Art by Liz Painter.

As the nights get longer, have you noticed the stars more? Children and adults alike can learn more about the ecological and spiritual importance of protecting the night skies in this new book, “Who Loves the Dark?” by Sheri Phillabaum. Phillabaum, a former English professor and award-winning playwright, is Director of Lifespan Religious Education at First UU of San Antonio, TX.

Though the book will be released on December 15, you can catch a live reading with Phillabaum and illustrator Liz Painter on Wednesday, December 9 at 4pm PT/7pm ET — REGISTER HERE! Read an earlier, text-only draft on the UUA’s website here; order the book from a local bookshop

In the book, a child gets lost in a forest and must confront his fear of the dark. A wise owl teaches him about the plants and animals who love and need the dark, and the child finds a new reverence and trust for the night. Phillabaum hopes this book can inspire children to “embrace, not fear, Nature’s gift of the dark and to become better stewards of the Earth in general.”

Protecting the rhythmic balance of light and dark is important for supporting healthy ecosystems, including human physiology. One scientific study found that 99% of U.S. and European populations live under light-polluted skies, and more than one-third of the global population does not see the Milky Way. Light pollution can disrupt reproductive and feeding cycles for species such as bats, insects, plants, fish, turtles, marine invertebrates including corals, and even primates; artificial lights commonly disorient migratory birds.

Getting to look up at a night sky dotted with stars and galaxies also provides an important sense of awe and wonder, a sacred well for spiritual and philosophical reflection and perspective. Many groups, including the International Dark Sky Association, has resources for how to limit light pollution and learning more about the importance of dark skies.