Read Across America 2025: Mastering Setting Through Geography

It’s nearly time for Read Across America 2024! This year, we’re taking a geographical approach to exploring the world of books for our learning. By understanding the role of the setting in literature, my students will enhance their reading experience and appreciate stories on a deeper level.

Join me as I walk you through how I’ll help my kiddos embark on an adventure that will broaden our literary horizons and transport us on a road trip through all 50 states in the United States of America using diverse literature.

read across america 2024 - geography through setting
Read Across America 2025: Mastering Setting Through Geography 8

What is Read Across America?

Read Across America is an annual event celebrated the week of March 2nd to promote literacy and a love for reading among people of all ages. Established by the National Education Association in 1998, this initiative coincides with the birthday of the legendary children’s author, Dr. Seuss.

What is Read Across America

The aim of NEAs Read Across America Week is to provide children with access to a diverse range of books, increase their understanding of the world around them, and develop their imagination and critical thinking skills. Many teachers think to celebrate Read Across America you have to teach primary learners, but that just isn’t true! Participating in this event can help inspire a lifelong love of reading in your learners, regardless of their age.

The Importance of Setting in Literature

In literature, the setting is far more than just a backdrop to the action; it’s a living, breathing entity that shapes characters, influences plotlines and provides context. Think of your favorite books and how different they would be if set in another place or time. 

Would Charlotte’s Web carry the same charm without the rustic charm of the Zuckerman farm? 

Would The Wizard of Oz be quite as magical without the contrast between Kansas and the Land of Oz? 

The setting profoundly impacts our understanding and interpretation of these stories.

The Role of Geography in Setting

What’s more, each setting is intrinsically linked to geography. The geography of a place includes its physical features, climate, and even the cultural or historical context that has shaped it. This is why when we read about Sal and her mother picking blueberries in Maine in Blueberries for Sal, we can almost feel the crisp New England air and hear the rustling of leaves. 

Similarly, when we follow the adventures of Jack and Annie in the Magic Tree House series, each book transports us to a different geographical location, engaging young readers and instilling a sense of curiosity about the wider world. 

This intersection of literature and geography is where magic happens, creating an immersive learning experience for our students. In the upcoming sections, we will delve deeper into how we, as educators, can effectively teach these concepts and truly enrich our students’ learning journey.

Exploring the Regions of the United States through Literature

Read Across America offers some great opportunities to make cross-curricular connections. This year, since my oldest is working on U.S. Geography, I decided to take a literature-based road trip across the country while she works to master her states and capitals.

Regions of the United States through Literature

To understand the significance of setting in literature, it’s essential to appreciate the diverse regions of the United States. From the rugged mountain ranges of the West to the tranquil beaches of the South, every region has a unique character and history that shapes the stories set within it.

By familiarizing yourself with the regions of the United States, learners can gain a deeper appreciation for the settings of their favorite books and discover new stories to explore.

RegionStatesFeaturesClassic Books
NortheastMaine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, New JerseyHistoric landmarks, picturesque landscapes, bustling citiesThe Catcher in the Rye, Little Women, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
MidwestOhio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, KansasFertile farmlands, industrial cities, Great LakesThe Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Bridges of Madison County, Main Street
SouthWest Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, Florida, Texas, OklahomaPlantations, Civil War history, beaches, southern hospitalityTo Kill a Mockingbird, Gone with the Wind, The Help
WestMontana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, Washington, Oregon, California, Alaska, HawaiiMountains, deserts, beaches, HollywoodThe Grapes of Wrath, The Call of the Wild, Into the Wild

As you can see, each region has its own distinct features and classic books that capture its essence. By exploring the regions of the United States, you can gain a deeper appreciation for the settings of your favorite stories and discover new literary treasures to enjoy.

Now that you have a better understanding of the regions of the United States, it’s time to explore how these regions enhance the reading experience.

Recommended Picture Books for Teaching Setting & Geography

While classics and chapter books are great, sometimes you don’t have time to dive into long texts. Perhaps you want to make a quick and easy literature-based connection to a region.

The great news is there’s no shortage of wonderful children’s books that blend setting and geography beautifully. While you might choose to go for the overview, like Laurie Keller’s The Scrambled States of America, you might also read a book for each of the 50 states.

50 States Picture Booklist

To help you get started with your Read Across America 2024 planning, I’ve handpicked some titles that bring diverse U.S. landscapes to life:

StateBook Title(s)
AlabamaLiberty’s Civil Rights Road Trip, The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read, Trailblazer: The Story of Ballerina Raven Wilkinson, Woosh!: The Story of the Super Soaker
AlaskaBerry Magic, Up on the Denali, The Salmon Princess, The Great Serum Race: Blazing the Iditarod
ArizonaChester Nez and the Unbreakable Code: A Navajo Code Talker’s Story, Quiet Hero: The Ira Hayes Story, Grand Canyon
ArkansasKing of Ragtime: The Story of Scott Joplin, Rise: From Caged Bird to Poet of the People, Maya Angelou
CaliforniaFly, Girl, Fly!, Making Their Voices Heard, Sisters and Champions: The True Story of Venus and Serena Williams, The Wonderful Towers of Watts, Chang’s Paper Pony
ColoradoAliana Reaches for the Moon, Aunt Clara Brown: Official Pioneer, High as a Hawk: A Brave Girl’s Historic Climb
ConnecticutFerryboat, Big Top Burning, Noah Webster and His Words, The Legend of Hobbomock: The Sleeping Giant
DelawareHigh Tide for Horseshoe Crabs, Ceasar Rodney’s Ride, When Washington Crossed the Delaware, Blue Chicken, Annie Jump Cannon, Astronomer, Cornstalks & Cannonballs
FloridaShark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist , No Voice Too Small, Escape, Saving American Beach
GeorgiaSong in a Rainstorm, Queen of the Track, A Change of Heart, Sewing Stories, And the Tide Comes in
HawaiiSix Feet Together, ‘Ohana Means Family, The Good Song, Ho’onani, Milo’s Endless Drawing Pad, A True Princess of Hawaii, The Bravest ‘Opihi
IdahoPotato: A Tale from the Great Depression, Firestorm, High Wind in Idaho, Lewis and Clark’s Bittersweet Crossing, Mailing May
IllinoisExquisite, Swish!, Sweet Dreams, Sarah, Abe’s Honest Words, Willie & the All-Stars
IndianaShark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist, No Voice Too Small, Escape, Saving American Beach
IowaCreekfinding, Tomas and the Library Lady,
KansasAunt Minnie McGranahan, Charlie Parker Played Be-Bop, Follow Me Down to Nicodemus Town, Grasslands
KentuckyAbe Lincoln Crosses a Creek, Danger at Sand Cave, Happy Birthday to You!: The Mystery Behind the Most Famous Song in the World,
LouisianaA Penguin Named Patience, Hooper Finds a Family, Lapin Plays Possum, Mahalia Jackson, Louisiana Seasons, Little Pierre
MaineBlueberries for Sal, Twelve Kinds of Ice, Miss Rumphius, Keep the Lights Burning, Abbie, Circus Ship, Island Boy, The Stranded Whale
MarylandBecoming Babe Ruth, Bread for Words: A Frederick Douglass Story, By the Dawn’s Early Light, Clara and the Book Wagon, Goliath: Great Hero of the Baltimore Fire
MassachusettsComet’s Nine Lives, Dario and the Whale, Bus Route to Boston, Make Way for Ducklings, Ghost Ship, The Boy on Fairfield Street: How Ted Geisel Grew Up to Become Dr. Seuss, Real Pirates: The Untold Story of the Whydah from Slave Ship to Pirate Ship
MichiganGitchi Gumee, Friends Change the World: We are the Supremes, The Legend of Sleeping Bear,
MinnesotaBowwow Powwow, Clouds of Terror, Keystones of the Stone Arch Bridge, Larry Gets Lost in the Twin Cities, Mudball, Honk the Moose, Paul Bunyan, Minn of the Mississippi
MississippiFreedom School, Yes!, Jim Henson: The Guy Who Played With Puppets, Daddy Played the Blues
MissouriDizzy Dean and the Gashouse Gang, Cloud with a Chance of Toasted Rav, Fairy Floss: The Sweet Story of Cotton Candy, Meet Me in St. Louis: A Trip to the 1904 World’s Fair
MontanaJackson Sundown, Custer’s Last Battle, Dust Devil, Buffalo Music
NebraskaThe Huckabuck Family and How they Raised Popcorn in Nebraska and Quick and Came Back, Bones in the White House, Elsie’s Bird, Dandelions, Nora’s Chicks
NevadaPaiute Princess: The Story of Sarah Winnemucca, Snowshoe Thompson, Rhyolite: The True Story of a Ghost Town
New HampshireImogene’s Last Stand, Celia’s Island Life, Miss Hickory, The Legend of the Old Man of the Mountain, The Bear that Heard Crying, Ox-Cart Man
New JerseyAaron and Alexander, Hiding out in a Pancake Palace, Nicky Fifth’s New Jersey, The Singer and the Scientist, 16 Words, A Splash of Red
New MexicoThe Water Lady: How Darlene Arviso Helps a Thirsty Navajo Nation, Classified, Juan and the Jackalope
New YorkCharlotte and the Nutcracker, Branches of Hope: The 9/11 Survivor Tree, Maryam the New Yorker, Shirley Chisholm Dared, Sleepover at the Museum, The Lost Package, Imagine!
North CarolinaBetween the Lines, Pigskins and Paintbrushes, As Fast as Words Could Fly, Salt in His Shoes
North DakotaJosie Dances, Buffalo Bird Girl, Jingle Dancer, We are Grateful, Dinomummy, Naya Nuki, Sacagawea, A Boy Called Slow
OhioThe Unstoppable Garrett Morgan, Maya Lin, Sparky’s Bark
OklahomaMaria Tallchief, Look, Grandma!, Joshua and the Biggest Fish, The Cloud Artist, Leah’s Pony, Dust for Dinner
OregonThe Hike, Thirty Minutes Over Oregon, Roller Girl, Apples to Oregon
PennsylvaniaMitzvah Pizza, When Marian Sang, A Splash of Red, Red Bird Sings, Henry’s Freedom Box, Thurgood
Rhode IslandBirth of Cool, Fancy Party Gowns, Swim that Rock, Old Salty Dog
South CarolinaHold the Flag High, Princess and the Peas, Dave the Potter, Palmetto, Champions of the Bench, Francis Marion and the Legend of the Swamp Fox,
South DakotaTasunka, The Chrismas Coat: Memories of My Sioux Childhood
TennesseeRock & Roll Highway, Tiny Stitches, Paperboy, Beautiful Jim, The Quickest Kid in Clarksville, Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop,
Texas The Juneteenth Story, Sing with Me, Saltypie, Bad News for Outlaws, The Buddy Bench, Juneteenth for Mazie
UtahA Place Where Sunflowers Grow
VermontMalian’s Song, Green Mountain Hero, Kitty & Mr. Kipling
VirginiaOpening the Road, Runaway, A Spy called James, Show Way, The Case for Loving,
WashingtonJimi: Sounds Like a Rainbow, Galloping Gertie, Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla
West VirginiaOne Step Further, Counting the Stars, A Piece of Home, Fifty Cents & a Dream
WisconsinThe Shape of the World: A Portrait of Frank Lloyd Wright, The Raft, Time for Cranberries, Through Georgia’s Eyes, Sharice’s Big Voice
WyomingDinosaur Hunter, Action Jackson, Buffalo Bill & the Pony Express, I Could Do That: Esther Morris Gets Women the Vote, Volcano Dreams: A Story of Yellowstone

Remember, the power of these books lies not only in their storylines but also in the geographical journeys they take readers on.

As you explore these books with your students, encourage them to visualize the settings, ask questions, and connect with the geography they’re learning. 

Teaching Geography & Map Skills Through Setting

Incorporating geography into the teaching of setting doesn’t have to be complex. Here are some strategies to seamlessly blend the two concepts in your reading sessions:

Teaching Setting Through Geography

Visualize the Setting: Encourage your students to visualize the setting as they read. Have them describe the setting and its geographic features using evidence from the text and illustrations. This exercise enhances comprehension and helps students to engage more deeply with the story.

Identify Geographic Elements: Teach students to identify geographic elements in the story’s setting. For instance, are the characters in a coastal city or a mountain village? What are the characteristics of those places? What kind of vegetation, wildlife, or weather might exist there? This process can help children connect the story’s setting with real-world geography.

Use Maps: Integrate maps into your reading sessions. Find the location on a map if the book is set in a real place. Discuss its location in relation to where your students live, its climate, significant landmarks, and so on. For books set in imaginary places, encourage students to create their own maps based on details from the book.

Compare and Contrast Settings: If you’re reading multiple books, have students compare and contrast the settings. How does the geography of the places influence the characters’ actions or the plot? This activity can deepen students’ understanding of how the setting impacts the story.

Connect to Social Studies: If you’re studying a particular region or period in social studies, choose books that align with that theme. This strategy enhances students’ understanding of the geographic setting and provides a more immersive learning experience.

Create a Setting Diary: Have students maintain a “setting diary” where they note down the setting of each book they read and describe its geographic features. Over time, this diary can serve as a tangible record of their literary travels.

Remember, our goal is to help students see that every story happens somewhere, and the ‘where’ is often just as important as the ‘what’. As we journey through the pages of these books, we’re not just learning about characters and plots; we’re exploring the wide, wonderful world of geography. By teaching setting and geography hand in hand, we can truly enrich our students’ reading experiences.

8 Read Across America Ideas for Middle School to Enhance Understanding of Setting & Geography

Read Across America 2024 Ideas

While reading these books is a fantastic start, hands-on activities can deepen students’ understanding of setting and geography. Here are a few ideas:

1. Create a Story Setting Diorama

Have students choose one of the books and recreate its setting in a shoebox diorama. This project allows children to explore the geography of the setting tangibly.

2. Setting Travel Brochure

Students can design a travel brochure for one of the book settings. They can include major geographical features, climate, culture, and interesting places to visit.

3. Map Drawing

Provide students with a blank map of the United States and ask them to plot the settings of their favorite books. This activity reinforces students’ understanding of geography and strengthens their connection to the stories they love. You can also have students present their maps to the class and share their thoughts on how the setting impacted the story.

4. Write Postcards from the Setting

Pretending they’re in the book’s setting, students can write postcards describing the geography, climate, or important landmarks. This activity promotes perspective-taking and allows students to demonstrate their understanding of the setting.

5. Classroom Weather Station

If your books cover a range of climates, consider setting up a classroom “weather station.” Students can report on the weather of their chosen setting and compare it to their local weather.

6. Geography Challenge

Create a geography quiz based on the settings of books. Challenge students’ knowledge of different regions in the United States and beyond. Offer prizes for correct answers to inspire friendly competition and encourage participation.

7. Start a Book Club

Organize a Read Across America book club for students. Select a book related to the theme of geography and explore it together. Encourage students to share their insights, ask questions, and participate in discussions. This promotes critical thinking, fosters community building, and nurtures a love for reading.

8. Hold a Creative Writing Contest

Encourage students to tap into their creativity by providing them with a unique creative writing prompt related to geography. For example, ask students to imagine themselves in a specific setting in a book and write from the perspective of a character in that setting. This activity helps students to develop their creative writing skills and enhances their appreciation for storytelling.

9. Hold a Read Across the U.S.A. Challenge

Challenge your learners to read a book set in each state of the United States. You can allow picture or chapter books depending on the time you want the challenge to run and their reading levels.

Here’s a great resource to help your learners track their progress! 50 States Reading Challenge

Read the United States Challenge 1 read across america 2024, read across america 2024 ideas

No matter what activity you choose, make it engaging and interactive so students can enjoy the experience. By promoting literacy in a fun and exciting way, you’ll be helping to inspire a lifelong love of reading in the middle schoolers of Read Across America 2024.

Read Across America 2024: More Than Just for Littles

By the end of this year’s Read Across America celebration, I hope you’ve gained valuable insights into how you can connect the power of setting in literature through a geographical lens into your lessons this year. By understanding the unique characteristics of different regions, we can immerse ourselves in captivating stories and broaden our literary horizons.

Remember, Read Across America promotes literacy and a love for reading, but it doesn’t have to be all Dr. Seuss and primary grade-focused. Through the exciting ideas and activities I’ve discussed in this article, I hope you’ve found new ways to engage your upper elementary and middle schoolers.

Thank you for joining me on this adventure. I hope you have a fabulous Read Across America 2024, and I look forward to celebrating with you again next year!

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