Sure your kid could spin a globe or stare at a map on the wall in an effort to memorize country names and borders. OR they could read stories about the people who live in all those faraway lands. Geography books for kids need not always be atlases or maps, books that tell stories about cultural experiences or travel will help kids remember the geographical facts contained therein.
It's so much easier to learn facts when they come wrapped in an appealing package, right? Oh! You can also try these super simple map activities for kids.
This list is a mix of fiction, nonfiction and fact-filled books, picture books and even a wordless book that will really spark a conversation!
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Human brains love stories and for many children, its easier to remember details when they are attached to an engaging narrative. Use these picture books as a way to make geographical and cultural facts interesting.
How I Learned Geography
by Uri Shulevitz
This award winning book is based on Shulevitz's own experience as a refugee from Warsaw. In the story, a family escapes war, fleeing to Turkestan where they live in "houses made of clay, straw and camel dung..." One day father brings home a map instead of food for his hungry family. At first the young boy resents the map, but the father helps his son use the map to travel around the world in his imagination. Shulevitz gives more information about his personal experiences as a refugee in an endnote.
How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World
by Marjorie Priceman
This is a delightful book about a girl who wants to bake an apple pie to share with friends. The market is closed so there's nothing for it but to head out on a trip around the world to gather the ingredients! Italy for grain, Sri Lanka for cinnamon, Vermont for apples and a few other stops along the way. Obviously you will need to bake your own pie after reading this story. Lucky for you, a recipe is included.
How the Queen Found the Perfect Cup of Tea
by Kate Hosford, illustrations by Gabi Swiatkowska
This is a lively story about a queen who travels to several countries in a hot air balloon and encounters different tea time rituals. When she makes it back home, she invites her new friends from Japan, India and Turkey to enjoy a pleasant tea party. Great fun.
Also check out our list of books about tea time.
by Jeannie Baker
I love this wordless picture book which compares and contrasts the a day in the life of an Australian and a Moroccan family. In parallel, the two boys and their families take care of daily tasks like shopping, eating, getting ready for bed, and connecting with friends online. A great conversation starter.
by Peter Sís
Madlenka discovers she has a loose tooth and wants to spread the word to her neighbors. She takes a journey around her city block, but it turns out to be a trip through many different cultures. She sees a French baker, an Indian merchant, a German opera singer, a Latina florist and more. Sís has designed detailed drawings around a die cut square that Madlenka looks through, making the book an interactive experience.
Nonfiction Cultural Studies
Teaching about cultures around the world, especially how children around the world spend their days is an excellent way to teach geography and an appreciation for diversity. Look especially for books with great photographs or books that narrow in on a specific subject like time, school or food.
Another great topic to look for is how different cultures celebrate holidays. Check out this list of books about winter holidays around the world to get started.
One Day One World
by Barbara Kerley
Absolutely stunning photographs take you on a trip around the world as children in diverse locales get ready in the morning, go to school, play, do chores and end their days. Your kids will love seeing children around the world doing the same things they do every day, only in a vastly different way.
This Is How We Do It
by Matt Lamothe
The book follows seven children from different countries: Italy, Japan, Uganda, Russia, India, Peru and Iran. Each child describes their home, school, family, food and daily life. This is a great starting point for conversations about the differences and similarities between life in different countries, but also how children in the same country don't all live the same way. At the end, photographs reveal the actual families depicted in in the book. I love the large size of the book, and how the illustrations invite a lengthly perusal.
Everything & Everywhere: A Fact-Filled Adventure for Curious Globe-Trotters
by Marc Martin
I adore this oversized book and its pages densely packed with watercolor details of animals, objects, towns and people all over the world. Facts and figures fill the gaps and kids will love scouring the pages to learn about everything under the sun and deep in the sea.
Around the World Right Now
by Gina Cascone and Bryony Williams Sheppard, illustrated by Olivia Beckman
If you find your kids fascinated by the idea that millions of people are experiences a different time of day right at this very moment, crack open this book. Readers journey page by page through all twenty-four time zones with illustrations suggesting what people may be up to in those zones. An endnote provides more information for curious minds.
Every Month Is a New Year: Celebrations Around the World
by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by
This is a splendid poetry collection which introduces readers to global new year holidays. Most western children know about January 1, the Lunar New Year and Rosh Hashanah, but there are 9 more! Singer shares a poem for each month to celebrate a different new year tradition.
Another absolutely wonderful geography poetry book is J. Patrick Lewis's A World of Wonders: Geographic Travels in Verse and Rhyme.
Nonfiction Geography & Atlases
Last, but definitely not least in a child's geography education is the inclusion of interesting atlases or geographic encyclopedias! Make sure the maps are unique, detailed and invite children to think about the people, animals and plants that live and grow in the region they are looking at!
One World: A First Book of Geography
by Sue Lowell Gallion, illustrated by Lisk Feng
I love this large board book partly because it has such cool illustrations and partly because of its physical features. The book appears to be a slice of a globe but when you open it fully back-to-front a hidden magnetic closure turns it into a full globe! It makes a great first geography book for preschoolers because it introduces landscapes and geological features like rivers and mountains rather than focusing on borders and place names.
Smithsonian Geography: A Visual Encyclopedia
Published by DK
If you like gorgeous photography, your family will enjoy this visual feast. The text gives detailed information about the Earth's geology, climate, ecosystems, animal populations and human life and culture.
Where on Earth? Atlas: The World As You've Never Seen It Before
Published by DK
This atlas is fun because the illustrations are designed to look 3D. However, the atlas is also jam-packed with science, climate, history, architecture, technology, the people, world events and more. The book starts by explaining the geology of Earth as a whole and moves on to the continents.
by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinska
I absolutely adore the aesthetics of this book! Oversized illustrated maps give facts, geographical wonders, cultural tidbits and more. The experience of taking one's time to examine every detail feels relaxing and luxurious (seriously!).
These book lists will also interest you: