Picture books are a great entry point to many difficult conversations with our kids. Read on for more about this creative project to help kids connect with and understand the global social and environmental justice goals as defined by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in an age-appropriate way.
This picture book list is part of a series of picture book lists that align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. We’ve created a picture book list for each of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as well as a FREE coloring poster to track progress and explore the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals with kids.
Learn More & Download The Free Coloring Poster
To learn more about the FREE coloring poster and see all 17 picture book lists, head to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Coloring Poster and Picture Book List homepage. Alternatively, simply sign up for our email list below and receive a link to download the FREE coloring poster.
What Are The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals?
In 2015, the United Nations adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a collective framework for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. The Sustainable Development Goals have broad intentions to end poverty and other deprivations while recognizing the need to simultaneously improve health and education, reduce inequality, spur economic growth, and tackle climate change.
Clean Water & Sanitation | United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #6
Billions of people around the world do not have safe drinking water. Even fewer communities have safely managed sanitation. Poor water quality and improper sanitation can lead to serious illness. When community members have to travel long distances to obtain clean water, they also often lose out on educational opportunities as well. As a result of climate change, more people are being displaced because they no longer have access to water.
The sixth United Nations Sustainable Development Goal creates a framework for ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. This goal reflects the need for better management of freshwater supplies to ensure clean water is available while also enhancing infrastructure to provide adequate sanitation management systems for everyone.
Videos To Understand the Global Goals
To accompany the picture book list, these videos are great introductions to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (also called the Global Goals) for students in Primary and Secondary Schools.
Understand Goal 6: Clean Water & Sanitation (Primary)
Understand Goal 6: Clean Water & Sanitation (Secondary)
A Note On Buying and Borrowing Books
We’ve included affiliate links to each of the books below. If you purchase through one of these links, Raising Global Kidizens earns a very small commission that has no impact on your purchase price.
If you can find the books from your local library, from a friend, at an independent bookstore, or through a used book shop, those sources are ideal. Using the library is zero waste, saves money, and saves space in your home because you can read all the books without storing all the books on your bookshelves. If you’re not sure of the best way to use your local library, check out these tips to make the most of your local library. With a little exposure, your kids will learn to LOVE the library!
If you prefer to listen to audiobooks, we recommend using Libro.fm, our favorite audiobook app. We’ve tried several audiobook apps and love that Libro.fm supports independent bookstores and offers a great user experience.
Picture Books About Clean Water & Sanitation
The following picture books about clean water focus primarily on protecting our water supplies to ensure we have sufficient clean water for everyone on the planet.
We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom
Inspired by the many Indigenous-led movements across North America, this book issues an urgent rallying cry to safeguard the Earth’s water from harm and corruption.
Ages 3-6 | Pages 40
Song of the River by Joy Cowley & Kimberly Andrews
One little boy who lives in the forest near a stream longs to see the sea. One day, he follows the stream as it becomes a babbling brook, turns into a river, and eventually flows out into the sea. His dream comes true as he takes in the breadth of the ocean and grows even more enamored with the water that starts as a tiny stream near his house. I absolutely loved this book and thought it had great illustrations.
Ages 5-8 | Pages 32
The Secret Of Black Rock by Joe Todd-Stanton
Too often, we don’t appreciate nature when we can’t understand it. Such is the case when a seemingly large rock formation routinely creates apparent danger for local fishermen. The town residents decide to destroy the rock, but a little girl saves the rock after discovering how much life it supports just below the surface of the water. The book encourages children to respect our environment and look beyond what something might initially appear to be. First impressions aren’t always true.
Ages 3-7 | Pages 40
Let’s Investigate with Nate #1: The Water Cycle by Nate Ball
Ever wonder where water comes from and where it goes? Or why sometimes it rains and sometimes it snows? This book goes on an adventure with curious scientists as they shrink down smaller than a raindrop to see firsthand what the water cycle is all about. This book mixes just the right amount of story with science and text with illustration to teach young learners the basics of the water cycle. Most adults will probably learn a thing or two as well!
Ages 4-8 | Pages 40
Hey Water! by Antoinette Portis
Join a young girl as she explores her surroundings and sees that water is everywhere. But water doesn’t always look the same, it doesn’t always feel the same, and it shows up in lots of different shapes. This is a fun book about all the ways and forms in which water shows up in our lives.
Ages 4-8 | Pages 48
Save The Ocean by Bethany Stahl
With beautiful and charming illustrations, as well as a lovable sea turtle named Agwe, I loved reading this to my boys. The book has a heartwarming lesson of recycling and conservation that is just right for kids.
Ages 0-8 | Pages 34
Down, Down, Down: A Journey To The Bottom of the Sea by Steve Jenkins
This non-fiction picture book takes the reader through the sea starting from the surface and gradually moving deeper into the ocean. With each page, the readers learn about the creatures that live in that part of the ocean and how they rely on each other. It’s a really interesting book, but maybe a little complicated for younger readers. This is best suited for elementary-aged students and older.
Ages 4-7 | Pages 40
Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau by Jennifer Berne
Supported by bright and colorful illustrations, readers learn the story of a world-famous sea explorer and oceanographer who fell in love with the sea at an early age. The story highlights some of the wonderful and important discoveries Cousteau shared with the world that he uncovered during his dives. In order to appreciate and take care of our oceans and water, it helps to understand the beauty of what’s beneath the surface, and I think this book shares that in a way children will enjoy.
Ages 6-9 | Pages 40
The Mess That We Made by Michelle Lord
This book explores the environmental impact of trash and plastic on the ocean and marine life, and it inspires kids to do their part to combat pollution. The first half of the book portrays the growing magnitude of the issue, and the second half rallies children and adults to make the necessary changes to save our oceans.
Ages 5-7 | Pages 32
Blue Planet: Life In Our Oceans and Rivers by Moira Butterfield
Water covers most of our planet and is imperative to our world. This book highlights the many different ecosystems that thrive in the water around the world and the animals that live in each of them. It also discusses why water is important, how humans use water, and how we can protect the water to keep it clean and safe. My little guy loves this book as well as its sister book Green Planet: Life In Our Woods and Forests.
Ages 6-9 | Pages 32
Saving Tally: An Adventure into the Great Pacific Plastic Patch by Serena Lane Ferrari
Tally and Ara are curious little friends who sometimes get into trouble. The most dangerous part of the ocean is about to shock Tally and Ara and make them realize that their underwater world isn’t always charming. Will they be able to escape the danger of plastic pollution in the ocean?
Ages 3-12 | Pages 37
River by Elisha Cooper
Through flowing prose and stunning watercolor scenes, readers follow a traveler’s trek down the Hudson River as she and her canoe explore the wildlife, flora and fauna, and urban landscape at the river’s edge. Through perilous weather and river rushes, the canoe and her captain survive and maneuver their way down the river back home.
Ages 4-8 | Pages 48
I Can Save The Ocean by Alison Inches
A little green monster heads to the beach and realizes how much trash is in the ocean. He decides to start cleaning up the beach and follows the trash back to its source to help readers understand how trash ends up in our ocean and how we can prevent it from getting there. It’s a cute story told in a way that is really accessible to younger children.
Ages 4-6 | Pages 24
Ocean: A Peek-Through Picture Book by Britta Teckentrup
This colorful picture book with cutouts on each page shows readers so many wonderful and interesting creatures that live in the ocean. The book is written in rhymes and is simple enough for the young listeners while also holding the interest of older children.
Ages 3-7 | Pages 32
Why Should I Save Water? by Jen Green
This is a great book for young children to hear the story about saving water through the eyes of a little boy and his neighborhood friend. His friend stops by and they talk about why they need to be careful about how much water they use and all the ways kids can save water in their own homes. This is great for children of all ages and includes bright, engaging illustrations as well.
Ages 4-7 | Pages 32
Touch The Earth by Julian Lennon
While not exclusively about water, this book takes readers on an adventure around the world on the White Feather Flier showing them all the ways that water is important to the planet and our communities. Readers push buttons and interact with the book to learn ways they can help ensure we have clean and sufficient water for all living organisms on our planet.
Ages 3-6 | Pages 40
Do you have any other books that help kids understand how important clean water is and the things we can do to ensure everyone has clean water and proper sanitation? Leave your recommendations in the comments so we can check them out!
Download a Printable Book List and Library List
We’ve created a printable PDF of this book list that you can have as a resource for later. It includes images of each of the book covers as well as a single page of titles and authors to take to the library if you prefer to check out books while you visit. To download the list, drop your email address in the sign-up form below. After confirming your email address, you’ll receive the printable booklist in just a few minutes.
And if you have not done so already, be sure to check out the other booklists aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and print out the FREE Coloring Poster!
About The Author
Jen Panaro, a co-founder of Raising Global Kidizens, is a self-proclaimed composting nerd and an advocate for sustainable living for modern families. She’s also a serial library book borrower and a messy gardener.
As a mom to two boys, she is passionate about helping families be more responsible stewards to their communities and the planet. She also owns Honestly Modern, an online space focused on eco-friendly living for modern families.