Habitats Recommended Reading
The following is a list of recommended books, videos, and audio recordings that provide a wide range of reading and research resources for this unit. Collect as many as you can for your classroom science library, or provide the list to your school or local librarian.
The Human Habitat
The books listed below concern how humans around the world interact within their habitat. Some offer ideas and examples of environmental stewardship.
By Sneed B. Collard and Action for Nature. (2000, Heyday Books)
Fifteen true and inspiring stories of what young people from all around the world have done to protect their natural environment.
By Molly Cone; photographs by Sidnee Wheelwright. (1992, Little, Sierra Club Books for Children)
This book can serve as inspiration for the class stewardship project. Documented by recorded conversations and photographs, this true story is about the adoption of a polluted stream by an elementary school and middle school in Everett, Washington. The children clean up the stream, educate their community to help keep it clean, and restock the stream with salmon they have hatched in school. After two years of suspense about whether the released salmon will return to the stream to spawn, the children are rewarded when salmon return from the sea for the first time in more that 20 years.
By Peter Menzel; (1994, Sierra Club Books)
This book focuses on statistically average families from 30 countries all around the globe. Each family is photographed in front of their home surrounded by all their possessions. Although the reading level is geared toward higher grades, the photographs themselves provide an excellent opportunity for the children to examine the wants and needs of people from different cultures.
Plants and Animals in Their Habitats
This list includes books about the characteristics of specific animals and plants, and how they live within their habitats.
By Jim Arnoski.(1995, Scholastic Inc.)
This excellent, age-appropriate book is clearly written and gives readers a glimpse of the owls’ night world. The book examines the special features an owl has that help it fit in its environment, as well as highlighting 12 common owls seen in North America.
By Jonathan P. Latimer and Karen Stray Nolting; illustrated by Roger Tory Peterson. (1999, Houghton Mifflin Co.)
This simple guidebook includes a photograph of each bird as well as scientific illustrations to help identify it. The behavior, habitat, voice, and food of each bird are easy to find and read.
By Sneed B. Collard. (2002, Charlesbridge Publishing)
This book describes and illustrates the special features of more than 20 birds’ bills, as they probe, crush, tear, tap, skim, scoop, stab, pry, and dig. An easy-to-read sentence about each bill, set in large type, is supplemented by more lengthy, factual information for confident readers.
By William T. George and Lindsey Barrett George; illustrated by Lindsey Barrett George. (1988, Greenwillow Books)
Easy-to-read text is combined with beautiful illustrations to give children a detailed look at how a beaver interacts in its pond environment.
By William T. George; illustrated by Lindsay Barrett George. (1989, Greenwillow Books)
This beautifully illustrated book follows a box turtle through a day of foraging, basking, and finding shelter. The turtle and the plants and animals that share its habitat are all painted in loving detail.
By Brenda Z. Guiberson; illustrated by Megan Lloyd. (1991, Henry Holt and Company)
This “biography” tells the story of a giant saguaro cactus that grows to a height of fifty feet and a weight of eight tons. Over its lifetime of 200 years, it houses a rotating population of insects, mammals, reptiles, and birds. Even after it falls, it shelters a new set of living things. The book’s simple text and vivid pictures portray a desert full of colorful and active life.
Claws, Coats, and Camouflage: The Ways Animals Fit into Their Worlds
By Susan E. Goodman; photographs by Michael J. Doolittle. (2001, Millbrook Press)
This excellent book about animals is a companion to Seeds, Stems, and Stamens about plants. It discusses how animals fit into their environments, stay safe, get food, and make a new generation. Each right-hand page gives a brief statement, a color photo, and the question “What’s this animal’s adaptation?” The following page answers the question with careful descriptions and more photos.
By Barbara Bash. (1989, Little, Brown and Company in conjunction with Sierra Club Books)
This account of the life cycle of a saguaro cactus teaches children about the animals that are sheltered and fed by the cactus, and tells how humans use the cactus.
Fly Traps: Plants that Bite Back
By Martin Jenkins; illustrated by David Parkins. (1996, Candlewick Press)
This is an easy to read book that introduces children to carnivorous plants. It talks specifically about bladderworts, sundews, Venus fly traps, cobra lilies, and pitcher plants.
Microhabitats Series: Life in a Tide Pool; Life in a Pond; Life in a Flowerbed; Life in a Cave; Life in a Tree
By Clare Oliver. (2002, Raintree Publishers)
A series of books with full-color photographs and large type, written at an upper-elementary reading level. A brief introduction to the “microhabitat” of each title is followed by a description of its physical conditions, its inhabitants, and its ecological importance.
My Favorite Tree: Terrific Trees of North America
By Diane Iverson. (1997, Harcourt Brace & Company)
This is a terrific, age appropriate reference book that not only describes 26 native trees of North America, but also identifies organisms that depend on each tree for survival. Listed next to each beautiful illustrated tree is a description of its traits, such as habitat, height, bark, leaves, flowers and seeds, as well as interesting facts about historical uses of the tree. Although this book is no longer in print, you might look for it at your local library.
By Emery Bernhard; illustrated by Durga Bernhard. (1997, Harcourt Brace & Company)
This is an engaging, age-appropriate book that examines the life of prairie dogs, their burrowing system, and their place in the landscape. This is a great book for learning about habitats within the American Prairie.
Seeds, Stems, and Stamens: The Ways Plants Fit into Their World
By Susan E. Goodman; photographs b Michael J. Dolittle. (2001, Millbrook Press)
This excellent book about plants is a companion to Claws, Coats, and Camouflage about animals. It discusses how plants fit into their environments, get sun, get water and nutrients, stay safe, make new plants, and “get revenge.” Each right-hand page gives a brief statement (such as “All living things need water to survive. In some regions, however, water is very scarce”), a color photo (such as a cactus), and the question “What’s this plant’s adaptation?” The following page answers the question with careful descriptions and more photos.
Small Worlds series: A Coral Reef, A Dead Log, A Freshwater Pond, A Rainforest Tree, A Saguaro Cactus, A Tidal Pool, In a Backyard, On the Tundra, Under a Stone.
By Jen Green, Adam Hibbert, or Philip Steele. (1999 or 2002, Crabtree Publishing)
This series of books provide facts and photographs about how plants and animals live together in a small environment and share their habitats. Some aspects of the books are appropriate for biomes research.
The Salamander Room
By Anne Mazer; illustrated by Steve Johnson & Lou Fancher. (1991, Dragonfly Books)
A boy brings a salamander home. As the boy answers his mother’s gentle questions (“Where will the salamander sleep?” “What will it eat?”), his bedroom is transformed into a forest habitat with no ceiling and plenty of room for birds to fly and trees to grow. Consider asking children to read this book to promote thinking about the differences between the mini-habitat in the Science Center and natural habitats.
Urban Roosts: Where Birds Nest in the City
By Barbara Bash. (1990, Little, Brown and Company, in conjunction with Sierra Club Books)
This book describes the sometime unexpected ways that birds—ranging from pigeon to peregrine, house finch to owl—have found habitats for themselves in human cities. The illustrations are detailed watercolors.
The list below includes books and videos recommended for children to use when studying world biomes.
Biomes of the World series: Chaparral, Desert, Grassland, Ocean, Rainforest, Taiga, Temperate Forest, Tundra
By Elizabeth Kaplan and Edward R. Ricciuti. (1996, Benchmark Books)
Each title in this series describes the distinguishing geography, plants, and animals of a specific biome. The texts are clearly written, and full-color photographs and diagrams amplify definitions. A color-keyed map in each book clearly illustrates worldwide biome locations and distributions.
Exploring Earth’s Biomes series: Coral Reef, Desert, Grassland, Lake and Pond, Ocean, River and Stream, Seashore, Taiga, Temperate Deciduous Forest, Tundra, Wetland
By Elizabeth Pulley Sayre. (1997, 21 st Century Books)
Look for titles from this series in your school library. They are well-organized books written for upper elementary and middle school students. Each is divided into sections such as physical features, plants, and animals. Concluding chapters discuss how humans impact each environment, followed by a list of environmental organizations and resources.
The Living Planet series: Baking Deserts, Frozen Worlds, Jungle, New Worlds, Northern Forests, Oceans, Seas of Grass
Produced by BBC/Time Life; narrated by David Attenborough. (Released 1984)
This classic documentary series provides some of the most spectacular sights and sounds of nature ever captured on film. They offer a memorable way to learn about the world’s biomes. The entire series includes 12 videos, but those listed above are most relevant to the Habitats unit.
One Small Square series: African Savanna, Arctic Tundra, Backyard, Cactus Desert, Cave, Coral Reef, Pond, Seashore, Swamp, Tropical Rain Forest, Woods
By Donald M. Silver; illustrated by Patricia J. Wynne. (1993-1999, McGraw-Hill)
This series provides a wealth of information about what you would see if you staked out one “one small square” of each place, and observed it closely through the seasons. Each book documents dozens of organisms, by peeking through microscopic views, under the ground or under water, inside stems or egg cases, even examining unobtrusive lichen or tiny bacteria. It also teaches, in context, the composition of soil, rock, and other components of each environment. Experiments and other activities are described in the margins of these books. The books are packed with so much information that children will probably not read them from cover to cover; however, they can learn a great deal just by dipping into a few pages.
One Day in the… series: Alpine Tundra; Desert; Prairie; Tropical Rain Forest; Woods
By Jean Craighead George. (1983-1999, HarperTrophy and Scholastic Inc.)
These short chapter books combine lyrical, suspenseful storytelling and expert nature writing to describe the animals and plants living in each setting. They include all of the information children need for their biomes research, but it is not presented in reference book form.