by Katrina Morse
for Family Reading Partnership
What do your children see in the night sky? The moon, stars, and planets? A fish, a bear, or even a lion? The night sky has been a source of wonder and inspiration for people since we first looked up! Science researchers and explorers have provided us with facts about the vast universe of celestial bodies and phenomena, and they are still discovering more. And before we knew the science of the skies, people were seeing shapes in the stars and creating stories to explain the world they knew.
Plan a midnight star gazing with your children and they will never forget time spent looking at the sky when normally they would be asleep. Right now in the Northern Hemisphere you can see the Perseid Meteor Showers, which peak this year around August 11 and taper off 2 weeks later. The meteors are made of grains of dust and ice left behind by the Comet Swift-Tuttle. As the debris hits the Earth’s atmosphere it burns and creates shooting stars.
The shooting stars seem to originate around the area of the ancient Greek constellation of Perseus in our northeastern sky, and so are named after that mythical figure. Cultures across the Earth have seen many figures in the sky based on the animals, people, and life that they lived.
For a taste of the variety in constellation myths, the picture book “Star Stories from Around the World” by Anita Ganeri and illustrated by Andy Wilx tells twenty-three sky legends accompanied by beautiful artwork.
Weaving science and storytelling into one children’s book is “What We See in the Stars: An Illustrated Tour of the Night Sky” written and illustrated by Kelsey Oseid. Learn about the Northern Lights, planets, deep space, and constellation myths from other cultures.
“They Dance in the Sky: Native American Star Myths” by Ray A. Williamson, illustrated by Edgar Stewart tells about the night sky with stories from many of the native North American tribes.
“Follow the Drinking Gourd” by Jeanette Winter is a picture book recounting a song passed on by African-American slaves who used the Big Dipper constellation as a guide to travel north to escape slavery.
“50 Things to See in the Sky” by Sarah Barker, illustrated by Maria Nilsson is a non-fiction book that will give your family facts about more than just stars and planets.
“2020 Guide to the Night Sky: A Month-by Month Guide to Exploring the Skies Above North America,” by Storm Dunlop and Will Tirion can be read over time as you explore the sky each month.
Look, learn, and imagine the sky you see and how others saw the sky long ago. You’ll see the night sky in a new way, and maybe be inspired to create some personal family constellations and stories in the stars!