At what age can we start teaching our children about light pollution? A brand new children’s book, Lights Out, proves that young picture book readers are the right age.

Inside the Book

Written by award-winning author Marsha Diane Arnold, Lights Out is a story of adventure and the search for the darkness of night. After the sun sets, Fox is ready for darkness, but it doesn’t come. Instead, he sees lights everywhere, blinking, flickering, and flashing. He sets out with Beetle to find true night and meets other animal friends along the way who struggle to find the dark. Together, their journey takes them to a place where there are no lights so they can finally see…everything.

The illustrations of Lights Out tell the story in beautiful detail. Susan Reagan, a fine artist, gives readers a sense of the loss of darkness under light-polluted skies in every picture in a way that even young readers can understand.

Parents and educators can also download activities to accompany the book. These activities can deepen a child’s understanding of light pollution and the night with writing, math, science, art, and more. There are two ways to download them. You can either download the entire activity kit, or you can download a menu of individual activities.

About the Author

I had the wonderful opportunity of interacting with Marsha to discuss Lights Out.

How did you get interested in the topic of light pollution?

I’m passionate about nature, wildlife, and the beauty of the night sky. When I saw these things that I love being impacted negatively by light pollution, I wanted to speak up about it. I’m a children’s author, so of course, the first thing I turned to was thinking about writing a picture book.

What have been your experiences under dark, starlit skies away from light pollution? How did that impact you?

I was a child in the ‘50s. I grew up on a farm in Kansas and spent summers with grandparents in a small town in southern Colorado. It was dark at night! And it was magical. Growing up on the Kansas plains, with no city lights for miles, was the beginning of my enchantment with the night sky. Looking at a simulation of light pollution in the United States from the late ‘50s to present, most would be astounded at how light pollution has increased.

One of the most impactful experiences of my life happened when I was invited to be part of Artists in the Back Country, an event run by the Sequoia Parks Foundation. Every year, they invite seven artists to come into the Sierra Nevada mountains to be inspired by nature and, hopefully, return home to share experiences with the world. The year I attended, one of the guests was a National Geographic photographer. The year before included a winner of the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. 

That summer we journeyed to our campsite on horseback, over rough terrain. We camped for a week at over ten thousand feet. The first night, I woke from sleep, opened my tent flap, and broke into laughter. Even growing up under dark skies, I had never before seen so many stars, so close to me! I wished then that everyone could experience the night sky in this way.

What would you say to a parent who wants to teach their child about light pollution?

When my first grandchild was less than a year old, I carried her outside and walked under the night sky with her in my arms, showing her the moon, singing her a star song. These early experiences are vital. As your child grows, you can have family sky watching nights. The naked eye works. If you have binoculars or a telescope, so much the better. There is always something to see. A planisphere can help you recognize the constellations for any time of night during the year. Be sure to check your latitude and get a planisphere for your part of the planet.

It’s best to approach teaching from a positive perspective. Teach them first to love the night sky – the moon, the stars, the constellations. Later you can approach the problem of light pollution. They may be able to see the issue themselves as the lights from houses and buildings interfere with their ability to see the night. It’s powerful for children to know that they can affect the light pollution challenge, simply by turning off the lights. 

Be sure to visit Marsha’s website to discover other award-winning titles.

NOTE: I have not and will not receive any compensation for this review other than an advance copy of the book. I only recommend books that I love and own.

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