FIFTY TO 60 years later, I still remember the feeling of school winding down and the fear and excitement of facing that long vacation ahead. Even I, who loved school, knew I needed a break, but I always wondered what I would do and if I would have any fun on those long vacations.
We never went on any family vacations during those holidays – unless you count the annual trip to the Columbus, Ohio zoo 60 miles away from our home. Every year was the same story. We piled in the car, drove off, my father got lost, he wouldn’t stop for directions, we ended up in the state of Kentucky instead of the zoo, turned around and drove back home.
Every summer I was in charge of making my own happy and meaningful vacation. We didn’t have money for summer camps, but I did get swimming lessons. I lived in the countryside so I had free time to explore. That option is not safe these days.
As soon as I could read, I realised the world was at my fingertips. Books could take me everywhere. They also kept my brain sharp for the new school year. I didn’t have a mother who read to me so I was on my own. Hopefully, if you haven’t been reading, you can ask your parents to read to you or read with you. The advantage of this is that it can help to build your concentration and allow you to experience books above your reading level.
This holiday I suggest exploring a subject that has been losing ground over the years: geography. Every day the international news highlights stories in war-torn areas, countries suffering from famine and climate change and yet many students are clueless about where these countries are located. How can we understand or empathise with trouble spots in the world when we often don’t even know where these places are located?
Here are some of my recommendations for books that create an awareness of geography:
1. Check out the site for young children that presents the ten best books in geography. There are picture books and modern classics like The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, an autobiography set in Malawi about the author, William Kamkwamba, who learned to build a windmill so his village could have water. A Long Walk to Water is a true story about Sudanese boys trekking across Africa to escape their war-torn country. Find many good choices at: https://bookroo.com/explore/books/topics/geography
2. Betty Peter’s novel Brown Sugar and Spice is one of my favourite Caribbean books. The historical novel takes place in Grenada, St Lucia and St Vincent and features a British family with a mother who works as a codebreaker for the British during World War II. This is a good book for children eight to 14 to discover Caribbean geography. It bridges children’s literature and Young Adult literature and can be found in local bookstores.
3. Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Explain Everything About the World by Tim Marshall gives secondary school students an understanding of the role geography has played in shifting political landscapes. Marshall has a sequel to this book entitled The Power of Geography: Ten Maps that Reveal the Future of Our World.
4. Currently I am reading The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate. The author, Robert D Kaplan, makes compelling and interesting arguments about how we can predict future wars. Kaplan says only natural boundaries can define places and promise peace. Anywhere with artificial borders determined through wars and treaties is capable of imploding.
5. Love the Dark Days – Journalist Ira Mathur’s award-winning memoir creates a poignant picture of how geography shapes our personal lives. It is a remarkable journey covering her childhood in India and her life in both the islands of Trinidad and Tobago. It is available in local bookstores.
6. Atlas of Improbable Places: A Journey to the World’s Most Unusual Corners – Here, Travis Elborough presents some of the most unusual places to explore in the world.
7. Check out this site below for 26 books set in Timbuktu, France, Spain and many other countries: https://www.abookloversadventures.com/books-set-in-another-country/
Every book has a setting, which means there’s a new place for you to discover every time you pick up a book. This holiday you can visit many interesting places and learn about geography from the comfort of your home. Ask your favourite local bookstore to order books that interest you if they’re not in stock.