by Whit Gibbons

November 21, 2010

A publisher of wildlife books recently said, "We are coming into the season when people like to donate money for tax deductions. You write a check to the World Wildlife Fund or Conservation International, and what happens to the money? Beats me. But when someone buys a book about nature for their local public or school library we know what happens: Kids learn. Adults, too."

Actually, monetary contributions to the World Wildlife Fund, Conservation International and other conservation organizations such as the Audubon Society and the Nature Conservancy are put to good use. And I feel certain each organization can tell you which environmental causes your money helps support. Nonetheless, the donate-a-wildlife-book idea has merit, especially for people who cannot afford more than a small investment in a worthwhile environmental cause.

If your focus is on children, select books you think will enhance environmental education and give them to the public school of your choice. To decide what books to give, go to a local bookstore and check out the nature, wildlife, and science sections. Identify age-appropriate books about wildlife and the environment that you think local schools should have in their libraries. For example, high school students should have access to classics like Aldo Leopold's "Sand County Almanac" and "Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit" by Al Gore. Younger students will enjoy books on living plants and animals, on dinosaurs, and on the physical environment such as the ocean, weather and volcanoes. If you want to include adults as well as children in your environmental education project, donate books to your public library.

A comprehensive list of publishers or book titles would constitute a book in itself, but a few suggestions come immediately to mind. Johns Hopkins University Press publishes a variety of nature and wildlife books. "Owls of the United States and Canada: A Complete Guide to Their Biology and Behavior" and "Sea Turtles: A Complete Guide to Their Biology, Behavior, and Conservation" have facts and photographs that will captivate children and adults. Either would be an outstanding choice for a school or public library.

Books about regional flora and fauna also make good choices. The University of Georgia Press is noted for its Wormsloe Foundation Nature Books, including "Trees of the Southeastern United States," "Weeds of the South" and "Dragonflies and Damselflies of Georgia and the Southeast." All these books should be in every public library in the Southeast. The Press's "Snakes of the Southeast," which won the National Outdoor Book Award, and the four others in the reptile and amphibian series (about turtles, frogs and toads, lizards and crocodilians, and salamanders) are suitable for K-12 school libraries and public libraries.

State-oriented nature books are excellent additions to the local library. For example, "Wildflowers of Alabama and Adjoining States" (University of Alabama Press) should be in all public libraries in Alabama; "A Guide to the Wildflowers of South Carolina" (University of South Carolina Press) should be in South Carolina libraries. "Florida's Fabulous Spiders" (World Publications [CA]), "Field Guide to Wild Mushrooms of Pennsylvania and the Mid-Atlantic" (Pennsylvania State University Press) and "Mammals of Texas" (University of Texas Press) would all be popular in local school libraries. Many books of this nature may serve as sources of regional information and need not be restricted to a single state.

These suggestions are of course only examples. The book you donate might reflect your own environmental interests; it might elucidate an ecological issue in your community; it might fill a gap in a particular library's collection. The goal is to make a donation to a local school or public library that will benefit readers in some way. Identify your audience, research which book(s) to give, then make your donation.

Donating a book to a library would seem to be a win-win situation, producing nothing but positive returns for givers and recipients. In fact I wonder why book giving hasn't become the standard charity gift for everyone. Make a difference. Give a book.

If you have an environmental question or comment, email

(Back to Ecoviews)