Blogger Tess Prendergast

How to Support Children’s Climate Knowledge 

In this post I want to discuss the informative and supportive roles that libraries and librarians can have in environmental & climate emergency responses, beginning in early childhood. 

What do you need to know about children and the climate? 

Direct impacts:  Children involved in climate events (floods, fires, famines, etc.) are more vulnerable to harm due to their physical  immaturity and suceptibility to illnesses that can result from such disasters. 

Indirect impacts:  Children also bear the brunt of indirect effects such as economic dislocation and migration. These effects are even more pronounced in less developed global regions and are worse for children from lower-socio-economic classes. 

Cumulative impacts: Longer term impacts on families like PTSD, depression, and anxiety that follow experiences in climate disasters impact parents as well as their children which increases the likelihood of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). 

Beyond recycling

How do we help children understand environment & climate issues? As adults, we need to collectively address our own denial of the climate crisis so that all children learn what they need to know now. While we need to be truthful, we should also focus on positive signs of change and talk about past successes that addressed other crises. Doing so will help to build and sustain hope while offsetting climate anxiety and feelings of helplessness. As adults, we can cultivate and continually work to build children’s appreciation and love of the natural world. This will model a caretaking attitude towards the environment and a motivation to be part of solutions that will address imminent and emerging threats to our planet. We can model pro-environment, pro-social behaviour and talk openly about what still needs to change in order to address the climate crisis. Finally, in our community work, we can foster children’s involvement in local and global climate actions from childhood onwards. 

Agentive kids

Children have a right to be involved in climate justice movements. UNCRC Article 12 states that every child has the right to express their views on matters that affect them, and for their views to be taken into consideration. As children are at heightened risk from climate change, they should have a say in how it is addressed to safeguard their futures. Even very young children can participate in climate action in their communities. Read more about how youth are involved in climate action at on the UN Climate Action page Voices of Change .

What you can do to support children’s climate knowledge

Collections

  • Curate, display, and promote collections of books on environmental and sustainability topics for children of all ages. Involve children and young adults in collection development. Here’s a great list from Multnomah County Library to Get you started: Nature and Ecology for grades K-3

Services

  • Include climate-themed materials within all information services. Make sure your community knows the library is the place to learn about the climate crisis for people of all ages. Talk to other agencies about what they are doing to support climate justice movements. Check out ALA’s Resilient Communities: Libraries Respond to Climate Change resources. 

Programs

  • Incorporate climate-themed materials and activities in programs for children and families. Host climate-themed storytimes, book-clubs for older kids that explore books on climate topics and other community gatherings that address climate and environment issues. Start with this great book list from Sno-Isle LibrariesEnvironmental Picture Books

As citizens of the world, we are all learning what we need to as climate emergencies become more frequent, and more dramatic. As information professionals, we are already enmeshed in system of responses to climate change and its effects. Look out for my next post which will include a list of picture books on environmental and climate themes.

Resources for further reading on climate issues, children, and what we can do about it: 

Benevento, S. V. (2023). Communicating climate change risk to children: A thematic analysis of children’s literature. Early Childhood Education Journal, 51(2), 201-210. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10643-021-01294-y

Climate Change Books for Kids (ALSC Blog post)

Early Childhood Matters 2021 

Ginsburg, J. L., & Audley, S. (2020). “You don’t wanna teach little kids about climate change”: Beliefs and barriers to sustainability education in early childhood.International Journal of Early Childhood Environmental Education, 7(3), 42.

Sanson, A.V., Burke, S.E.L. (2020). Climate Change and Children: An Issue of Intergenerational Justice. In: Balvin, N., Christie, D.J. (eds) Children and Peace. Peace Psychology Book Series. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-22176-8_21

Sustainability and Children’s Services (ALSC Blog post)

Do you have any other climate themed resources to share? Please add them in the comments! 

A brown haired woman is smiling and looking straight ahead
Blogger Tess Prendergast

Tess Prendergast worked as a children’s librarian for 23 years. She has a PhD in early literacy education and now teaches librarianship and children’s literature courses at The School of Information, University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, Canada. She currently facilitates the ALSC Preschool Discussion group and has served on both the Geisel (2023) and Caldecott (2016) committees.

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