Government Stocking Stuffers for Kids

December 10, 2010

 Guest blogger Kelly Seifert talks about Government publications for children.

Having recently had a child, I was happy to discover that there are many great Government publications for kids. I had no idea there were so many educational and fun resources available – and with the holidays quickly approaching, there are so many economical and entertaining gift options to choose from! What’s more, with cold winter days ahead, these booklets are perfect for keeping little minds occupied when it’s too frigid to venture outside!  

For instance, the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has put out a children’s activity book, Understanding Marine Debris: Games & Activities for Kids of All Ages, Marine Debris 101. Included in this publication are silly stories, coloring activities, word finds, crosswords, memory games, connect the dots, and more. What a great, educational way to teach kids about protecting marine life!

Along the same lines, another great publication is the Chesapeake Bay Activity Book, also put out by NOAA. This book for young children provides information on the Chesapeake Bay watershed and gives them the opportunity to color, connect the dots, try word searches, and even make recipes.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) also puts out a great coloring and activity book called Marty and Jett’s Activity Book: Let’s Have Fun with Fire and Safety.

Also from FEMA, your kids’ favorite Sesame Street characters team up to teach about fire safety, hot and cold, and what to do when you hear a smoke alarm. Sesame Street Fire Safety Station: Color and Learn includes ideas for mapping emergency escape routes from your home and a few safety rhymes that can be sung.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has teamed up with the American Cancer Society to create the Mission Sunwise Activity Book, which provides puzzles and pages to color about how to be safe in the sun and to use sunscreen.

From the Department of Energy, try Energy Activities With Energy Ant.

And these are just a small sampling of the amazing publications out there!

As always, parents can also visit their local Federal depository library to find these great resources. With more than 1,200 locations around the country, what could be easier?

Locate a depository library near you.

Cold Outside?

August 13, 2010

It’s been an exceedingly hot here for the past month or so. When we had our record-breaking snowfall in February, everyone was longing for the warmth of summer. Now it’s here with a vengeance, and a brisk breeze would be most welcome. Sometimes the best way to fight the heat is to experience cold weather vicariously, which is easy to do in a real Government classic: American Weather Stories.

Originally appearing mainly in various National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA to the cognoscenti) publications, the essays in this 1976 publication covers all kinds of weather, but I was drawn to “The Year Without a Summer.” The year 1816 witnessed extraordinarily frigid temperatures throughout the Northern Hemisphere. In the American Northeast, there were two snowstorms in June and frost in June, July, and August. Farmers suffered severe crop losses in each of those months. It may have been no coincidence that the first general migration from new England to the Middle West occurred the following year. Meteorologists generally agree that fine particles in the upper atmosphere generated from an unusual number of worldwide volcanic eruptions caused this bizarre weather phenomenon.

Another cold weather tale is “The Blizzard of ‘88”, still a catchphrase even today. In New York City, drifts up to the second story windows of office buildings were common, and people literally were blown off their feet by the blasting winds that fed blizzard conditions starting on March 10, 1888. In “The Weather on Inauguration Day,” you’ll find tales of  really rotten weather, including William Howard Taft’s big day, when the snow and wind was even worse than the notorious day in 1961 when President Kennedy took his oath of office. As Taft remarked to a reporter, “I always knew it would be a cold day when I got to be President.”

Of course, American Weather Stories includes drought, hurricanes, and historic weather patterns, too, but it’s to hot to think about those…

Although long out of print, a commercial publisher has issued a reprint. I had no luck finding the text online, but you can find the original at a library.

Addendum: Thanks to Emily Carr at the Library of Congress, I can now share this online text with you.

Notable Documents 2009: Tracking Hurricanes

May 21, 2010

I believe this blog is evidence that Government books can provide both information and entertainment to readers, despite their stereotyped image as massive tomes packed with charts and statistics that only someone wearing a green eyeshade could love. Sometimes, though, charts also have their charms. Consider one of Library Journal’s 2009 Notable Government Documents: Tropical Cyclones of the North Atlantic Ocean, 1851-2006. Known to hurricane aficionados as “The Track Book”, this latest edition of a long-running series is mainly made up of year-by-year charts of the tracks of all North Atlantic tropic storms and hurricanes – 1,370, to be exact. Thanks to some diligent research by the staff of the Hurricane Research Division of NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, this edition includes charts from 1851 to 1870 and revised charts from 1871-1910. I’m intrigued by the kind of research that had to be done to come up with tracks for the 19th century storms – no satellite photographs then. Apparently ship records are a major source.

Well, OK, but so what? For one thing, of those 1,370 storms, 521, or 38 percent, have crossed or passed immediately adjacent to the U.S. coastline from Texas to Maine. Having recently blogged about the National Guard in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the colorful spaghetti-like strands that mark the tracks of 2005’s storms make these charts a lot more meaningful. It’s also interesting to see the variations from year to year – 2005 is a real tangle, while for a handful of years the charts are almost blank.

Tropical Cyclones of the North Atlantic Ocean, 1851-2006 isn’t exactly “a good read” but it does have a fascination all its own. For hurricane watchers, for example, it’s a vital reference source. You can look at it here. To find a library that has it, go here. To read more about the lessons Hurricane Katrina taught all of us, go here. Happy hurricane hunting!

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