“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”

 –Native American Proverb

We often hear the common question of what is Earth Day, a day on April 22nd to demonstrate support for environmental protection worldwide. But the overarching question is why do we have Earth Day? To some, we have a special day to be the world’s yearly reminder that what we do can impact the earth in a negative way, and it is our responsibility as global citizens to do our part in building a sustainable environment for our future. To others, the idea behind earth day is to educate and create awareness that environmental protection isn’t a concept to support one day out of the year, but to continue to do so every single day.

Standards-Aligned NGSS Picture Books to Support Earth Day Celebrations

It’s certainly all of the above, and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) do a great job of diving into the topic of how individuals and communities affect the Earth. More importantly, they help students find ways to protect Earth’s resources and environments. In correlation with the NGSS standard of Earth and Human Activity, here are some amazing standards-aligned NGSS picture books to integrate into the classroom that will help introduce the subject and celebrate Earth Day in an interactive way.

1. 10 Things I Can Do to Help My World by Melanie Walsh (Grades P-1, Level K)

Protecting the Earth and our environment is easy. This title offers 10 simple things everyone can do to make a big difference in preventing waste and conserving the Earth’s energy and resources.

NGSS Picture Books: 10 Things I Can Do to Help My World

2. All the Water in the World by George Ella Lyon (Grades P-3, Lexile AD520)

Great for a read aloud, this picture book is a wonderful introduction to not only the water cycle, but providing understanding to the importance of Earth’s water. With simple wording, and illustrations that flow like the subject of the book, students will get the concept that water goes around and around, but more importantly will learn how sparse a resource it is.

NGSS Picture Books: All the Water in the World

3. Bee & Me by Alison Jay (Grades P-1)

A wordless story of friendship and an introduction to ecology and conservation, readers will take a journey with a little girl and a bee to understand human impacts on other species on our planet. Their adventure reveals actions any child can take to aid in protection of this endangered insect, as well as a brief afterword that explains the role bees play in our natural world.

NGSS Picture Book Bee and Me

4. The Earth and I by Frank Asch (Grades P-2)

A classic environmental story about a boys’ relationship with the Earth and how he finds ways to make the Earth happy. Readers will learn about nature and ecosystems, and what it means to be a friend to the Earth.

NGSS Picture Books: The Earth and I

5. Energy Island: How One Community Harnessed the Wind and Changed Their World by Alan Drummond (Grades 1-5, Lexile AD920)

This narrative tale combines elements of story with scientific facts and illustrations about a small Danish island that reduced their carbon emissions, and has almost completely become energy independent in just 10 years. Students will be inspired by how one ordinary man and one community worked together to contribute to the conservation of energy, and protect their environment.

NGSS Picture Books Energy Island

6. I Love Our Earth by Bill Martin (Grades P-1, Level I, Lexile AD200)

Inspiration is the idea in this poetic celebration of the beauty of Earth’s colors, climates and seasons. With diverse photos and places, readers will realize our shared connection to the planet and how important it is to do our part to keep the Earth beautiful.

NGSS Picture Books: I Love Our Earth

7. I Wonder Why There’s a Hole in the Sky and Other Questions about the Environment by Sean Callery (Grades K-3, Level N)

Learn about the ways in which we humans are impacting the environment and what we can do to help protect it. This question-and-answer style invites readers to have further discussion about the various environmental issues and makes for a great introduction to ways we can preserve the Earth.

NGSS Picture Books: I Wonder Why There's a Hole in the Sky

8. The Last Tree by Ingrid Chabbert (Grades P-2)

This tale celebrates both imagination and how children can make a big difference. Follow a boy and his friends as they try to save the last tree in their city by replanting it in a safer place. This book makes for a great read aloud and will spark not only discussion about the importance of conserving our natural world, but the idea of taking initiative when necessary.

NGSS Picture Books: The Last Tree

9. The Magic School Bus and the Climate Challenge by Bruce Degen (Grades 1-3, Lexile 610)

Leave it to Ms. Frizzle to take the topic of “green issues” and focus on the scientific facts. Fantastical, but also informative, readers will go on an adventure to learn about the ever-increasing impact of climate change on Earth’s resources, and also the ways in which they can help. Students will have an improved understanding and will hopefully feel empowered to make a positive impact.

NGSS Picture Books: The Magic School Bus and the Climate Challenge

10. Rachel Carson and Her Book That Changed the World by Laura Beingessner (Grades K-3, Lexile 890) 

Chronicling the life of environmentalist pioneer Rachel Carson, this picture book biography depicts one of her greatest accomplishments, her book Silent Spring, which educated many to the harmful activities humans have on the planet.

NGSS Picture Books: Rachel Carson and Her Book That Changed the World

More NGSS Picture Book Recommendations