Children’s Books

Books can tempt children to learn more about STEM subjects

September 21, 2013 

Teachers are concerned with meaningfully meeting the requirements of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and Common Core. My push is to find books for school and home that meet these needs and engage students, like the books below.

Ingot Arndt’s “Best Foot Forward: Exploring Feet, Flippers and Claws” (Holiday House, ages 4-7) invites children to participate. The book pairs a large photograph of a foot with a question about whose it is. A page turn reveals the answer, more photographs and examples of animals that use that foot, flipper or claw in a similar way.

Ted Lewin’s “What Am I? Where Am I?” (Holiday House, ages 2-5) also uses a guessing format to identify animals and their habitats. The simple language pattern works well for new readers, and Lewin’s watercolors are stunning.

Tedd Arnold’s “Fly Guy Presents: Space” (Scholastic, ages 4-6) expands the world of emergent readers’ favorite characters, Buzz and Fly Guy. With limited vocabulary, lots of photographs and silly illustrations, the exuberant guides relate numerous space facts. Other books in this series explore sharks and dinosaurs.

Lola M. Shaefer’s “Lifetime: The Amazing Numbers in Animal Lives” (Chronicle, ages 2-5) reveals a lifetime behavior of 11 different animals. The author’s inspiring writing combines counting and science facts, accented by Christopher Neal’s expansive, understated art. A male seahorse, for example, will “carry and birth 1,000 teeny-weeny, squiggly-wiggly baby seahorses.”

Elizabeth Rusch’s “Volcano Rising” (Charlesbridge, ages 4-8) adds gorgeous collage to a fascinating subject. Large, simple text works for young children while smaller print provides more information for older students.

David Adler’s “Millions, Billions & Trillions: Understanding Big Numbers” (Holiday House, ages 5-8) describes large numbers with child-centered images and words to stir imagination. A billion dollars, for example, could buy “one thousand sundaes every day for more than five hundred years.” Adler has similar fun for science in “Things That Float and Things That Don’t” (Holiday House, ages 5-8). His examples stimulate curiosity and encourage hands-on experimentation.

Rob Colson’s “Bone Collection: Animals” (Scholastic, ages 6 and up), gives information, plentiful photographs and intricate skeletal drawings of more than 40 animals. The elegant presentations, engaging factoids and clear layout make relationships between animals easy to suss out. This a great book for a child who loves to explore pictures and make those connections.

Sy Montgomery’s “The Tapir Scientist: Saving South America’s Largest Mammal” (Houghton, ages 10 and up) adds to the award-winning “Scientists in the Field” series. Montgomery’s approachable, lively voice gives authentic expression to the experience of a Brazilian scientist who tracks one of the “weirdest-looking and most mysterious animals on earth,” an animal that’s hard to find, capture and study. Photos by Nic Bishop extend the text.

Jonathan Litton’s “Mesmerizing Math” (Templar, 2013, ages 7-10) explains everything from sequences to square numbers, making it playful with interactive flaps and tabs.

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