A simple reliable rhythm in our early years was the reading of seasonal picture books. When my older child was preschool age and I was starting to wrap my brain around what it would mean for him to learn at home, I knew that keeping the rhythms of the year present in our life was important to me to do in intentional ways beyond just living it. I wanted to share stories and images with him that would resonate with what he was experiencing as he grew and started noticing the cycles himself but that would also open his imagination to the wonder of story and art.
I searched high and low for quality books that would meet those criteria: I wanted to find books with seasonal content, but they also had to have superb story-telling and artwork. It turns out that natural themes often go hand-in-hand with some of the best children’s books, so I found plenty that I fell in love with. Eventually I started organizing my search so that I would end up with about one book to read per week of the year.
It took several years to get to that point, but that’s where we are now — I have two small shelves full of seasonal books, and we generally read about one book per week, chosen because it somehow speaks to our life at that moment in the year. Books featuring fall leaves, for example, we read in October when the leaves on our trees are turning color and falling. Some of the books move through many seasons, but because of their focus on the natural world I think of them as “seasonal” books and have organized them into a season that feels right to me.
As always, when addressing natural topics my preference is for books that include accurate portrayals — even amidst fantastical stories or in stylized illustrations! It’s very clear to me when a writer or illustrator has observed nature at length, even if he or she stretches the boundaries of what’s possible.
Our collection ranges from simple board books to more extended picture books. The longer ones we’d often read in more than one sitting when the children were very young. Now they have attention spans that allow us to read most of the books in one sitting. As of this writing, my children are 7 and 9, and we no longer use these as part of “school” — but we still enjoy reading them together on the weekends, after our schoolwork is all day, or before bed.
Because I found these books all over the place (the library, used book stores, online book lists, search algorithms), some of the titles are out-of-print. If you can’t find some of these books, don’t worry. If you want to build your own seasonal library, you can begin to see the “seasonality” in many wonderful children’s books, and your collection of seasonal books may end up looking very different than ours.
By now we have read many more picture books beyond these seasonal books, but I have to be honest and say that these two shelves of seasonal books contain many of my personal favorite picture books. They are books that just get better with every re-read, and since we revisit them every year, my love by now runs deep.