4 ways reading nature books benefits children

4 ways reading nature books benefits children

By award-winning Australian children’s author, Michael Gerard Bauer

“A book about nature opens up the natural world for young readers, and invites them in.” Author Michael Gerard Bauer reflects on the benefits of reading books about nature to young kids.

Michael Gerard Bauer. Photo: Felice Arena
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1. Stories awaken a child’s sense of curiosity and wonder about the world.

When I was growing up, I remember loving The Wind in the Willows—but for me, nature books really came into prominence when my own children appeared on the scene. They served to highlight the beauty and the magic of the natural world, and open our son and daughter’s young eyes to the wonders around them. Wonders they certainly discovered in national parks and local bushland—but also in their own backyard.

This was most true when it came to our trips to the beach.

Photo: Michael Gerard Bauer
Before every beach holiday, our regular plunder of picture books from the local library would inevitably feature stories of the ocean and seashore and all the fascinating creatures that make their home there. It’s not surprising that both our children became avid rock-hoppers.

Photo: Michael Gerard Bauer
Books like Rock Pool Secrets by Narelle Oliver can’t help but spark the imagination and curiosity of any young reader and excite in them a keen interest in the hidden treasures of the natural world.

2. Books about nature can inspire families to get out and explore local parks and bushland.

We are certainly privileged and blessed to live in a country which possesses such amazingly unique and diverse flora and fauna. And what better way to showcase that to young Australians than through the power of stories and picture books.

Photo: Michael Gerard Bauer
"A nature book opens up the natural world for young readers, and invites them in."
From classics like Mem Fox’s Possum Magic and Jackie French’s Diary of a Wombat to recent publications like Johanna Bell and Eric Wagner’s beautiful tribute to our exquisite birdlife Hope is the Thing, books that focus on animals and the environment help forge not only a love and appreciation of the natural world, but also a desire to experience and interact with it first-hand.
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Browse nearly 30 year’s worth of the very best winning and shortlisted kids' nature books.

3. Books about nature can help grow a sense of care and responsibility for the world.

Children’s nature stories such as Where the Forest Meets the Sea by Jeannie Baker (threats to the Daintree) or Christina Booth’s One Careless Night (about the last Thylacine) and Welcome Home, Whales (on the dark history of whaling) tell both of the beauty and the fragility of the natural world. They raise awareness of the threat posed to nature by humans, and emphasise our duty to safeguard the precious ecosystems on which we all depend.
"Books can be a powerful tool in fostering a love of the natural environment and the myriad of creatures that inhabit it. And what you love, you naturally will want to protect."
Photos: Michael Gerard Bauer

4. Children’s books by First Nations authors and illustrators help connect kids with Australia’s rich cultural and natural heritage.

Nature books in general help connect young readers to the plants, animals and landscapes of Australia. It’s a connection that provides a strong link directly to our First Nations people and their essential oneness with the land. Children’s books by First Nations writers and illustrators themselves, such as Welcome to Country by Aunty Joy Murphy and Lisa Kennedy, further connect us all to Australia's cultural and natural heritage.
"Nature books help inspire young readers to love, learn about, interact with, care for and protect the natural environment."
Like the “eco echoes” Boori Monty Pryor refers to in his beautiful book Story Doctors, nature books for children just might be the medicine we need to heal this land, and ourselves, and create a more hopeful future for us all.

Photo: Michael Gerard Bauer

Nature Book Week returns 14-20 October!

Join our annual, all-ages celebration of nature-themed storytelling.