Teachable Moments is a relatively new series on the blog, you can find the archive here. You can learn more about Saxis in this selection of posts, and here are more beach book recommendations for adults and kids. If you’d like to see our favorite sun gear for toddlers, click here.
beach time = reading time. #amiright
When we start planning for our time at the beach, my mind immediately turns to the books I’ll read. Hours sitting on the beach provide the uninterrupted reading time that we just don’t seem to find elsewhere in life. Wait, if you’re a parent reading this, that statement is laughable. Who sits still on the beach with two kids? And to that, I say, touché. That’s when you teach your kids about the joys of the beach nap.
But in all seriousness, as the boys have grown, I’ve started to think more intentionally about their beach reads. These boys love a good adventure, and when we’re traveling I find that they fully immerse themselves in the new environment. They aren’t sitting around thinking about Colorado and the mountains; instead, they’re exploring! And what better way could there be to teach them about the place they’re visiting, and the animals and people that live there, than to read books?
I’ve made an effort over the years to stock the beach house with good ocean and bay-related books for the kids. It’s nice to have these books there rather than at home because the stories really come alive when they’re reading about animals that they just saw on the beach and in the marsh. And I know that they can relate to crabbing and fishing adventures when they’ve just spent the afternoon on Poppop’s boat putting bait in the crab pots and casting out their finishing lines.
Below is a list of our current favorites (for reference, the boys are 2 and 4). Admittedly, I’m particularly smitten with books written and illustrated by local artists, so you’ll see quite a few on the list. They add an intimate feel in their descriptions of the place that could never be achieved in a generic book about ocean/beach life.
The Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library
I know opinions can vary when it comes to Dr. Seuss. The wording can be awkward and leave you tongue-tied, which is not the best for reading aloud. But it rhymes, and I’m a sucker for a good rhyming text, especially one that’s educational. Each book flows really well after one or two readings.
We have a few from the Learning Library series, and the boys love them all! I find that whatever the subject, the books give a great overview of the topic while highlighting a few key aspects and/or animals. The main text is supplemented with additional facts in boxes on many pages
- Clam-I-Am! – This book covers beach life, and I’ve found it to be a great guide to the animals that we see while visiting the beach and bay along the east coast of the US. I’m not sure how well it corresponds to beach life that you would find in other areas (Florida Keys? Oregon Coast? etc.).
- Wish for a Fish – This book focuses on ocean life farther from the coast, describing the animals that live there from the surface to the ocean’s lowest depths. There is more weight placed on the sunlight zone than the twilight zone, but I suspect that’s because there is more animal life near the ocean’s surface and it’s the area that we likely know the most about.
- Next year I may add Hark! A Shark! and A Whale of a Tale! to our library.
Horseshoe crabs are such a unique animal, and their appearance really seems to grab anyone’s attention who sees them. Did you know that horseshoe crabs are more closely related to spiders than they are to blue crabs?! Another fun fact, the blue blood of horseshoe crabs is harvested (without killing the crab), and then processed and used for essential medical testing to look for bacterial endotoxins in everything from vaccines to medical equipment. The earliest horseshoe crab fossils date back to 450 million years ago. They’re an amazing animal that has withstood the test of time, but during human history populations of these animals are now at risk from development, overfishing, and pollution. Teach your kids about them and create a few more horseshoe crab advocates.
- High Tide for Horseshoe Crabs – This book tells the story of the horseshoe crabs coming to shore to lay their eggs. They only do it a couple of times every spring during the new and full moons of May and June! And that migration onto shore is intimately tied to the migration of shore birds (the eggs supply a valuable food source to the traveling birds). And then there are the scientists (and citizen scientists) that come from all around to help with the annual horseshoe count and to tag individual crabs for future studies. The story itself conveys a lot of information without being too text heavy, which is great for books that you want to finish in one sitting. And to make up for the edited text, there is a detailed section at the end of the book discussing more details about the horseshoe crab’s life and their contribution to science.
- Crab Moon – This is a much simpler story about a boy going to the beach on a full moon night to see the horseshoe crabs come on shore to mate and lay eggs. Again, it has a more detailed section at the back of the book with information about the crabs. There’s one egregious error in this book in that the boy picks up a horseshoe crab by its tail. This is something that you should never do, instead, pick it up firmly with your hands on the edge of its shell. The book includes a footnote stating that we didn’t know the proper way to pick up horseshoe crabs when it was first published… this is the kind of error I’m ok with because I think you can always use it as a teaching tool (asking kids to pick out the problem on that page, and then reminding them that we’re always learning new information about animals and how we should handle/treat them).
Local Authors and Illustrators
These books are written and illustrated by artists that grew up on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. As I mentioned above, for anyone who knows the eastern shore of Virginia, these books have such a comforting and intimate feel. In addition to making them great stories for the reasons I mention below, it also makes them wonderful souvenirs for little travelers.
The first two books are written and illustrated by Anna Burger and Laura Craig. We stumbled upon them at Sundial Books, and think you should pick up your copies there too because independent bookstores are the best. The last book on our list is written and illustrated by Glenn Linton. As luck would have it, our beach house was the home he grew up in! Glenn’s book is a touch longer than the other two, so for our boys, we treat it at as a multiple-night read.
- Pea Soup and the Seafood Feast – This is the story of a boy, Jack, who is hungry but doesn’t want to eat his mom’s pea soup for dinner. Instead, he wants a seafood feast! He goes out in his boat (it seems to be common for kids growing up on the water to have their own boats at a young(ish) age) and catches enough seafood for a feast… but in the end, the pea soup was “quite tasty”. This book is great for introducing kids to the variety of seafood that lives in the waters around the eastern shore, and for conveying a respect and curiosity for the animals unique features.
- The Sea Hunt – By the same author and illustrator as Pea Soup. This is the story of Jack and Jenny’s adventure to look for “weird sea creatures”. They find all sorts of creatures that live in the marshes and deeper waters of the bay. This is a nice compliment to Pea Soup because unlike that book, this one focused on all of the aquatic species that we don’t eat for dinner!
- Buster B. Bluecrab – This story is told from the perspective of a blue crab (Buster B. to be exact). You learn all about a crab’s life in the marsh and the risks of being caught in a crabber’s net (or dredge, or pot!). The story includes a variety of facts about the blue crab from molting to mating to hibernating. At the end of the book, there’s a glossary of key terminology used to describe blue crabs, which is fun knowledge to pass along to all young crab-lovers.
We provided Amazon links to the books above, but we also encourage you to support your favorite local bookstore or library. On the Eastern Shore, here are a couple of our favorite stores:
Those are our current favorites, but we would love your recommendations for both books and favorite independent bookstores in the comments!