This afternoon I read aloud the book, How the Forest Grew by William Jaspersohn, to my son. It was a great introduction to the changes that occur in a forest and the process of succession. The text is simple and the ink drawings are serene & beautiful.
Before reading the book, I asked my son, "how did the forest get here?" He didn't have many thoughts on the topic and guessed that it was always there.
We spend a lot of time in the forest surrounding our house, but I don't think we ever talked about how it grew!
This book helped to explain that forests are constantly changing. It introduced the concept that different animals need different types of ecosystems. My son had never considered that the forest has different layers and had good ideas about the difference between the canopy and understory. His favorite portion of the book was how decaying matter makes humus, which makes sense because he is currently a self-described 'worm farmer'!
Though I didn't select this book for the purpose of explaining succession, I think that my son has really grasped the concept. This spring we have heard many trees falling in the woods. The idea that as older trees die they make room for younger trees is comforting to him. I think that this book helped reinforce that idea that changes in the woods is natural and that dying trees are part of the cycle.
This is a book that we will read several times, and I will use it as a starting point for new discussions. For instance, the book talks about changes that have occured over the last 200 years. When my son is older, creating a timeline to illustrate how the land went from a cleared farm to a healthy forest would be a great activity to do together.