The Best geography books for your classroom: 14 recommendations for primary and secondary students

Thursday, 10th August 2023

Destination Specialist

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Reading is a critical part of building knowledge in any school subject. But for geography students, books can help unlock new destinations, describe landscapes and decode facts. This is why geography books are essential to empowering students to become better geographers.

However, we teachers sometimes face a battle when trying to engage students in a book!

The following list shows the best geography books, recommended by teachers, to engage your students and build confidence in their skills.

Best geography books for primary students (KS1)

These are the best geography books for children from early years to Key Stage 1. At this learning stage, the geography curriculum aims to develop children’s understanding of:

  • Continents and oceans
  • The components of the UK,
  • Physical characteristics and human geography of the UK compared to a non-European country
  • The weather and how this varies across the planet

Here’s a list of the best geography books to support this…

Where the Forest Meets the Sea, Jeannie Baker

This book immerses children in the tropical rainforest and landmarks of Australia. The main themes are environmentalism, environmental change, and how humans are having an impact on habitats.

Why we recommend it:

  • Considers environmentalism Introduces the concept of environmental change
  • Introduces new places
  • Stunning visuals that spark discussion

Best for:

Comparing a non-European location to the UK and learning about the environment and how it’s changing

Saving Tally: An Adventure into the Great Pacific Plastic Patch, Serena Lane Ferrari

The story follows a turtle and lobster exploring the ocean when they come across come dangers including plastic waste and ocean pollution. This is a great way to help young children understand environmental protection and the importance of looking after our oceans.

Why we recommend it:

  • Introduces the dangers of plastic waste and ocean pollution and suggests solutions
  • Encourages readers to be more environmentally friendly

Best for:

Introducing global connections and environmental studies

Mirror, Jeannie Baker

This innovative picture book follows the lives of two young boys, one from an urban family in Australia, the other from Morocco. The boys lives eventually become intertwined and perfectly highlights how we are all connected.

Why we recommend it:

  • Shows contrast between different settlements
  • Introduces new cultures which helps children develop and appreciation for others

Best for:

Considering diversity, culture and identity as well as urban change

The Bear in the Cave, Michael Rosen

The story follows a happy bear who lives quietly by the sea but is enticed by the sounds of the city and goes to visit. It highlights the contrast between habitats while also introducing the concept of feeling out of place and friendship.

Why we recommend it:

  • Introduces urban and rural spaces
  • Show contrasts between the characteristics of places
  • Introduces the feeling of belonging and of needing friendship

Best for:

Showing local and regional differences within a country

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One World, Michael Foreman

Join a brother and sister who are spending the day on a beach by a rock pool as they create their own tiny marine world. This vibrant picture book introduces shells, sea life, and other under water friends!

Why we recommend it:

Introduces young children to different sea life

Encourages an appreciation for our oceans and protecting them

Best for:

Learning about the natural world

More of the best geography books for Infants

Best geography books for junior students (KS2)

During this learning stage, children are extending their knowledge beyond the local area to Europe and North and South America. Students are learning about key regions, physical and human characteristics, land use patterns, and how places change over time.

Their vocabulary is being broadened, using specialist language, including biomes, tropics, time zones, and economic trade. These are the best geography books to support this key stage and continue to build children’s curiosity:

This is How We Do It, Matt Lamothe

The story follows the lives of seven children from around the world, comparing their everyday lives including  play, their homes, foods, cultures and routines.

Why we recommend it:

· Great for direct comparisons

· Introduces concepts of cultural differences and similarities

Best for:

Introducing new locations and comparing everyday experiences of the world

The Street Beneath my Feet, Charlotte Guillain

This fold-out book takes students on a journey beneath their feet, through the Earth’s layers. Along the way, it compares urban and rural locations.

Why we recommend it:

  • Introduces concepts of geology
  • Visualises the structure of the Earth

Best for:

Comparing rural and urban environments

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Girl on a Motorcycle, Amy Novesky

This book tells the true story of the first woman to ride a motorcycle around the world alone. Along the way, it introduces distant places and dramatic landscapes.

Why we recommend it:

  • Shows global landscapes
  • Celebrates resilience and promotes confidence

Best for:

Building an understanding of global variety and scale

More of the best geography books for Juniors:

Best geography books for KS3-4

The main purpose of studying geography for secondary school students is to inspire curiosity about the world and its people.

Students should gain knowledge of the world’s diversity of landscapes, processes, cultures, and how human activity influences Earth

Choosing the best geography books can not only support the curriculum, but also promote discussion and critical thinking.

Factfulness, Hans Rosling, Ola Rosling & Anna Rosling Ronnlund

No Geography department is complete without this text! Hans Rosling (of Gapminder) breaks down important global trends in a way that makes it accessible and engaging for students, considering population, education, poverty, etc.

Why we recommend it:

  • Makes factual data accessible
  • Develops an understanding of global trends

Best for:

Considering development data, comparing world statistics and regional differences

The Kindness of Strangers, Fearghal O’Nuallain

This book is a compilation of stories from travellers and adventurers across the world. It inspires travel while also considering how it changes you, and is full of positivity not fear.

Why we recommend it:

  • Shares adventures from across the world
  • Compares landscapes including hot deserts and rainforests

Best for:

Introducing locations and making comparisons between living in different locations

4

After the Quake, Haruki Murakami

The Kobe earthquake in Japan is a classic case study and this story follows different characters recovering from the devastation. The best bit? You don’t have to be studying Kobe for this to be useful.

Why we recommend it:

  • Inspires empathy and understanding with survivors
  • Brings personality and realism to an abstract case study location

Best for:

Describing the impacts of an earthquake and considering how people respond to disaster

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, William Kamkwamba

This book is a powerful exploration of life in Malawi. It shows the battle to survive through disease, drought and famine and the devastation of agricultural livelihoods being lost and how one boy went on to change his world by building his own windmill. It’s an incredible true story and soon will be a film!

Why we recommend it:

  • Country study of life in Malawi, Africa
  • Introduces concepts of resource reliance, energy, renewables, disease, and poverty

Best for:

Teaching about development ‘bottom-up’ strategies

Prisoners of Geography: Ten maps that tell you everything you need to know about global politics, Tim Marshall

Through ten maps, Seasoned journalist Tim Marshall looks at the past, present and future to give insight into how geography relates to political movement and how we are all essentially prisoners of geography.

This book explores examples like Ukraine, the Arctic, China and the USA to consider the role of superpowers and how geography influences world leaders. His other books, The Power of Geography and The Future of Geography are also some of the best geography books to understand world events.

Why we recommend it:

  • Explores how geography influences national resources, political movements and decisions
  • Explains how world history and geography are entwined

Best for:

Geopolitics and global interconnections and exploring how geography constrains countries.

Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks, Ken Jennings

Your students will be taken on a journey of an endless geographic checklist including visiting all 3,143 U.S. counties or all 936 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Each chapter dives into different aspects of maps but also considers the ways in which cartography has shaped human history.

Why we recommend it:

  • Explores different areas of map culture such as highpointing, geocaching and road atlas rallying
  • Great at engaging children who may not be interested in geography books

Best for:

Helping interpret and understand maps

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More of the best geography books for secondary students:

Alternatives to the best geography books

If you need suggestions for ways to introduce geographical experiences to students who find accessing text difficult, you could incorporate audio books or use extracts from films. Here are some of our favourite alternatives to the best geography books:

A Turtle’s TaleConsiders the ocean environment, plastic, pollution, human impacts

Over the HedgeThe impact of housing development on rural wildlife, urban planning, human societies

Happy FeetIntroduces the concepts of polar ecosystems, human impacts, captivity

Our Planet This docuseries focuses on animal life and natural ecosystems

Before the FloodSuitable for children aged 10 years+ to learn about climate change

Blue Planet Teaches students about global biomes and ecosystems, climate change

Strange World A subtle message about the solutions to climate change and human activity

The Lorax Considers deforestation and habitat loss

FernGully: The Last Rainforest Introduces the rainforest, deforestation and conservation

Wall-E Great for introducing younger children to the concepts of plastics, waste, pollution and restoration

Choosing the best geography books for you

When deciding on the best geography books for your classroom, ask yourself these questions to help you pick the right one:

Should the book directly link to the curriculum or inspire general geographic curiosity?

Will all students be reading this text?

Is the book suitable for my students’ reading ability?

Are we reading this book aloud or is it for independent reading?

Do you want to read more about something you know, or learn something new?

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Geography is a diverse subject so the list of books is almost endless!

Whether you’re looking for physical characteristics or human landscapes, cultural experiences or geopolitics, there is something available. These suggestions are just a few of the recommendations teachers have shared with us, but we hope they inspire you to investigate more!

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