I never enjoyed geography in school. It wasn’t information that I ever thought I would use. I’m not even sure my teacher saw the use for it or she would have made it a more interesting subject. Her method of teaching included writing notes on the chalkboard (that dates me) and asking us to copy them in notebooks. Then we simply memorized the facts and spit them back on weekly and end of term test. I do think if I had had someone point out to me that a geographical area helps define the culture of the people I might have seen the subject differently. Even if we had made use of the globe that sat on a table in the front of the classroom, I might have made the all-important connections between the lands and their people. That said, I admit that as I began traveling the nation and the world, whether physically or through books, I am surprised how much of the information has come back to me.
The National Geography Bee has become quite the event to watch, and I’m amazed at the kids that compete. It’s clear that they aren’t just spitting out facts, but they truly understand lands of the world. November is Geography Awareness Month, and I think it fitting to introduce all ages to fiction and nonfiction that help them see the importance of geography. Only then can they fully understand all the lands that constitute the world in which we live. Here are a few programming ideas with book suggestions from Random House:
- Introduce young children to the following books:
Me On the Map by Joan Sweeney & illus. by Annette Cable
Talk with them about what maps tell us.
- Then have them color a map of their state. Show them important areas in the state, like mountains, deserts, beaches, etc.
- Talk about books where the geographical setting is important:
The Little Island by Margaret Wise Brown & illus. by Leonard Weisgard
Why Oh Why Are Deserts Dry? By Tish Rabe & illus. by Aristides Ruiz & Joe Mathleu
Child of the Mountains by Marilyn Sue Shank
Chomp by Carl Hiaasen
Faith, Hope and Ivy June by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Holes by Louis Sachar
Heart of a Shepherd by Rosanne Parry
River Thunder by Will Hobbs
Skink No Surrender by Carl Hiaasen
Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
Written in Stone by Roseanne Parry
Blue Skin of the Sea by Graham Salisbury
Hattie Big Sky and Hattie Everafter by Kirby Larsen
Island Boyz by Graham Salisbury
- Introduce world geography with the following:
How To Make An Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Priceman
Somewhere in the World Right Now by Stacey Schuett
Laugh with the Moon by Shana Burg
Monsoon Summer by Mitali Perkins
- Have them read a biography about an explorer or adventurer that made their living or hobby seeing and studying the world.
The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau by Dan Yaccarino
Climbing Everest (Totally True Adventures) by Gail Herman & illus. by Michele Amatrula
The Race Around the World by Nancy Castaido & illus. by Wesley Lowe
The Beet Fields by Gary Paulsen
- Have readers take facts from books (both fiction and nonfiction) they have read, and make questions for a group geography bee.
- Ask older readers to make cutouts of countries of the world. Then scramble the cutouts and sponsor a competition to see how quickly small groups can create a continent with the countries in the right places. Younger readers may be encouraged to do the same thing with the 50 states.
- Suggest that readers use reference sources to find out information about the geography of a particular region of the world. Then have them write and illustrate an adventure they may take to that area. They should include specific geographic facts as a way of educating their readers.
- Divide readers into groups and assign them each a continent. Then have them gather geographical facts about that continent and write and perform a rap that teaches the facts the larger group.