The Reading List: Geography

The Reading List: Geography
The Reading List: Geography

There are several different ways to incorporate geography into your educational plans. For example, you can study geography as you study history or science or music or art — mapping the routes of the early explorers, following the trail of the pony express riders, or locating the places discussed in the news. But one of the easiest, particularly for the younger ages, is to simply read, engage, and learn. It all starts with a geography reading list.

The list below will help you get started. You’ll want to add, subtract, and include ideas that make the list your own to suit you and your family. The books are listed in roughly reading-age order.

General Geography Titles

Geography From A to Z

Geography From A to Z: A Picture Glossary by Jack Knowlton
Simple picture book that can be used as the basis for creating a geography term notebook. Read our entire review.

Maps and Globes

Maps and Globes by Jack Knowlton
From the same author, this picture book for younger students explains the history of maps and how we use them. Recommended in our maps unit study.

Geography for Every Kid

Geography for Every Kid by Janice VanCleave
Activity book with 20 lessons covering everything geography from mapmakers and explorers to seasons and climate. Makes a great geography spine for one year of study!

A Child's History of the World

A Child’s Geography of the World by Virgil M. Hillyer
We really enjoyed working through this book. However, you do need to be aware that as an older title written in a different generation, some will likely find elements of the book offensive. We used those passages as opportunities to discuss why these terms are not appropriate. (Cathy Duffy does a great job reviewing the good and the bad.) In other words, this is a read aloud, not something to hand off to your child. With that said, Hillyer has an engaging way of writing and brings the people and places of the world to life.

Home Geography by C. C. Long
Excellent first geography text. In the public domain.

A Book of Discovery by M.B. Synge
Found this one at an antique shop. Just love it! Beautifully illustrated and made a fun read aloud working through a chapter at a time. Told from the point of view of the explorers. Lends itself well to maps and globe work and creating a geography/history notebook or timeline. Also available in the public domain.

Window on the World by Daphne Spraggett
Takes a look at the countries of the world through a “Christian lens.” Beautiful photographs aid in learning about the people of the world. Perfect for reading aloud. We used it in our morning together time. Again, you can use a notebook to record what you learn about each country along with finding them on a globe or map. There is a new version that is available now that we also have and can recommend also published by IVP: Pray for the World.

Exploring Planet Earth by John Hudson Tiner
This is one students can work through by themselves. We had them provide narrations for each chapter and used the questions at the end to prompt discussions. There are also maps and illustrations that can aid in creating a Planet Earth notebook to help retain what is learned. The notebook can also hold copywork, diagrams, timeline, and brief biographies.

Mathematical Geography by Willis E. Johnson
Fascinating book for older students covering longitude and time, circumnavigation and time, the earth’s revolution, time and the calendar, and seasons.

Learning Through Literature

All the Places to Love

All the Places to Love by Patricia McLaughlin
We use this title for the youngest to explain how to use literature as the basis for learning geography. This one starts with the child’s relationship with the things around him. Read our full review.

A Time of Wonder {Book Activities}

A Time of Wonder by Robert McClosky
Winner of the 1958 Caldecott Medal, this beautiful book tells the story of a summer spent on the coast of Maine — another gentle introduction to geography covering bays, islands, hills, coves, shores, forests, tides, and the beach. Read our full review.


Paddle-to-the-Sea by Holling C. Holling
Holling C. Holling is a favorite author. This title is about a carved canoe that starts in the Great Lakes and travels to the Atlantic Ocean. Very easy to chart Paddle’s trip on a map and learn as you go.

Tree in the Trail

Tree in the Trail by Holling C. Holling
This one by Holling covers the life of a lone cottonwood tree on the Kansas plain. Geography tie-ins include Kansas, Coronado’s path, and the Santa Fe Trail. Read our full review.

Seabird by Holling C. Holling
Seabird follows a ship’s boy through his sailing career on a whaler, and onto a clipper with his son, Nate, rounding the Horn and to the Orient; and onto a steamer captained by Nate; and at the side of his son Jim, as he designed ships, and liners; and with his son Ken through the clouds. Lots of geography tie-ins. Read more in our full review.

Minn of the Mississippi by Holling C. Holling
Finally, Minn is a turtle who travels down the entire Mississippi River. Children will enjoy charting Minn’s progress!

Hans Brinker; or the Silver Skates by Mary Mapes Dodge
The classic tale of more than a Dutch skating race. A beautiful visit to Holland! Available in the public domain.

Extraordinary Journeys: Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne
Oxford Classics version with translation by William Butcher (preferred). Verne’s classic provides an exciting venue for learning geography! We have already provided suggestions and resources in our Around the World in 80 Days unit study.

Prairie Traveler by Randolph B. Marcy
Marcy was a U.S. Army officer who literally wrote the book on traveling west overland via the different routes to California. Complete with maps. An easy read. Available in the public domain.

Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Henry Dana
Captivating book for older students that covers Dana’s, a Harvard student, two-year sea voyage. The descriptions of California and Mexico are not to be missed. Also available in the public domain.

Additional Resources

Abroad {Free eBook}
Colorful book for young readers that provides an early introduction to France.

Story of the Great Lakes ~ Free eBook
Illustrated public domain title that covers the Great Lakes area from before Columbus to the mining towns.

Feats on the Fiord {Free eBook & Activities}
Beautifully descriptive introduction to Norway!

Everglades Wildguide {Free eBook}
Unique area covered by Newbery medal winner Jean Craighead George and beautifully illustrated by Betty Fraser.

A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains {Free eBook}
An account of the author’s stay in the West, written in the form of letters to her sister back in England. As might be expected, an Englishwoman has a unique perspective on mountain life, but Bird’s love of nature, interest in people, and sense of humor enable her to enjoy her travels and come to appreciate the Rocky Mountains.

The Heart of the Antarctic by Ernest H. Shackleton
Public domain work of his 1907–1909 expedition. Enjoyable and interesting read.

The History of Cartography edited by J.B. Harley and David Woodward
Free download (chapter by chapter) subtitled Cartography in Prehistoric, Ancient, and Medieval Europe and the Mediterranean published by University of Chicago Press. Probably too much for most, but interesting!