ECO Bookworms cover of Pout Pout Fish Cleans Up the Ocean, APHA logoThe APHA Center for Climate, Health and Equity announces the launch of its new book club for early climate optimists — ECO Bookworms. On the second Tuesday of every month, the center will feature a new book geared toward readers ages 8 and younger. Public Health Newswire talked to Surili Patel, the center’s director, about the program.

Q: What inspired you to start a children’s climate change book club?

A: I travel to a lot of meetings around the U.S. with APHA, and I always find myself talking to other parents about our children when I’m there. I love telling stories about the biweekly library trips I make with my kids. We really enjoy them and always bring home a tote bag of books each to read together in the evenings. This is what I miss most when I’m away from home.

Because of my passion for the environment and health, I find myself pulling certain types of books off the shelves. At this point in my story, the parents I’m talking to at these meetings immediately ask for my family reading list. They value the same things that I do!

So I thought, “Why not start a platform to share books that can help us talk about the environment and health — and especially climate change and action — with our kids?” We can instill important values in future generations simply through stories and pictures. 

Q: How do you hope ECO Bookworms will help adults talk about climate issues with children, and why is it important to do so?

A: We've heard from teachers, parents and caregivers that they want to talk about these issues but don't necessarily know how to in a sensitive and age-appropriate way. Reading these books together will help inform young readers. And the talking points we’ll share through ECO Bookworms will equip adults to broach a conversation and answer questions.

Children are the future of the climate change discussion. It only makes sense to start integrating the lessons we’ve learned into their everyday experience now. ECO Bookworms encourages engagement and action. The books inform but also instill hope by focusing on solutions to what can be a scary problem. Discussions about the books can help children process their emotions about it all.

Q: How did you choose which books to include?

A: We were very careful in selecting our books. We looked for books that send a message of hope or action, are available in the public library system, include a diversity of characters and have a takeaway that isn’t scary or alarmist. We also asked other parents to share their favorite climate change, environmental or health books with us. We’re still accepting suggestions!

Q: How does ECO Bookworms factor into the Center for Climate, Health and Equity’s overall work?

A: The center is focused on training future generations to understand and take action on climate change. At the college and university level, we just selected five student groups out of over 40 applicants to create a campus experience during National Public Health Week to elevate climate justice and health conversations. We’re excited about these student champions and the future growth of the program. 

In April, we’ll launch a teaching climate change toolkit. It’s geared to high school students and will offer teachers, school administrators and parents an age-appropriate way to discuss the health impacts of climate change at this grade level.

Being a parent myself, I’m inspired by today’s youth climate activists. We want the center to offer a way to talk about these issues with younger children as well. While the books are recommended by the author or publisher for young readers, we think they can be of value when talking with older children too.

Q: What is your first book pick and why did you choose it?

A: Our first book selection for ECO Bookworms is "The Pout-Pout Fish Cleans Up the Ocean" by Deborah Diesen, which is published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. This is one of my kids’ favorite books and the one I talk most about with other parents.

In fact, it was while recommending this book that I thought: “Huh, wouldn’t this make for a great book club book?!” So staying true to the original idea of a platform for sharing books that focus on environment, climate and action, we’re sharing one of my favorites first!

For monthly book selections and discussion questions, bookmark the ECO Bookworms club webpage. Follow APHA on Facebook to share comments, photos and suggestions, and use the #ECOBookworms hashtag.