By Starrla Cray
DASSEL, MN When the sky sizzles with lightening or booms with thunder, it’s not uncommon for children to become afraid especially if they don’t understand what is going on or why.
To help with this, KARE 11 chief meteorologist Belinda Jensen wrote six picture books that help explain the science of weather. She’ll be presenting her “Bel the Weather Girl” series at area libraries in August, including the Dassel Public Library at 12:30 p.m. Friday Aug. 3. All ages of adults and children are welcome to attend this free event.
“It’s fun to get out to libraries and schools,” Jensen said.
During her 25-plus years as a weather forecaster, Jensen has been a regular visitor to classrooms throughout the state. Before writing her books, Jensen used whiteboards, PowerPoint, and other tools to help tell her stories to students.
Jensen said the books have been a helpful teaching tool, and “the response has been wonderful.” One benefit is that the lessons aren’t confined to the classroom. During a storm, children can read the books at home, providing a distraction from their fears.
In Jensen’s experience, more children seem to be apprehensive about weather now than in the past.
“I think with the 24/7 news cycle that we live with, and with images bombarding these kids, a lot of kids can’t delineate the fact that a tornado that killed people in Oklahoma is not going to happen on any given day in Minnesota,” Jensen said.
She added that, “the research shows that if you explain the science of the weather to kids, and they understand it, then it’s not as scary.”
Afraid of weather or not
The books are also designed for children who are fascinated by weather children like Jensen used to be.
Growing up in Prescott, WI, Jensen remembers a storm that knocked down the treehouse in her yard, but left the property next door unaffected. She remembers being sad by what happened, but also extremely curious.
“It really affected me,” she said. “It’s something I really thought about.”
The main character in Jensen’s books, named Bel, is modeled after a photo of Jensen when she was a child. Other characters include Bel’s cousin, Dylan, and Bel’s dog, Stormy (modeled after the Jensen family’s Bernese Mountain Dog, Keana). The illustrations in Jensen’s books were done by Renée Kurilla, who has a bachelor’s degree in illustration and graphic design from The Art Institute of Boston.
With titles like “A Party for Clouds” and “A Snowstorm Shows Off,” each book focuses on weather phenomenon such as blizzards, tornadoes, hail, hurricanes, clouds, and thunderstorms. Each story includes facts about weather, and an experiment kids can try at home. The books have content for children in kindergarten through fourth grade, and are written specifically for the second-grade reading level and curriculum.
The series will be available for purchase at Jensen’s upcoming library events. They can also be found at Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com, and other retailers.
Belinda Jensen will be traveling to local libraries in August. She will talk about her children’s book series, “Bel the Weather Girl,” and her work as chief meteorologist at KARE 11. All ages are welcome to attend this free event.
• 10 a.m. Friday, Aug. 3 Litchfield Public Library
• 12:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 3 Dassel Public Library
• 10 a.m. Monday, Aug. 13 Cosmos Public Library
• 12:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 13 Grove City Public Library