For Earth Day, author Patricia Daniels explains why climate change should be treated with some lightness when writing for children.

Climate change is an important topic but also an anxious one for children. When writing How to Teach Grown-Ups About Climate Change, I took a positive and even funny approach precisely because it’s such a stressful subject. Stress comes from trying
to control something you can’t control, so How To Teach Grown-Ups shows kids that they have agency and the power to influence not just the adults in their own lives but even the adults who run things in their own country. Taking action, even in small ways, is a fantastic way to relieve anxiety and feel good about yourself and the future.

It’s not all bad news.

Darkness and doom are the weapons of climate deniers, anyway. They keep us from
moving forward. We have to take away those weapons. There’s a lot of good news in
the world that kids and their grown-ups might not know, which can encourage them to
get out there and participate.

Children as influencers

Research shows that children strongly influence their parents when it comes to
learning about and advocating for climate solutions. Anything that keeps a climate
dialogue going between parent and child gives that child real power.
Humour in particular, is a great tool, not just for relieving stress but also for conveying
information on an otherwise serious topic. It’s engaging and even empowering, and it
helps to keep things in perspective. Obviously, kids enjoy the funny stuff, and it keeps
them reading.

But it IS a serious subject!

Climate change itself isn’t funny—but people are funny. Animals are funny. Humour
keeps kids and their adults involved with the information and wanting to turn the next
page, so I included the silly bits that made me laugh while researching the
science. Methane emissions aren’t funny, but cow burps are. Wind turbines aren’t
amusing, but the fact that some folks believed UFOs were knocking them down is
hilarious. Kids and parents need not just information but permission to relax and have
some fun as they talk about a big subject.

Books are a safe space.

It’s also healthy for kids not to be too online. Nonfiction books can be better, calmer
sources for information about climate change than the internet. The internet does have
some solid information from reputable people and organizations, but you have to be
VERY CAREFUL, because the internet is also chock-full of misinformation,
disinformation (deliberate misinformation), and wild pronouncements. It’s easy to freak
out after scrolling through the online world.

Encourage research of credible sources and fact-checking

Any respectable nonfiction book will be thoroughly researched, vetted by experts, and
scrutinized by fact-checkers before it’s released. That was certainly the case with my
book. I was very lucky to have the brilliant Dr. Michael Mann as a consultant to make
sure everything was factually correct and as up-to-date as possible. Dr. Michael Mann is not just one of the world’s leading climatologists; he’s also a specialist in climate
communication, so his help was invaluable.

So, to teach children about climate change, give them agency. Stay upbeat. Have a
sense of humour. Avoid alarmism and bogus scenarios of the end of the world. Help
them detect misinformation. And tell them that kids like them are heroes for leading the
way—because they absolutely are.

Book Jacket

How to Teach Grown-Ups About Climate Change by Patricia Daniels, illustrated by Aaron Blecha, is out now in hardback (£9.99, What on Earth!)

The book is available from our bookseller for £5.90

We have curated a collection of books for Earth Day, which are available from our partner bookseller