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7 arbor day books that will make your students want to plant a tree

Arbor Day is a pivotal time in US history that encourage many other countries to follow suit and protect trees of their own. Planting trees, sustaining tree life, and protecting our Earth is vital! This is another one of my favorite topics to teach in class (as Earth is my FAVORITE holiday) and here are four special books I feature in my classroom (with three extra we use at home).  PLUS, read through to the end for a FREE “Arbor Day” reading passage.

The Tree Lady

A book called The Tree Lady written by H. Joseph Hopkins. With a girl laying in a meadow surrounded by trees.

The Tree Lady is a wonderful non-fiction story about a young girl named Katherine Sessions. She loved defying odds, working hard, and paving her own way. As a young girl, she was always surrounded by trees. So, when she moved from the redwoods of California to the dry, and baron city of San Diego she was shocked! She worked hard to study the life of the land, wrote many letters to people across the world, all in search for trees that could live and become sustainable in San Diego. Read more to find out how Katherine became the Mother of Balboa Park.

Wangari's Trees of Peace

A book called Wangari's Trees of Peace written by Jeanette Winter. A lady is planting tiny trees in the ground.

This incredibly motivating true story is about a woman named Wangari Maathai. As a child she grew up in Africa, helping her mother collect fire wood and gather crops. As she grew older she earned a scholarship to the United States and was gone for several years. When she returned to Africa she was shocked to see so much baron land, without trees, and many new buildings being erected. She knew she had to plant a small seed of hope and started in her own backyard. Along the way she enlisted the help of more women to plant seed after seed. Though Wangari faced many dangers and troubles from the government, she never gave up planting.


A book called Redwoods written by Jason Chin. A boy wearing a backpack stands in the middle of the Redwood Forest.

This book is a class favorite! While it seems like a ‘story' on the outside, the reader is actually sucked into an informational world of vision. The author does an amazing job explaining the origin of Redwoods, their features, fun facts, and more! The illustrator, is also Jason Chin! He creates beautiful graphics for the reader to imagine what Redwoods are like based on the information provided. This is a MUST have!

The Great Kapok Tree: A Tale of the Amazon Rain Forest

A book called The Great Kapok Tree written by Lynne Cherry. It features a tree in the middle of the Amazon Rain Fores surrounded by creatures and one boy looking up at it.

This book takes the main character on a journey deep into the Amazon Rain Forest. He has his eyes set on chopping down The Great Kapok Tree, but he is finding it too difficult to do. Along the way, he is reminded by animals, tribes, and more of the great importance of this tree. Filled with important information of conservation and sustainability, your students will enjoy!


Are you looking for a few more books to discuss the importance of trees or how to protect the planet? We use these additional three books in our home, however, they are perfect for early elementary up to fourth grade (maybe even fourth).

We Planted a Tree written by Diane Muldrow.

The Apples on the Tree written by Steve Metzger.

A Tree is Nice written by Janice May Udry.


Even after you take time to read one of these books, brainstorming and discussing ideas about trees (in general) can be satisfying! Whether it's deciding if you can hold a tree-planting ceremony at school, or planting a tree at home. It can be so exhilarating to give back to the Earth. We take time to dive a little deeper into the meaning of Arbor Day and why it exists by using these differentiated reading passages. Then we compare it to a story we have read.

Take a little time to discuss the history of Arbor Day with your students by grabbing an example of the set mentioned above. You will receive the first differentiated passage with a writing prompt template.

How do you discuss Arbor Day in your classroom? What are your favorite mentor texts? Let me know in the comments.


Seven books about trees and how to use in your classroom blog post picture.

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