3 Biographies to Get Your Animal Lover Dreaming Big

Teaching children about nature and the environment is invaluable. They’ll gain an understanding of science. They’ll become more aware of the world around them, respect other living things, and the Earth. Besides, since so much of their early academic education focuses on nature’s many wonderful creatures; you’ll be giving them a head start.

Perhaps you already have a real animal advocate in the house. Or maybe you want to instill a love for all creatures great and small. But before you go planning an expedition to the Galapagos, get them to dream big!

These standout picture book biographies not only offer an exciting peek into the animal kingdom, they’re also true stories of overcoming adversity and standing up for what’s right. They’re tales of believing in oneself despite all odds, and a wonderful lesson in compassion.

After a good night’s read, you just might find your kiddos building a lemonade stand to raise funds for all endangered species. These books are so good; they’re for anyone at any age. So don’t be surprised if you end up selling lemonade right alongside!

The Watcher: Jane Goodall's Life with Chimps

By Jeanette Winter

The Watcher is a wonderful biography about Jane Goodall, the great observer and champion of chimpanzees. The story immediately pulls children in, focusing on Jane as a little girl. She observes the animals in her world, makes friends with them, and asks curious questions your child has wondered too. The opening is so incredibly relatable to little ones, they pretty much fall in love.

Winter tells the story of a little girl, inspired by the books she reads high up in a tree . . . dreaming to live with the apes like Tarzan or to talk to the animals like Dr. Doolittle. And your children will be dreaming too.

Following Jane from London to Gombe, Tanzania, kiddos will see the hard work, perseverance, and hardship that’s needed to make those dreams come true. They’ll gain an understanding of the world of chimps, and make bonds with the funny little creatures as the story unfolds. The bright illustrations get children watching too . . . watching out for the chimps that Jane doesn’t immediately see.

Winter does a wonderful job of explaining the impact we have on our environment and on the animals that share our planet. Children will applaud Jane’s conservation efforts, and her courage.

Take it further: Follow up your reading with a day outside. Pull out a pair of binoculars or a magnifying glass and spend some time looking at the creatures in your world.

If your kids are really getting into the observation thing, or need a little extra encouragement, The Looking Book by P.K. Hallinan is a nice complement to this biography. A fictional picture book, it’s a story of two boys, given a pair of “lookers” by their mom, who end up having loads of fun discovering the world around them.

If it’s more chimps your kids want, watch Disneynature’s documentary, Chimpanzee. A kid-friendly doc about a toddler chimp separated from his troop and adopted by a tough alpha male.

The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau

By Dan Yaccarino

The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau is a beautiful story of a young boy who turned to the sea for strength and ended up discovering the ocean’s many mysteries for the entire world to see. It brings to light the importance of perseverance, ingenuity, and responsibility.

The simple, straightforward text and the bright, bold illustrations make this a great introduction to biography. Yaccarino really takes children on Cousteau’s journey. It’s an impressive path from a sickly child tinkering with contraptions to becoming the inventor of underwater breathing gear and waterproof cameras, and then the world’s ambassador of oceans.

If your child is fascinated with great white sharks, dolphins, or giant squids, pick this book up. It’s pure inspiration for any future marine biologist!

Take it further: Take a trip out to your local aquarium. Get your kids thinking about what it would have been like for Jacques Cousteau to encounter, for the first time, some of the creatures you see on display.

Invest in a pair of goggles and maybe some flippers. Visit your favorite swimming hole – the beach, a lake, or stream – and let the kids experience what it’s like to observe underwater.

Watch one of Jacques Cousteau’s own films or pick from some of the newer ocean documentaries like the Blue Planet series. Done watching? Hand over your cell phone and let your kids make their own documentaries (not underwater, of course). Any subject will do . . . a pet, a bird nesting outside, or a tiger at the zoo.

A Boy and a Jaguar

By Alan Rabinowitz 

This autobiography is an absolute masterpiece . . . completely inspirational for children and quite the tearjerker for most adults. It just hits you in the gut with its beauty.

It’s a story of Alan, a little boy with a big stuttering problem, who only gets his words out correctly when he’s hidden in his closet with his pets – that or whispering to the big cats at the Bronx Zoo. Otherwise, he feels broken.

As he realizes that his animal friends share his inability to speak, he makes them one very important promise: if he ever gets his words to come out right, he will speak on their behalf.

When little Alan grows up to be a fluent stutterer and a wildlife conservationist, he speaks out for the animals that weren’t as fortunate. He keeps his promise and he champions them to presidents and governments. He gives his all to protect those who still have no voice.

Your children will have a lot of questions about stuttering, and a greater respect for any peers with disabilities. They will see firsthand what it means to beat all odds.

Take It Further: Consider taking a trip to the zoo or the local pet store.  Have the children imagine what the creatures would say, if they could talk.  For older kids, you could ask them to write a fictional piece on meeting a jaguar in the jungle, and the secrets it told.

Get on the computer and pull up clips of Alan Rabinowitz telling his story live. They’ll hear firsthand the amazing strides he’s taken to be able to tell his tale. Get your kids thinking about any challenges they’ve overcome or are still facing. Imagine together how they can achieve their dreams.

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Tags : picture books   biographies   

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