“Why is it still dark when I wake up for school AND right when I finish my homework?”
Don’t you love questions like this, questions your children ask that open up a whole field of study?
Recently, I was asked this by our oldest. We engaged in a quick discussion about the sun and the length of days in the Northern Hemisphere this time of year and then moved on about our day. However, a few days later I realized that I had missed an opportunity to help her discover the answer for herself. I decided to seek out books about the winter solstice and add them to our holiday and winter book collection.
The books that we discovered fit into two different categories, there are those that approach the winter and the solstice, along with the other seasons, from a scientific perspective, and those that explain the cultural traditions, past and present, as related to the shortest day of the year.
Solstice Books with a Cultural Focus:
1. The Winter Solstice by Ellen Jackson – This book discusses solstice traditions from the British Isles, ancient Rome, Scandinavia, Peru, along with others. It places an emphasis on how many ancient cultures believed their traditions helped the sun to return. It also includes a Cherokee creation myth.
2. The Shortest Day: Celebrating the Winter Solstice by Wendy Pfeffer – A concisely written book, the text gives the background information on the solstice, how it relates to the Earth’s movement in relation to the sun, along with how the solstice has been marked by both ancient civilizations and people today. The book also includes several learning experiences and a list of further reading. This book has become a favorite around our house and if you only explore one of these books, this is our recommendation.
3. A Solstice Tree for Jenny by Karen I. Shragg – This narrative tells the story of Jenny and her secular parents. Jenny is feeling down about the fact that her family is different from others in their neighborhood since they do not take part in celebrating other common December holidays. After being inspired by a teacher Jenny and her family learn about the solstice and celebrate in their own way.
4. The Return of the Light: Twelve Tales from Around the World for the Winter Solstice by Carolyn McVickar Edwards – Appropriate for older readers, or as a family read aloud, this book retells twelve traditional tales from all around the world. Written by a storyteller the book is filled with rich description.
Solstice Books with a Scientific Focus:
5. Sunshine Makes the Seasons by Franklyn M Branley – This brightly illustrated text explains the roles the sun and the tilt of the earth play in the seasons. There are pages of instructions on how children can see for themselves the interplay of these two things using a flashlight, orange, pen, and push pin.
6. I Wonder Why the Sun Rises by Brenda Walpole – Part of the “I Wonder Why” series this book is structured by questions and answers. It covers many aspects of the seasons but has a two page spread simply explaining the seasons.
7. The Reasons for the Seasons by Gail Gibbons – It is hard to do a non-fiction book round up without Gail Gibbons. This book features her clear text and enriching illustrations. It begins with a discussion of how the seasons are made and then has a several page spread on each season. This book is a good choice for beginning independent readers.
8. Secrets of the Seasons by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld – Featuring speech bubbles, a pair of chickens, and three friends this is certainly no dry non-fiction book. It nicely blends a narrative with lots of information. This book makes a nice independent read for older elementary students, or could be shared with younger children in a read aloud.
What solstice texts have you read? How do you mark this day in your home?
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