Kids, and their adults, can read together and get outside to explore using special Nature Investigation Backpacks. These backpacks can be checked out at select Licking County libraries and at the Licking Park District office at Infirmary Mound Park. Backpacks are filled with exploration tools such as binoculars, magnifying glasses, compasses, and more!

We can’t think of a better combination than reading a book and then making connections to the world outside! Perhaps you can even read a book while outside! The benefits of reading and being in nature are many.


Reading is a wonderful way to use creativity and imagination to explore the world. Studies have shown children who build an early foundation in reading often form a love of reading, an activity that enhances brain development, develops larger vocabularies, increases enunciation skills, and promotes better educational outcomes later in life. According to Nationwide Children’s, if a child is not proficient in reading by 3rd grade, they are at a higher risk for not graduating from high school.  Reading allows children to build connections to what they see in the world around them and their personal experiences, as well as helps them understand new situations which they may encounter in the future.

Likewise, time in nature is increasingly important at a time when children are spending less and less time outside. Twenty years ago children spent twice as much time outdoors as they do today, with children ages 3 to 12 often spending just 1% of their time outdoors currently. On average, children ages 8-12 in the United States spend 4-6 hours a day watching or using screens, and teens spend up to 9 hours. Too much screen time may lead to sleep problems, lower grades in school, weight and mood problems, and less time learning other ways to relax and have fun. This is despite the fact that studies routinely show children who spend more time outdoors involved in unstructured play and exploration have higher levels of physical activity, healthier weight, lower levels of behavioral and emotional problems, and even lower rates of nearsightedness. In addition, children with experience being outside in nature show greater stewardship of our natural resources and better mental health as adults.


  1. Check out a Nature Investigator Backpack from one of the following locations:
    1. Granville Public Library 
    2. Alexandria Public Library
    3. Homer Public Library
    4. Licking Park District office at Infirmary Mound Park
  2.  Check out books found on the BOOK LIST
    Each book has a corresponding Nature Investigation Card that can be printed from the links below. A copy of the cards can also be found in each backpack. The cards outline a series of outdoor exploration activities and links to additional resources.
  3. Fill out an Investigation Case Log
    2. The cards must be signed by both the student and an adult
  4.  For every FIVE books completed, you can earn a prize.
    Prizes include arrowheads, geodes, bird callers, compasses, and more. Simply bring your completed Investigation Case Log to the Licking Park District office, but please call first at 740-587-2535 to arrange a time!


The books on the list include books for ages 3-12. Some are more appropriate for early readers and some for older children.

Special thanks to the Miami County Park District from whom we modeled this program.