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When my kids were little we did a lot of geography work. As part of that, we read a lot of books about maps and globes.
My kids LOVED our geography studies. And I was gratified to see them both become so interested in maps and globes. And both kids really developed their map reading skills (thanks in part to some of the books I review below).
How did I know our geography reading and activities are paying off? Well, we went camping one weekend, and both kids spent a lot of time looking over the campground map. My daughter wanted me to tell her what each item in the key represented so she could then find it on the map. And both kids spent time finding the best route from our campsite to various locations around the campground that they wanted to visit. They were just excited about maps!
Below I’m sharing eight books about maps and globes for kids that we read during our geography lessons, along with a brief description and review of each. Click on any title or book cover to be taken to the Amazon listing for that book.
Note: You can find more kid-friendly geography activities on my geography unit study page.
Children’s books about maps and globes
Looking at Maps and Globes by Rebecca Olien
This book provides a simple and straightforward overview of maps and globes. It explains why people use maps as well as how maps work. There is a great example of how maps work that starts with an aerial view of a city on one page followed by a map of the city on the next page. Since both the photograph and the map are the same size, it makes the idea that maps are a pictorial representation of a real thing fairly concrete for young children. The book then goes on to describe lots of different kinds of maps, including world maps, country maps, floor plans, and weather maps.
Maps and Globes by Harriett Barton
Like the Olien book reviewed above, this book provides an overview of maps and globes. However, while the Olien book would be appropriate for most preschoolers and kindergartners, this level of detail in this book makes it more appropriate for kids in second grade or older. The author describes how maps were invented thousands of years ago, and were much more crude than the maps we use today. The book describes how Christopher Columbus helped discover new and unmapped lands while Ferdinand Magellan proved that the earth was round. Globes, being round, are then the most accurate representation of our earth. The book explains how maps must artificially flatten our round world, and thus provide a distorted view of the continents. The book includes a great example of how Greenland looks bigger than South America on a map, but is easily noted to be much smaller than South America when viewed on a globe. The book also includes discussions about directionality (north, south, east, and west), the fact that the equator divides the earth in half, latitude and longitude, and elevation. Finally, the book describes different kinds of maps, including physical maps, political maps, resource maps, and local maps.
Keys and Symbols on Maps by Meg Greve
This book would make a great follow up read to the Olien book reviewed above, as this book is focused entirely on the way in which maps use symbols to represent bigger things, like cities, streets, rivers, parking lots, and more. This book teaches kids to use a map’s key in order to understand the information found on a map. After reading this book, you might want to try reading My Town by Rebecca Treays (reviewed below) to give kids an opportunity to practice reading a map key and finding things on a map using the key.
North, South, East, and West by Meg Greve
This book provides kids with a very simple introduction to the compass rose and to each of the four main directions of north, south, east, and west. North and south are described as cold, since the very top and bottom of the map are near the north and poles. East is described as the place where the sun rises, while West is described the place where the sun sets. There is a glossary on the last pages of the book with definitions of some of the words in the book. This book includes appealing photographs on each page. This would be a good book to read before diving into lessons about the compass.
Mapping Penny’s World by Loreen Leedy
A young girl is given a school assignment to create a map. She starts by making a map of her bedroom, which includes a bed for her dog, Penny. Then she decides to make a map of the places where Penny likes to hid toys in the yard. From there, she continues to draw maps showing Penny’s world, such as the best way for Penny’s best friend to come over, Penny’s favorite walking trails, and Penny’s favorite places to visit in their community. Each map the girl draws features a key that young readers can decipher, as well as a compass rose to help point the way north. After reading this book, young children will understand that you can make a map of just about any place you want!
Me on the Map by Joan Sweeney
My kids, especially my daughter, loved this book. The mapping concepts in this book are somewhat similar to those in Mapping Penny’s World, but the text of this book is a bit simpler which makes this book very appropriate for many preschoolers. The story follows a young girl who draws a map of her room. Then she draws a map of her house, which includes her room. Then we see a map of her street, which includes her house. Then we see a map of her town, which includes her street. The map of her state includes a point representing her town, and the map of her country includes her state. And on a map of the world, we can see her country. After “zooming out” from her room to the world, she zooms back in again.
Essentially, the book makes it very clear in a fairly concrete way that we can make maps of places at any level of detail or abstraction, from a room to a planet. I felt this book would make a great accompaniment to a lesson using cosmic nesting towers. It would also be a great extension for any mapping activity at all, whether kids are mapping a room or a planet. The bright illustrations enhance the clever concept of this book and make it an excellent choice for helping young kids learn about maps.
My Town by Rebecca Treays
While my daughter wanted to read Me on the Map over and over again, this book was QBoy’s favorite. Indeed, I too am a fan of this book from Usborne Publishing company. The book is interactive with lots of flaps to lift and things to do. It is not as heavily focused on maps as some of the books reviewed above, since it is more about the workings of a town. But it does include some great mapping lessons that my kids really enjoyed and benefitted from.
The book is narrated by a young boy. He shares lots of information about his town with us. As kids read about the various places in his town, they are invited to find them on the accompanying map. My kids were fascinated by the map’s key, and we spent lots of time together deciphering the key and finding all the different types of buildings and objects represented by the key, such as houses, schools, parks, train stations, bus stations, parking, rivers, lakes, and more.
Where Do I Live? by Neil Chesanow
This is another book that would work well with a lesson on the cosmic nesting towers. The book starts with the question of “Where do you live?” It then shows kids many, many answers to that question, starting with the smallest domain of one’s room, and then progressing to larger domains including one’s house, one’s street, one’s town, one’s state, one’s country, one’s continent, one’s planet, and even one’s universe. As the book explains, people “live in lots of different places – all at the same time.” And then after showing kids bigger and bigger places where they live, the book reverses itself and shows kids how they live in a solar system that includes their planet, their planet which includes their continent, their continent which includes their country, and so on until they get back to their room.
More geography resources
More geography posts from Gift of Curiosity:
- Montessori mapping activities
- Montessori directionality activities
- How to make a working compass
- Introduction to land, air, and water
- Montessori continents activities
- Teaching the continents by making a globe
- Montessori animals and their continents
- Montessori landform activities
- Montessori continents and world map printables