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Summer Books and Activities for Kids

Our Green World

Our Green World

How to explore this theme:

  1. Choose books and book-related activities
  2. Explore more hands-on activities
  3. Try some summer writing
  4. Dig deeper with these websites
  5. Play and learn with interactive mobile apps

#1: Choose kids' books and book-related activities Great Fiction & Nonfiction Books

Age Level: 3-6 years old

Can You See Me?

Can You See Me?

By: Ted Lewin

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Sharp eyes are needed to see most of the well-camouflaged creatures in the Costa Rican rainforest presented in stunning, realistic illustrations. A simple, repeated sentence lets emerging readers know what (e.g., bird, snake) to look for in each double page spread. The animals are specifically identified on the final page.

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Eddie's Garden and How to Make Things Grow

Eddie's Garden and How to Make Things Grow

By: Sarah Garland

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

The garden that Eddie and his Mum plant while his younger sister "helps" grows in the warm earth with the help of sun, rain, and beneficial creatures like worms. Eddie learns that other creatures, like slugs, eat plants. This gentle, engaging family story informs and illuminates many aspects of gardening.

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Every Autumn Comes the Bear

Every Autumn Comes the Bear

By: Jim Arnosky

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

As the seasons change, a large black bear prepares for hibernation. In his search for a den, he startles a bobcat, a grouse, and other smaller animals. Striking watercolors and brief text, drawn from the artist's observations of a bear behind his Vermont home, explain the balance found in nature and the cycles of life.

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Flip, Float, Fly: Seeds on the Move

Flip, Float, Fly: Seeds on the Move

By: JoAnn Early Macken | Illustrated by: Pam Paparone

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

The many ways seeds get to where they can grow is revealed in poetic language enhanced by understandable illustrations. Though the information is brief, the sound of the words makes this a unique introduction to this cycle in nature.

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Green

Green

By: Laura Vaccaro Seeger | Illustrated by: Laura Vaccaro Seeger

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Pre-Reader

Textured illustrations cleverly incorporate die-cuts exploring the many shades of green. Language is as inspired as the textured paintings, subtly suggesting an environmental note. The book concludes with "forever green" in which a man and a child admire a large, lush tree, presumably from a seedling planted earlier.

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In the Small, Small Pond

In the Small, Small Pond

By: Denise Fleming | Illustrated by: Denise Fleming

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

A child (and a small green frog) witness the change of seasons in a small, critter-filled pond. Engaging language swirls and moves across the pages in this vibrantly illustrated Caldecott Honor book.

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Inside Outside

Inside Outside

By: Lizi Boyd

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

There are things to do indoors and outside. But the inside goes outside and the reverse with cutouts on pages in this attractive wordless book. Simple-lines and flat colors are appealing on brown paper and encourage careful — and multiple — examinations.

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Jo MacDonald Had a Garden

Jo MacDonald Had a Garden

By: Mary Quattlebaum | Illustrated by: Laura Bryant

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

In this version of a familiar tune, Jo MacDonald (the old farmer's granddaughter) and her cousin plant a Spring garden, watch it grow, observe what visits it, gather its bounty before the cycle ends only to begin again. Engaging illustrations suggest ways to dramatize the yearly cycle, and suggested activities conclude the book.

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Picture a Tree

Picture a Tree

By: Barbara Reid

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

There are many ways to picture a tree throughout the seasons. Sometimes a tree plays "a game of dress-up", or serves as a "high-rise home sweet home." Textured collage illustrations extend meaning of the simple, evocative text in a joy-filled celebration of trees.

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Plant a Little Seed

Plant a Little Seed

By: Bonnie Christensen | Illustrated by: Bonnie Christensen

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Two children start to plan their community garden while snow is still on the ground. Come spring they "plant a little seed or two...or more" and wait. They work and wait until the harvest and enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) with neighbors. Illustrations in vivid color and strong line paint the garden, its visitors, and the dedicated gardeners.

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Planting a Rainbow

Planting a Rainbow

By: Lois Ehlert

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

A dazzling celebration of the colorful variety in a flower garden and the cyclical excitement of gardening. A young child relatesthe yearly cycle and process of planning, planting and picking flowers in a garden. Mother and child plant bulbs in fall, order seeds from catalogs in winter, eagerly anticipate the first shoots of spring, select seedlings in summer and then "watch the rainbow grow."

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Plants Feed Me

Plants Feed Me

By: Lizzy Rockwell

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

"I am a plant eater," announces a boy with a wide grin eating munching on a slice of watermelon and surrounded by a harvest of fruits and vegetables. He then introduces where, how, and the different parts of what he (and we) eat. Cheery, informative illustrations are clearly labeled and correspond to the straightforward, engaging text.

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Secrets of the Garden

Secrets of the Garden

By: Kathleen Zoehfeld | Illustrated by: Priscilla Lamont

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

A child and her family plan and plant a garden and observe it as it grows. Her narration includes information about the process while conversations between two hens add humor and information. The appealing, light-lined, cartoon-like illustrations vary format while adding information and wit.

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Seed, Soil, Sun: Earth's Recipe for Food

Seed, Soil, Sun: Earth's Recipe for Food

By: Cris Peterson | Illustrated by: David Lundquist

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Earth's recipe for the food we eat — seed, soil, and sun — are presented in crisp photographs and brief, lucid text all in a large format. Young scientists (and their adults) may be inspired to start their own seeds but observe their world more closely.

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The Curious Garden

The Curious Garden

By: Peter Brown | Illustrated by: Peter Brown

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Liam discovers that he can help his dreary city blossom into a green place that draws everyone out onto rooftops and beyond. Stylized illustrations depict the city's gradual change from drab to lush and may encourage other young urban gardeners.

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The Little Plant Doctor: A Story About George Washington Carver

The Little Plant Doctor: A Story About George Washington Carver

By: Jean Marzollo | Illustrated by: Ken Wilson-Max

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

George Washington Carver was always curious and grew into a recognized scientist in spite of the challenges of the time in which he lived. His life and accomplishments become accessible to younger children through the voice of a tree planted by young George, augmented by child-like full color illustrations.

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There Was a Tree

There Was a Tree

By: Rachel Isadora

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Textured borders contain each double-page illustration which places the familiar cumulative song on an African savannah. Rebuses are included in the body of the book and again in a key; music is also included to make this version ideal for sharing.

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Where the River Begins

Where the River Begins

By: Thomas Locker | Illustrated by: Thomas Locker

Age Level: 3-6 years old | Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Nature is the star in this affecting tale of a boy and his grandfather who journey to a waterway's source. Locker's paintings magnificently portray the changing landscape at different times of the day and in different kinds of weather. [Publisher's Weekly review]

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Age Level: 6-9 years old

A Whiff of Pine, a Hint of Skunk: A Forest of Poems

A Whiff of Pine, a Hint of Skunk: A Forest of Poems

By: Deborah Ruddell | Illustrated by: Joan Rankin

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

A range of forest inhabitants are presented imaginatively in a variety of poetic styles. From the "Bucktoothed Cleaver" (a beaver) to the chipmunks that invest in the "Acorn Savings Bank," poetry and illustrations allow readers to see animals afresh.

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Beneath the Sun

Beneath the Sun

By: Melissa Stewart | Illustrated by: Constance Bergum

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

While children cavort through a sprinkler on a suburban lawn, animals thrive or survive in other habitats (desert, field, wetland, and seaside). The same sun has a different effect in different places on all living creatures presented in a clear text and handsome, realistic, detailed illustrations.

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E-I-E-I-O: How Old MacDonald Got His Farm

E-I-E-I-O: How Old MacDonald Got His Farm

By: Judy Sierra | Illustrated by: Matthew Myers

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

When Old MacDonald tires of cutting his large suburban lawn, he gets a goat and then a very smart little red hen. When compost and manure are added — and in spite of neighbors' concerns — MacDonald has a thriving farm to everyone's delight! This lively, rhyming tale with its exaggerated illustrations just may inspire suburban and perhaps urban gardening.

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Eyewitness Plant

Eyewitness Plant

By: David Burnie

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

Detailed, full-color photographs complement the interesting facts about the fascinating world of plants, including plant anatomy and growth.

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Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table

Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table

By: Jacqueline Briggs Martin | Illustrated by: Eric-Shabazz Larkin

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

Martin shares the remarkable life story of former professional basketball player Will Allen, urban farmer and food educator. Straightforward prose and colorful illustrations done in muscular ink lines express the energy and confidence of the book’s subject as he works alongside smiling grownups and kids. Abundant back matter includes information about Allen’s work. [School Library Journal]

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First Garden and How It Grew

First Garden and How It Grew

By: Robbin Gourley

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

White House gardens started with John Adams in 1800 and continue with Michelle Obama. History and recipes for healthy food are presented in this attractive volume.

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Get Outside: The Kids Guide to Fun in the Great Outdoors

Get Outside: The Kids Guide to Fun in the Great Outdoors

By: Jane Drake, Ann Love | Illustrated by: Heather Collins

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

Outdoor adventures await adults and children throughout the year. Illustrated, easy to follow instructions and a can-do approach are sure to inspire readers of all ages to learn as they choose from a range of games and activities with background information included.

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How Does My Garden Grow?

How Does My Garden Grow?

By: Gerda Muller

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

Sophie lives in a big city but eagerly anticipates summer at her grandparents. There, she learns about growing vegetables and gardens as she prepares, plants, observes and harvests. Realistic illustrations show an entire scene as well as close-ups on each double page spread.

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Jack's Garden

Jack's Garden

By: Henry Cole

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

In this cumulative tale, Jack plants, tends and harvests his garden. Not only will readers follow Jack's activities, they'll learn about gardens and gardening in this informative and animated book through text and highly detailed and well-labeled illustrations. (The author's background as a science teacher is pleasantly evident.)

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Jackson Jones and the Puddle of Thorns

Jackson Jones and the Puddle of Thorns

By: Mary Quattlebaum

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

Jackson works to turn a community garden plot into a working business so he can buy the basketball he wanted for his 10th birthday. The fast-paced plot unfolds through Jackson's lively, often humorous voice through to its satisfying conclusion.

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Miss Rumphius

Miss Rumphius

By: Barbara Cooney

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

Miss Rumphius leaves the world more beautiful with an unusual legacy. This gentle story can relate to not only the language arts, but to dreams, legacies, and the environment.

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Nature Log Kids: A Kid's Journal to Record Their Birding Experiences

Nature Log Kids: A Kid's Journal to Record Their Birding Experiences

By: DeAnna Brandt

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

Birds are everywhere — even the most urban neighborhood is a good place to look for birds and study their habits. This journal includes questions to prompt thinking and provides pages to write down observations, paste in photos, or add drawings. Also in the series: Nature Log Kids: A Kid's Journal to Record Their Nature Experiences.

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No Monkeys, No Chocolate

No Monkeys, No Chocolate

By: Melissa Stewart, Allen Young | Illustrated by: Nicole Wong

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

Most kids like something chocolate-y, right? But there wouldn't be chocolate without cocoa beans that come from cocoa pods that rely on insects and other creatures in rainforests — even monkeys! A brief but engaging look at this interconnected habitat is realistically illustrated with informative but humorous asides by bookworms to encourage each page turn.

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Our School Garden!

Our School Garden!

By: Rick Swann | Illustrated by: Christy Hale

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

The garden at Michael’s new school is full of fresh sensations. Thirteen poems describe holding a handful of compost, eating a leaf, watching a bug, and more. Richly textured mixed-media illustrations in earthy tones follow a diverse class as they plan, plant, harvest, and enjoy the fruits of their labor. Notes and resources expand on the text. [School Library Journal]

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Rachel Carson & Her Book that Changed the World

Rachel Carson & Her Book that Changed the World

By: Laurie Lawlor | Illustrated by: Laura Beingessner

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

Rachel Carson was a shy child, always drawn to nature. She grew up to become a professional biologist and enter a field with few women and write a book that changed the way people looked at the environment. Soft, cartoon-like illustrations and straightforward narrative present an overview of Carson's life; sources are included at the end.

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Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature

Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature

By: Joyce Sidman | Illustrated by: Beth Krommes

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

Strong lines and evocative language call on readers to observe the natural world around them in this handsome look at the spiral shape in nature.

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The Ugly Vegetables

The Ugly Vegetables

By: Grace Lin

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

In a neighborhood of flower gardens, a Chinese-American girl and her mother plant what the child considers to be ugly vegetables. The ugly vegetables, however, become attractive and help build community when made into a delicious soup! A recipe is included.

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The Year Comes Round: Haiku through the Seasons

The Year Comes Round: Haiku through the Seasons

By: Sid Farrar | Illustrated by: Ilse Plume

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

The seasons of a year are presented in realistic illustrations and thoughtful, evocative haikus. A brief note about the form is followed by a final poem: "Earth circles the sun/spinning a tapestry of/days, months, seasons — life."

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Up We Grow! A Year in the Life of a Small, Local Farm

Up We Grow! A Year in the Life of a Small, Local Farm

By: Deborah Hodge | Illustrated by: Brian Harris

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

This look at one local farm presents a look at work on a farm raising food and animals while protecting the environment. Handsome photographs show the uniqueness of the seasons.

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Watch Me Grow! A Down-to-Earth Look at Growing Food in the City

Watch Me Grow! A Down-to-Earth Look at Growing Food in the City

By: Deborah Hodge

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

Growing fruits and vegetables doesn't take a lot of space; they can even grow in crowded cities! From beekeeping to chickens, small areas can support food which leads to sharing, eating, and caring for others and the environment. Once the concept of urban agriculture is introduced, who knows what may blossom?!

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Where Once There Was a Wood

Where Once There Was a Wood

By: Denise Fleming | Illustrated by: Denise Fleming

Age Level: 6-9 years old | Reading Level: Independent Reader

This book is a good introduction to the effects people can have on the environment. The simple text introduces the plants and animals that once thrived in a wooded area before their habitat was changed to build a housing development. The book features Fleming's distinctive lush collage illustrations.

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More great summer resources for parents from Reading Rockets

Read Aloud Tips

Read Aloud Tips

Read aloud every day with your child and talk about what you're reading. These two simple activities help build your child's vocabulary and comprehension skills.

Get tips (In English and 10 other languages) >

Downloadables

Downloadables

Download these colorful ready-to-print lunch box notes, play date cards, and door hangers for the kids in your life.

Download and print >