11 Books About Sustainability to Add to Your Reading List

Book recommendations to learn more about sustainability for all reading levels

As classrooms across the country prepare to celebrate reading and a nation of diverse readers with the Read Across America initiative from the National Education Association, we wanted to share our recommendations for books on sustainability for readers of all reading levels. 

Read on for the list of titles with excerpts from the full book description. 

We believe reading and learning shouldn’t stop when we leave the classroom, so make sure to check out our recommendations for adults at the end of the list labeled as “12th grade and beyond.”

When looking for a book, one of our favorite places to check first is the public library. Check out Nashville Public Library for these books and more and other community resources like the Seed Exchange and the Library of Things.

Reading List

We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom (Preschool - 1st grade) -  “Inspired by the many Indigenous-led movements across North America, We Are Water Protectors issues an urgent rallying cry to safeguard the Earth’s water from harm and corruption—a bold and lyrical picture book written by Carole Lindstrom and vibrantly illustrated by Michaela Goade.”

The Thing About Bees by Shabazz Larkin (Preschool - 2nd grade) - “Shabazz Larkin’s The Thing About Bees is a Norman Rockwell-inspired Sunday in the park, a love poem from a father to his two sons, and a tribute to the bees that pollinate the foods we love to eat. Children are introduced to different kinds of bees, ‘how not to get stung,’ and how the things we fear are often things we don’t fully understand.”

Old Enough to Save the Planet by Loll Kirby (3rd - 6th grade) - “Meet 12 young activists from around the world who are speaking out and taking action against climate change. Learn about the work they do and the challenges they face, and discover how the future of our planet starts with each and every one of us.”

The Friendship Lie by Rebecca Donnelly (4th - 6th grade) - “Told in two intertwining points of view, comes a warm, wry story of friendship, growing up, and being true to yourself. Written by Rebecca Donnelly, author of How to Stage a Catastrophe, The Friendship Lie will speak to any reader who has struggled with what to hold on to and what to throw away.”

Hoot by Carl Hiaasen (5th - 6th grade) - “Everybody loves Mother Paula's pancakes. Everybody, that is, except the colony of cute but endangered owls that live on the building site of the new restaurant. Can the awkward new kid and his feral friend prank the pancake people out of town? Or is the owls' fate cemented in pancake batter?” 

How to Change Everything by Naomi Klien (5th - 6th grade) - “Full of empowering stories of young leaders all over the world, this information-packed book from award-winning journalist and one of the foremost voices for climate justice, Naomi Klein, offers young readers a comprehensive look at the state of the climate today and how we got here, while also providing the tools they need to join this fight to protect and reshape the planet they will inherit.”

The Story of More (Adapted for Young Adults) by Hope Jahren (7th - 9th grade) - “This young adult adaptation of acclaimed geochemist and geobiologist Hope Jahren's highly respected nonfiction work is the perfect book for those interested in learning about climate change and how they can contribute to creating a more sustainable future.”

Braiding Sweetgrass for Young Adults by Robin Wall Kimmerer and Monique Gray Smith (7th - 12th grade) - “Drawing from her experiences as an Indigenous scientist, botanist Robin Wall Kimmerer demonstrated how all living things―from strawberries and witch hazel to water lilies and lichen―provide us with gifts and lessons every day in her best-selling book Braiding Sweetgrass. Adapted for young adults by Monique Gray Smith, this new edition reinforces how wider ecological understanding stems from listening to the earth’s oldest teachers: the plants around us. With informative sidebars, reflection questions, and art from illustrator Nicole Neidhardt, Braiding Sweetgrass for Young Adults brings Indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge, and the lessons of plant life to a new generation.”

Climate Optimism by Zahara Biabani (12th grade and beyond) - “Zahra Biabani, a climate activist with a creative twist, created this guide to help readers learn how to stay optimistic in the face of the climate crisis. Doing good things can make a change to developing environmental sustainability!”

Rooted in the Earth by Dianne D. Glave (12th grade and beyond)- In Rooted in the Earth, environmental historian Dianne D. Glave overturns the stereotype that a meaningful attachment to nature and the outdoors is contrary to the Black experience. In tracing the history of African Americans' relationship with the environment, emphasizing the unique preservation-conservation aspect of Black environmentalism, and using her storytelling skills to re-create Black naturalists of the past, Glave reclaims the African American heritage of the land. This book is a groundbreaking, important first step toward getting back into nature, not only for personal growth but for the future of the planet.” 

All We Can Save edited by Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Dr. Katharine Wilkinson (12th grade and beyond) - “All We Can Save illuminates the expertise and insights of dozens of diverse women leading on climate in the United States—scientists, journalists, farmers, lawyers, teachers, activists, innovators, wonks, and designers, across generations, geographies, and race—and aims to advance a more representative, nuanced, and solution-oriented public conversation on the climate crisis. These women offer a spectrum of ideas and insights for how we can rapidly, radically reshape society. Intermixing essays with poetry and art, this book is both a balm and a guide for knowing and holding what has been done to the world, while bolstering our resolve never to give up on one another or our collective future. We must summon truth, courage, and solutions to turn away from the brink and toward life-giving possibility. Curated by two climate leaders, the book is a collection and celebration of visionaries who are leading us on a path toward all we can save.”

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