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The Best Read-Aloud Nature Stories + Reference Books

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INSIDE: The Best Read-Aloud Nature Stories + Reference Books

Learning about nature can be as easy as reading a fabulous picture book, but digging a little deeper with nature topics doesn’t have to be complicated either.

We all want our kids to feel encouraged to learn on their own and, as discussed in our post about benefits of nature study, to learn to think and explore and discover for themselves the way that Miss Stacy from Anne of Green Gables inspired her students to do.

The Best Read-Aloud Nature Stories + Reference Books

So once we’ve read those gorgeous picture books about nature with our kids and instilled an appreciation for nature study and exploring, what’s the next step? How do we move from appreciation to something deeper without getting stuck in dull, uninspiring textbooks?

We suggest reading fun, well-written stories with your kids that teach them more about nature topics.

Here are a few favorites.


Nature Storybooks

Burgess Books

The nature stories by Thornton W. Burgess are delightful and full of fun, quirky animal characters. Most chapters are short and sweet, which makes these stories easy to pick up and read aloud every so often throughout your week or at bedtime. You’ll find yourself having to say things like “lipperty-lipperty-lip scampered Peter Rabbit,” but I promise it’s worth it.

Thornton W. Burgess was a prolific writer during his lifetime and has many stories from which to choose. These are a few collections to get you started.

The Burgess Bird Book for Children

The Burgess Bird Book for Children

Parents, teachers, and young readers all over the world have enthusiastically welcomed the Dover reprints of Thornton Burgess's classic nature books, including the perennial bestseller, The Adventures of Peter Cottontail. In the present volume, the author's goal of introducing children to the fascinating subject of bird life is brilliantly realized in story fashion.

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The Burgess Animal Book for Children

The Burgess Animal Book for Children

When Jenny Wren learns that Peter Rabbit would like to know more about the four-footed friends who share the Green Meadows and Green Forest with him, she encourages him to speak with Old Mother Nature who is only too happy to help.

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The Burgess Seashore Book for Children

The Burgess Seashore Book for Children

Familiar Burgess characters Danny Meadow Mouse, Jimmy Skunk, and Reddy Fox explore every nook and cranny of the shoreline and learn first hand about the habits and habitats of spider crabs, sea cucumbers, sand eels, and that strangest of little fishes — the sea horse.

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Thornton Burgess Bedtime Stories Audio Book

Thornton Burgess Bedtime Stories Audio Book

A beloved storyteller takes young readers - and listeners - to the Green Forest to recount the adventures of Peter Cottontail, Mrs. Quack, Jimmy Skunk, Danny Meadow Mouse, and other woodland friends.

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Mother West Wind “Why” Stories

Mother West Wind “Why” Stories

Why does a Possum play dead? Why can't a snake walk? Why do bats fly at night? WHY, WHY, WHY? Mother Nature has answers to all your questions in this delightful bedtime story book.

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Old Mother West Wind “How” Stories

Old Mother West Wind “How” Stories

A wonderful bedtime experience as we enter the world of animals that make their home in the Green Forest. Original storys by Naturalist Thornton W. Burgess with illustrtions by Harrison Cady bring all the forest friends to life. Chapters make this an ideal bedtime reading.

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Mother West Wind “Where” Stories

Mother West Wind “Where” Stories

Children’s Animal Bedtime Story: Mother West Wind "WHERE" Stories Another exciting adventure by Thornton Burgess and illustrated by Harrison Cady brings to life those adorable woodland creatures from the Green Forest and the Green Meadows. Chapters make this an ideal bedtime book.

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Other Stories

Seed-Babies is another quirky nature story but with talking plants. Learn about botany straight from talking beans and sweet peas.

Seed-Babies

Seed-Babies

Share the excitement of three little children as they discover how beans grow from seeds, then start to wonder how other plants get their start, which leads them to watch closely for new life springing up all around them.

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The Story Book of Science is what I’d call an acquired taste. Jean Henri Fabre was a famous French scientist known for his many books about all kinds of scientific studies. At first, his 19th-century writing translated from French can be cumbersome to read. However, once you become familiar with the style, you’ll discover a richness to these “Uncle Paul” stories and some first-rate scientific explanations to the things in the natural world. I learn something new every time I read this to my kids. (You might also be interested in a picture book biography about Jean Henri Fabre to go along with this.)

The Story Book of Science

The Story Book of Science

The wonders of plant and animal life told with rare literary charm by Uncle Paul in conversations with three children.

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Learn all about the fascinating lives found within tide pools through the story of a hermit crab named Pagoo.

Pagoo

Pagoo

An intricate study of tide pool life is presented in text and pictures through the story of Pagoo, a hermit crab.

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Follow a snapping turtle named Minn as she emerges from her shell and travels the Mississippi River. You’ll learn about snapping turtles, river life, and a little geography along the way.

Minn of the Mississippi

Minn of the Mississippi

The history of the Mississippi River Valley is told in text and pictures through the adventures of Minn, a snapping turtle, as she travels downstream.

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Reference Books

A love of learning about nature is amplified by keeping a personal nature journal. In our picture books post about nature appreciation, we discussed the benefit of everyone having their own nature journal. This allows individual personalities to emerge in drawings, paintings, and written observations about the natural world.

There are many books that can help guide your nature study and be a reference for nature journal entries.

Here are a few of our favorites.

Nature Anatomy is becoming worn-out from weekly use. It’s always the first book off the shelf when we’re looking for nature study information or inspiration for nature drawings in our journals. Julia Rothman’s illustrations are beautiful but simple enough to attempt to recreate, and the detailed information is easy to understand.

Nature Anatomy: The Curious Parts and Pieces of the Natural World

Nature Anatomy: The Curious Parts and Pieces of the Natural World

See the world in a whole new way! Acclaimed illustrator Julia Rothman combines art and science in this exciting and educational guide to the structure, function, and personality of the natural world. Explore the anatomy of a jellyfish, the inside of a volcano, monarch butterfly migration, how sunsets work, and much more. An excellent book for nature journaling.

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The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling is an inspiring book that guides you through drawing from nature observations. Younger kids might find it challenging to follow, but it’s an excellent resource to have on hand.

Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling

Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling

A potent combination of art, science, and boundless enthusiasm, the latest art instruction book from John Muir Laws is a how-to guide for becoming a better artist and a more attentive naturalist.

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Handbook of Nature Study is a reference book of epic proportions. You’ll need some room on the shelf for this thick volume. We don’t pick it up every week in my home, but it’s a fantastic resource to find detailed answers asked by budding naturalists. Each section includes lesson ideas, methods, and observation questions, if you choose to use it as a study book.

Handbook of Nature Study

Handbook of Nature Study

A matchless handbook for decades, this classic work has been the natural history bible for countless teachers and others who seek information about their environment. Written originally for those elementary school teachers who knew little of common plants and animals, and even less about the earth beneath their feet and the skies overhead, this book is for the most part as valid and helpful today as it was when first written in 1911 and revised in the spirit of its authors by a group of naturalists in 1939.

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This pocket guide is stored with our nature exploring supplies and local laminated nature pamphlets that we take with us on hikes and nature walks. It’s helpful to have around and really is pocket-size.

Pocket Guide to Animal Tracks

Pocket Guide to Animal Tracks

The Pocket Guide To Animals Tracks is a guide that you can truly put in your pocket and not worry about getting it wet or dirty. This guide is a must for hikers, backpackers, birdwatchers, and hunters.

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One of our goals is to create meaningful ways for you to share books and adventures with your children. Nature exploration is just one of the ways you can connect books to knowledge.

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