Soil Science for Bookworms

Reading with my son is one of my absolute favorite parts of parenting. And as a parent who is very interested in nature in general, and the life in our soil in particular, I am always on the lookout for books that introduce topics related to composting and soil in a way that is exciting and informative. Soil is not just a pile of boring dirt! In honor of Earth Day, I thought I would share a list of my favorite soil-focused books for children. You’ll find all of these books and more in our Bookworm Pinterest board!

The Little Composter by Jan Gerardi – For children 0-3 years old.

This book pairs rhyming text with flaps to lift. It is a story about a young child who grows a garden using compost he makes himself. Babies will love the rhymes, and toddlers are sure to love discovering what is underneath each flap (I know my two year old does!).

Rocks and Soil: Real Size Science Paperback by Rebecca Rissman – For children 2-6 years old

This picture book uses real-size photographs to teach young children about different types of rocks, soil, sand, and fossils. The simple text helps kids build their nature vocabulary. Note: the publisher lists this book as appropriate for 4-6 year olds, but this mother thinks the text and images are great for toddlers and preschoolers, but may be
too simple for 6 year olds.

Compost Stew by Mary McKenna Sidals – For children 3-7 years old.

This book is so clever! The author uses the alphabet to explain what is safe to compost, and how exactly to go about composting. Beautiful, textural illustrations of worms, animals, and culturally diverse children are sure to catch the attention of preschoolers and children in early elementary. You’ll definitely want to check out the author’s website (linked to above) for many fun activities inspired by the book. Note: I think this book is short enough and plenty lively to keep the attention of most 18 month olds, so don’t hesitate to pick this book for children younger than the listed age range.

Jump into Science: Dirt Paperback by Steve Tomecek – For children 4-8 years old.

This colorful picture book follows a gardening mole as the author answers questions like “What is soil?” and “How does earth help things grow?” There is a soil stratification project at the back of the book. If your child enjoys this book, be sure to check out the other Jump Into Science books published by National Geographic. Each book in the series is reviewed by early childhood experts for age-appropriate vocabulary, concepts, and relevance to K–2 science curriculum standards.

You’ll find all of these books and more in our Bookworm Pinterest board!

Marty McGuire Digs Worms! by Kate Messner – For children 4-8 years old.

This accessible chapter book follows a third grader named Marty McGuire as she attempts to save the Earth with vermicompost (compost made by worms). Marty’s plans to turn the garbage from the school cafeteria into fertilizer with the help of her best friend Annie and the worms in her grandmother’s garden. This book is especially great for exciting young girls about science, though boys will surely love the book as well.

Composting: Nature’s Recyclers by Robin Koontz – For children 5-9 years old.

This picture book introduces the concept that small animals, fungi, and bacteria (the “life” in our soil!) eat dead leaves, food scraps, and grass clippings, turning it into compost. The book is peppered with fun facts about animals and plants and their part in composting or how they are benefited by composting.

Dirt: The Scoop on Soil by Natalie M. Rosinsky – For children 5-9 years old.

This colorful picture book introduces the components of soil, including humus, clay, silt, sand, and rocks. It discussed how humus is made from organic material; and how to keep soil healthy. It begins with a soil stratification project that you can do with your child.The illustrations are lively and culturally diverse and feature both boys and girls.

A Handful of Dirt by Raymond Bial – For children 7-10 years old.

This book contains a series of photo essays explaining the multitudes of microscopic creatures that live in the soil, battling it out in an eat-or-be-eaten world. The accessible text introduces everything from the tiniest protozoans to larger mammals whose burrows aerate the earth, and everything in between. Included are instructions for setting up a home compost pile.

Life in a Bucket of Soil by Alvin Silverstein and Virginia Silverstein– For children 8-14 years old.

This book introduces readers to ants, earthworms, snails and slugs, beetles, and many other soil-dwelling creatures in a way that is informative and exciting. Colorful descriptions of how these critters live, breed, interact, move, eat, and defend themselves. Perhaps most importantly to us, information is provided about how each creature effects the soil in which they live. This book has been around since the 1970s, so you know it is good since it has stood the test of time!

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