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I recently completed a preschool ocean unit with my two kids, 4-year-old QBoy and 3-year-old XGirl. During our unit, we had the opportunity to read a number of books about the ocean. In this post I’m describing 10 books we read about the ocean so you can decide if one or more of them would be enjoyable for your children to read.
Note: For more resources, printables and activities related to the ocean and its inhabitants, please see my ocean unit study page.
As part of our ocean unit, we of course read many books related to the ocean and the animals that live within. Here is a list of 10 wonderful books about the ocean for kids.
Hello Ocean by Pam Muñoz Ryan
With rhyming text and illustrations so life-like you might mistake them for photographs, this book provides a beautiful introduction to the ocean from the perspective of a young girl. The opening text reads: “Hello, ocean, my old best friend. I’m here, with the five of me again!” The “five” referred to is the young narrator’s five senses. In the pages that follow, the narrator introduces young readers to the sights, sounds, feel, smells, and tastes of the ocean as she experiences them.
Somewhere in the Ocean by Jennifer Ward
This beautiful counting book with rhyming text introduces children to 10 ocean animals through a repetitive text that will captive young readers. Children who recognize their numbers will enjoy finding the hidden number on each page that corresponds to the number of animals referenced in the text. In the back of the book is additional information on the various animals and plants found in the book. Musically-inclined parents will enjoy the sheet music that will allow them to play music to accompany the words in the book.
Over in the Ocean: In a Coral Reef by Marianne Berkes
Although this book has a different author and illustrator, it follows the same structure as Somewhere in the Ocean, but with a focus on life in a coral reef. Children will count from 1 to 10 as each page introduces a new animal along with an action that animal does, such as squirting for octopuses or puffing for pufferfish. This book is worth reading for the cheerful illustrations alone, but pairing the illustrations with fun facts about life in the coral reef make this book a real treat that children will enjoy for years to come.
The Magic School Bus on the Ocean Floor by Joanna Cole
This book from the Magic School Bus series takes readers on an under-water adventure. Although the story itself is fictional, there is so much factual information about the ocean jam-packed into this book it can feel a bit overwhelming. The story leads young readers through the intertidal zone where they meet animals such as sea stars and sea urchins, the continental shelf zone where they meet squid, lobsters, and schools of fish, the continental slope where they meet sharks, the deep ocean floor where there is little light to see, and a coral reef. Children will enjoy the fantastical story of a magic school bus while learning a great deal about the geology and animals of the ocean.
My Visit to the Aquarium by Aliki
For most of us who aren’t scuba divers or submariners, the only way we’ll have the opportunity to see most ocean animals up close is at an aquarium. Aliki’s illustrations are based on several real-life aquariums, and show a diverse group of children and adults visiting aquarium exhibits that include a tide pool, a three-story kelp jungle, a muggy tropical rain forest and a coral reef. The text includes some details about some of the animals that will fascinate children, such as the fact that divers feed the fish “so they will not be tempted to eat each other.” The book also includes additional information to promote conservation of these ocean animals.
Swimmy by Leo Lionni
Aside from introducing a variety of ocean animals in the beautiful artwork, this story also has two other important themes. The first is the importance of being yourself, even when you are different from everyone else. Little Swimmy is the only fish among all his brothers and sisters who is black instead of red. He was also the fastest swimmer, which allowed him to be the only fish in his family to escape when a bigger fish came to eat them. The second theme in this story is the importance of working with others to accomplish bigger goals. When Swimmy eventually finds a new family, he teaches them to band together in order to scare away the much bigger fish.
One Tiny Turtle by Nicola Davies
Sea turtles are fascinating creatures, and this book goes into depth regarding the life cycle of the loggerhead turtle. Readers will follow along as a turtle spends 30 years in the sea before returning to the beach where she was born to lay her eggs. Those eggs then hatch, and the baby turtles begin a their treacherous journey across the beach that will captivate young children. Supplementary information about the turtles is included on several pages to provide additional facts.
In The Ocean by A.J. Wood
This book has rhyming text and an appealing storyline. Children will enjoy following baby dolphin as he searches for his family and meets a variety of other sea animals along the way. But what really makes this book a winner for young readers is the interactive touch-and-feel experience it provides. Children will enjoy feeling furry sea otter, a scaly fish, and a lumpy lobster shell, among others.
Is This a House for Hermit Crab? by Megan Mcdonald
Hermit crab has grown too big for his shell and needs to find a new home. So he crawls out of the sea across the sand – “scritch-scratch, scritch-scratch” – in search of a suitable object for him to inhabit. Children will have fun following along as he checks out a rock, some driftwood, a can, and other potential homes. Eventually, hermit crab finds an empty sea snail’s shell that makes the perfect home.
An Octopus Is Amazing by Patricia Lauber
This book provides a comprehensive introduction to the octopus with a level of details that is appropriate for young children. The illustrations pair nicely with the text to enhance the information that is provided. Children will love learning these fun facts about octopuses, such as the fact that they are very intelligent, have the ability to change colors, and can squirt black ink to escape from predators.
More resources for learning about the ocean
More ocean posts from Gift of Curiosity:
- Ocean Montessori activities
- Learning about ocean animals
- Salt water and waves science
- Shell activities
- Blubber experiment
- Ocean animals book & 3-part cards
- Ocean Printables Pack
- Ocean Do-a-Dot Printables
- Ocean I Spy