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Geography & Literacy

boy in library

2008 was the National Year of Reading (NYR), a year-long celebration of reading in all its forms. It aimed to build a greater national passion for reading and has since developed into the ongoing Reading for Life project.

As part of the National Year of Reading, the GA gathered together a page of resources and ran a hugely successful Geography and Story competition. All of the materials, links and the winning competition entries can be accessed below. We've also provided links in the left hand menu to other pages focusing on geography and literacy including book reviews, recommended reading and teaching ideas.


Geography and Story Competition

Competition prizes

In the 2008 autumn term we announced our Geography and Story Competition, part of the GA's contribution to the National Year of Reading. We asked students aged 5-16 to write a story about somewhere important to them - fact or fiction, set at any time in the past, present or future. Prizes were awarded for the best piece in each of the three age categories.

The response was fantastic, and we were flooded with hundreds of entries from schools across the UK. The students' enthusiasm for their favourite places really shone through and the range of locations written about was incredibly varied. We were also impressed with the levels of creativity, both in terms of the content and the appearance of the submissions.

The winning entries in each category were as follows:

5-7 Winner
Gaurav Sunner, Age 6, Cawston Grange Primary School, Rugby
'My Birthday Treat to London'

8-10 Winner
Matilda Smith, Age 10, Orton Wistow Primary School, Peterborough
'Another Place'

11-16 Winner
Zoë Reed Sanderson, Age 11, Headington School, Oxford
'On the Banks of the Ogooué River'

Download: Winning Entries

The Spring 2009 issue of GA Magazine included full text of the winning entries and a list of all participating schools.

Although the volume of entries meant we were unable to acknowledge every story personally, we created a template certificate for teachers to print out and give to participating students.

You are what you read: cultural, personal and local identity

Everyone knows the expression 'you are what you eat', but have you ever thought about the impact reading has on you - in other words 'you are what you read'? The books and magazines you choose to read are often influenced by your friends and family, your culture, personal likes and dislikes and your connection with places. The great thing about reading is that it can transport you to different places and give you an appetite for understanding what makes other people tick...

See below for some materials to help you get involved with this theme.

Ideas (134k)

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Booklist: Journey Stories (409k)

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Rosie's Walk Activity (154k)

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Primary Handbook Extension Project

Primary Geography Handbook

In this Project area you'll find material which builds on the excellent resources and ideas in the Primary Geography Handbook - a must have book for all subject leaders and teachers from Foundation to KS2.

The first section focuses on Maps and Stories, linking well with our commitment to the National Year of Reading:

  • 4-7 - Everyday Lives, Grandfather and I
  • 6-9 - Changing Environments, Belonging and Window
  • 8-11 - Mapping Landscapes, Stig of the Dump

Visit the Project homepage to find out more and view the resources...

Young Geographers Project

Handa's Surprise and The Journey

Journeys, Place and Landscape, designed for a half term unit at the Foundation stage, was created as part of the Young Geographers Project by Austrey Primary School, Warwickshire. The fictional text The Journey was used as a starting point and inspired a series of activities which included fieldwork in the school grounds and local area. Skills in investigation and enquiry were developed and a sharing of ideas encouraged. Concepts of place, space, environment, and ESD were explored. For more details and activity plans for this project see the Austrey page in our Young Geographers Project area.

What is it like to live in Shelley? was another Young Geographers project created by the geography co-ordinator at Shelley First School in Yorkshire. Books based in Kenya were used to help with contrasting locality studies. The children mapped their local area using a combination of sketches and online tools before creating a 3D map of their village. They then shared information about Shelley with a partner school in Kenya. Find out more about the project on the Shelley page.


Story and Geography

Refugee Boy

Refugee Boy
Benjamin Zephaniah
Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (2001)
ISBN 978-0747550860

Year 6 pupils at Woodberry Down Primary School have been involved in a project based on Benjamin Zephaniah's book Refugee Boy. After following the central character's journey in the text, they then went on a real life trip to places featured in the story. The project crossed into many areas of the curriculum including literacy and geography.

Refugee Boy requires reading and re-reading to obtain full understanding - the search for geographical truth provided the motivation not only for reading but also for subsequent role play and writing prose and poetry.

Head teacher Greg Wallace wrote an article for Primary Geographer all about the project and the innovative approach to planning it required.

Download: Refugee Boy article (GA members only)
Download: Article extract (Free)
Website: Woodberry Down Primary School - Project Homepage
Website: Woodberry Down Primary School - Reading Campaign

You can find out more about the life of refugees at the Refugee Week website.

The Great Snake

The Great Snake
Sean Taylor, Illustrated by Fernando Vilela
Frances Lincoln (2008)

Geography is all about observation, noticing detail, putting two and two together to make sense of a place. This book is a brilliant example for showing that everything you see has meaning...

Ann Hamblen writes:

Sean Taylor is a skilled and impassioned writer, whose voice we trust straight away - well, voices, actually, because in this book he uses two - his storyteller's voice, and the voice of the sensitive, alert traveller, with all his senses and his brain switched on, as he sets off on his journey up the Amazon, from the Atlantic coast, inland to Manaus in the middle of the Amazonian rainforest, on the ferry boat, Rio Afuá, taking us with him...

Read the full review

Activity ideas:

  • Locating the River Amazon and Northern Brazil on a map/globe
  • Locating the area using aerial photos and Google Earth
  • Creating concept maps of the country and our perceptions of it
  • Comparing the lives of those in Amazonia to ours 
  • Diary writing and journalistic writing as though in the story
  • Fable writing from the stories in the book - but applied to an area familiar to the children - get them reading local tales
  • Contacting the Mamirauá Institute for Sustainable Development which has an excellent location map
  • For further ideas visit the WWF's Local to Global Conservation website to map where other sustainable projects are happening in the world


GA Storylink Packs


The GA publishes two packs ideal for linking geography and reading, Storylink Llandudno and Storylink Kochi.

The innovative Storylink concept is designed to promote the use of fiction in Key Stage 2 geography. The packs suggest geographical enquiries that focus on real issues in real settings and are supported by differentiated children's stories.

Each pack comprises a teacher's guide, resource sheets and three or four storybooks, set in the locality and with very contemporary themes. The stories can all be bought separately.

Find out more >>>

Your contributions and ideas are welcome

They may arise out of welcoming the cultural diversity in your locality, or highlight the understanding local writers have given about your area. We will include your ideas on this website and in articles on Wikireadia. If you would like to contribute your ideas or resources, please contact Rachel Bowles.

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