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Maria Salvadore

Reading Rockets' children's literature expert, Maria Salvadore, brings you into her world as she explores the best ways to use kids' books both inside — and outside — of the classroom.

Beyond Earth Day

April 19, 2012

A friend of my son and I were talking about a high school course he's taking on environmental science. He said that it wasn't as much about saving the planet as it was saving people.

I thought about what he'd said and I agree — at least in general.

Where does respect for the environment and people begin? When children are very young. My son's interest in observing backyard birds started when he built a small birdhouse as a 6-year old Cub Scout and continues to this day.

I was reminded again of this when I read a recent picture book biography entitled Life in the Ocean: The Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle (Farrar) by Clair Nivola.

Earle's devotion to the outdoors started early on as a young child living in New Jersey. When she was 12, her family moved to the Gulf coast of Florida where her mother is quoted as saying "that Sylvia 'lost her heart to the water.'" Sylvia's wonder becomes the reader's wonder as they examine this handsomely illustrated, beautifully told, and well researched look at one person's life in and near the ocean. And like Sylvia Earle, the more we know, the more we'll want to learn, and the greater care we'll take of this beautiful resource.

There are a number of books that are likely to generate interest, inspiration, enthusiasm to last beyond Earth Day. Who knows what wonders will start with a child's sparked imagination?

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"When I say to a parent, "read to a child", I don't want it to sound like medicine. I want it to sound like chocolate. " — Mem Fox