We recently finished a unit on weather in our homeschool (not a unit study-type unit; I am not into those; just a time of focusing on weather in our science reading). I had a hard time finding enough books that I thought were high quality and which also fit my kids’ reading levels. But I thought I would share what we used, what worked and what didn’t.
My goal was to have a stack of living books, one for us to read aloud together as a sort of spine book, and others for my children to read on their own and narrate from. I have four kids, ages 8 through 13, so I was looking for things for different levels. Here is what we ended up using:
- The Weather Wizard’s Cloud Book by Louis D. Rubin, Sr., and Jim Duncan This was our “spine” book. It is a thin book and only ten chapters long. We read it about a chapter a sitting over the course of 5 weeks. Some of the chapters are considerably longer than others though. Despite its name, it talks about a lot more than just clouds. I would say it is pretty comprehensive on the subject of weather. The focus of the book is to enable one to predict the weather by describing what the clouds look like and how they change before certain phenomena, whether those be rain showers or hurricanes. I liked this practical focus and the book’s many pictures. I did feel it at times went over my kids’ heads, especially the younger ones. And personally, I think I would need to study it a lot more to really become adept at predicting the weather. It did get us all looking at the clouds a lot more closely though and I think the children found it somewhat interesting. I will say I did not have the kids narrate a lot on this one. It did not seem to lend itself easily to that. But overall, I would recommend it, especially for middle and high school years.
- Look at the Sky and Tell the Weather by Eric Sloane I was skeptical about this one but it was a real find. I had my 13-year-old read and narrate this book. He really seemed to get into it and enjoy telling me what he had read. The book recounts experiences that the author had or heard about from others that in some way relate to the weather. It definitely qualifies as a living book which is a hard thing to find in this area.
- Skies and the Artist by Eric Sloane This is another Sloane book. It is much thinner and its focus is on how to draw the sky and clouds, but in the process it tells a bit about them. I had my 11-year-old artist go through this one and instead of narrating orally, she drew pictures for the various pages. I can’t say she seemed overjoyed by it all but she was happy to tell her siblings about what she had drawn and I suspect she learned a few things from it. Between this one and the previous one, I have developed quite a respect for Sloane and would be very interested to try his other books as well.
- Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin and Theodoric’s Rainbow by Stephen P. Kramer I had my 11-year-old read both of these when she had some extra days. Both are picture books and she could easily have read them in one sitting each. Each tells the story of a man who had a passion for something (snowflakes or rainbows) and pursued it and ended up finding our more about it than people previously knew. They are not hard books and could certainly be read with if not by younger children. I would recommend each of them.
- All About the Weather by Ivan Ray Tannehill This is an older book. I had my 9-year-old read it mostly because I had found it at a used bookstore. He is not a great narrator so t is a little hard to tell how much he got from it. He was certainly able to read it at that age, however. It is somewhat dated and I found myself having to explain to him, for example, what a teletype machine is. There may better choices out there but this was an okay book.
- Hurry Spring by Sterling North This is not a book all about the weather but it does touch on it and I have in the past liked Sterling North’s books. This one was read by my 8-year-old on her own and I would say the level was a pretty good fit. Her narrations are not stellar yet but she often seemed to be able to recall a fair bit and I think she enjoyed the book. So I would also recommend this one.
- Hurricanes! by Gail Gibbons and Tornadoes by Seymour Simon When we had some extra time, I read these both aloud to my kids. These are both books by prolific authors and ones I hear recommended a lot. They are at the level of long (nonfiction) picture books. My kids listened to them dutifully. I did not find them thrilling. They are not what I would call living books. A lot of information is thrown at one (“a level __ hurricane produces ___ mph winds” etc.) and I just don’t think one can take such things in well when reading through such books quickly. And they are quick books. So while I might again use books by these authors to supplement in areas I think we are lacking, they are not my first choice.
And those are the books we use don weather. Next up for us is geology. I am still searching out living books on that.