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Oregon Family Magazine

Books to Help Little Ones Better Understand Sustainability and Environmental Justice

04/03/2022 ● By Daniel Hiestand and Taylor Worley
To say the news is overwhelming these days is an understatement: A pandemic and politics, wars and inflation. The list goes on. If you are the parent of a young child, it’s tough to explain the nuances of these highly complicated topics. 

This month, we asked Taylor Worley, longtime Youth Services Librarian at Springfield Public Library, to share her advice on discussing another set of complicated topics with young folks: sustainability and environmental justice. Not surprisingly, she said books are a great access point.

“Books are excellent springboards for discussion,” she said.

To help answer our question, Taylor rounded up her favorite five selections for preschool and elementary-aged kids.

“Each book can be read aloud and explored alongside your child,” she said. “These titles provide multiple levels of information and engagement.”

A Is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara (this could just be cover image)

A Is for Activist invites readers through the alphabet, from Black Lives Matter to Water Is Life and beyond, and distills complex topics into approachable entry points. 

We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom and Michaela Goade  (this could just be cover image)

We Are Water Protectors is a Caldecott-winning, informational picture book that conveys the vitality of, respect for, and sacred aspects of water for Indigenous people with stunning illustrations.

On Our Nature Walk: Our First Talk About Our Impact on the Environment by Jillian Roberts, Jane Heinrichs, Bob McDonald  (this could just be cover image)

On Our Nature Walk is part of a larger series that takes complex topics like homelessness and climate change and presents them in honest, thoughtful ways for younger audiences. These books are best used with a trusted adult because they inspire a great deal of discussion.

Green City: How One Community Survived a Tornado and Rebuilt for a Sustainable Future  



by Allan Drummond  (this could just be cover image)

Green City is a non-fiction picture book that explores a community rebuilding after a natural disaster, making specific choices to be more ecologically responsible going forward. We can always learn from this story, but it feels particularly applicable right now.

Saving American Beach: The Biography of African American Environmentalist Mavynee Betsch by Heidi Tyline King and Ekua Holmes (this could just be cover image)  

Saving American Beach is the picture book biography of environmentalist Mavynee Betsch and will inspire young environmentalists and activists. Readers will feel empowered to create their own positive changes. 

Thank you, Taylor!

Daniel Hiestand is the new Lane County Waste Reduction Outreach Coordinator. For more book titles and personalized recommendations, visit the Springfield Public Library at