dianna Aston and illustrated by Sylvia Long is full of interesting information and astonishingly detailed illustrations. The main text is simple and poetic, but each page also contains factual information about what is pictured. This makes it valuable for any age group including kids long past typical picture book age. One of our favorite parts of the books is comparing the illustrated inside cover page to the endpaper in the back.
A Seed Is Sleepy from award-winning artist Sylvia Long and author Dianna Hutts Aston offers children a beautiful and informative look at the intricate, complex, and often surprising world of seeds. Poetic in voice and elegant in design, the book introduces children to a fascinating array of seed and plant facts, making it perfect reading material at home or in the classroom.More info →
This stunningly beautiful and wonderfully informative book from award-winning artist Sylvia Long and author Dianna Hutts Aston makes for a fascinating introduction to the vast and amazing world of eggs. Featuring poetic text and an elegant design, this acclaimed book teaches children interesting facts about eggs.More info →
From the award-winning creators of An Egg Is Quiet, A Seed Is Sleepy, A Butterfly Is Patient, A Rock Is Lively, and A Beetle Is Shy comes this gorgeous and informative look at the fascinating world of nests, from those of tiny bee hummingbirds to those of orangutans high in the rainforest canopy.More info →
The award-winning duo of Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long team up again, this time creating a gorgeous look at the fascinating world of beetles. From flea beetles to bombardier beetles, an incredible variety of these beloved bugs are showcased here in all their splendor.More info →
Kate Messner Books
This series by author Kate Messner and illustrator Christopher Silas Neal is another beautiful set worth having on your bookshelf. It walks children through nature and inspires close observation through lyrically worded stories and sweet illustrations. Although they are told as narrative, each book has a detailed glossary at the end to learn more about what you’ve encountered in the story.
Up in the garden, the world is full of green—leaves and sprouts, growing vegetables, ripening fruit. But down in the dirt there is a busy world of earthworms digging, snakes hunting, skunks burrowing, and all the other animals that make a garden their home.More info →
Bird-watching is something my family enjoys, and we’re always on the lookout for fun books about birds. These lovely picture books each offer something unique to learn about our fine feathered friends.
Nature study can be as simple as planting a seed in a pot of soil, caring for it, and observing changes each week. These books about seeds, plants, and how they work will encourage an interest in botany and possibly planting a small garden of your own.
The reason for a flower is to manufacture seeds, but Ruth Heller shares a lot more about parts of plants and their functions in her trademark rhythmic style.More info →
Perfect for introductory science and biology lessons! Explore science. This nonfiction picture book serves as an introduction to plants that do not have flowers like mushrooms, seaweed, ferns, and more!More info →
Stories That Inspire Nature Exploration & Conservation
Journey to the Louisiana wetlands and watch as all the animals of the bayou experience one of nature’s most dramatic and awe-inspiring events: a hurricane.More info →
Inspired in part by his own childhood, this gorgeous picture book from Jim LaMarche, the beloved illustrator of A Story for Bear and The Elves and the Shoemaker, tells the story of one stubborn boy’s unexpectedly wonderful summer on the river.This is an imagination-sparking story about appreciatin...More info →
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