January. January Darkness. Days that are squeaks of light. We might think this is the time to read about light. And of course it is. But it's also the time for us all, kids and adults, to read about darkness, if only to endure it better by understand its metaphorical role in our inner world.
Two of my favorite books about this are still the classics: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle (a wonderful new audio recording came out in 2012) and The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper. Also beloved is the lesser known The Perilous Gard (Newbery Honor 1975) by Elizabeth Marie Pope, who was one of my professors at Mills College. Finally, The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, which inspired the movie Hugo.
Have kids read one of these books and write about the dark and light on all levels--in the outer world, the inner world, the moral world, the mythological world. Use this to teach them about metaphor. Sadly today, with all the emphasis on the science, math, and technology, kids aren't developing their metaphorical understanding muscles. This is a loss, because metaphor--through dream, religion, mythology, poetry--will help them understand their connection to life. and their place in the world.