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The best starting point for encouraging children to take an interest in maps is a map of your own area. An ordinance survey one is ideal but an ordinary road atlas is also very useful. Look at it together and help them spot places they know and plan routes to visit friends and relatives. If you have the space, pin a large map on the wall and let them write on it - marking in places they know and colouring all the roads they have travelled along.

Some children's atlases consist purely of maps, others include information on different countries and photographs to help children relate the maps to real places. Pictorial atlases use a different technique, adding small drawings to the maps themselves to give children an idea of what they might see if they went there.

However well designed the atlas, children are likely to need help in using it because of the preponderance of foreign names and unavoidable geographical terms. They will also need to be shown how to use the grid references given in the index.

Standard Atlases
Philip's Junior School Atlas
(Philip's/Octopus Publishing)
This is a very traditional atlas which contains only maps and diagrams without any photos or descriptions of countries. It has excellent coverage of the British Isles including large, clear maps showing major towns, roads and railways as well as smaller ones showing the counties and geographical information such as population, industry and farming. The rest of the world is dealt with in much less detail with Europe treated as one area without maps of the individual countries. Useful support for KS2 but with a text booky feel which may put off some reluctant geography students. (64 pages including 22 on the UK)
Ages 8-11
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Philip's Children's Atlas
by David and Jill Wright
(Philip's/Octopus Publishing)
This is very much a world atlas with only one double page spread on the UK and Ireland. It combines maps, text and photographs in roughly equal quantities and the facts, information and pictures are well chosen for this age group. The maps take up two thirds of a page or less but are clear and easy to understand. A well-written index makes this a useful reference book for looking up countries mentioned in the news or elsewhere. Slightly text booky in appearance so best for map enthusiasts and confident readers.(96 pages including 2 on the British Isles)
Ages 8-12
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Student Atlas
(Dorling Kindersley)
This excellent atlas is sure to delight map enthusiasts. Each country or area has a detailed map of the area showing physical features, roads and a good selection of towns plus other smaller maps with accompanying text which provide geographical information such as industry, farming and population. There is also good description of the landscape but this is in words without any accompanying photographs. Good coverage of the British Isles includes a 14 page section of its own plus a double page spread in the section on Europe. A good choice for KS3 and GCSE geography students and a useful reference book for the whole family. (160 pages including 1 on the British Isles)
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Pictorial Atlases
The Picture Atlas of the World
(Dorling Kindersley)
Here small drawings on the maps combine with text, photographs and fact boxes to give a good picture of each country or region. Despite being a pictorial atlas, the maps themselves are good quality with towns and physical features marked although roads are not shown. There is a good index with grid references and the layout of the book is eye-catching and appealing. Definitely the best choice for those who don't usually like geography and for reluctant or weak readers although they will need help with the text. (80 pages including 1 on the British Isles)
Ages 8+
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Speciality Atlases
Ultimate Panoramic Atlas
(Dorling Kindersley)
The maps, or more accurately the pictures, in this fascinating book are huge, using fold out pages to fit whole continents onto one spread. Each one uses computer graphics to show, in exaggerate form, the physical features of both the land and the seabed - the water has been removed and the land that would be under it is coloured blue. The effect is stunning and shows far better than any words that islands are the tips of underwater mountains and what the phrase 'continental shelf' really means. Currently out of print but well worth borrowing from a library to trigger interest in physical geography.
Ages 6-106

The Satellite Atlas
by David Flint
(Belitha Press)
As the name suggests, this book is a collection of satellite photographs of the world. These are matched with information and photographs of the areas plus traditional maps whose similarity to the satellite images is striking. As well as images of whole countries and continents, there are close-ups of smaller areas such as Mount Kilimanjaro and the Brazilian rainforest. Most of the satellite pictures are artificially coloured but the colour scheme varies from picture to picture which makes them hard to understand at first although it also provides a real incentive to use the key. The index is disappointingly unhelpful but overall the book is an interesting offbeat look at our world which may capture the interest of children not usually interested in geography. (64 pages with the British Isles included in Europe and a close up of Edinburgh)
Ages 8 - adult
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