Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Promoting Literacy through Picture Books: Part 2 - Science Books

When I said last month in Promoting Literacy through Picture Books: Part I that I’d offer some books to consider for sparking interest in a variety of subjects, I had some ideas and resources in mind. But as I researched more, I realized that this topic was much bigger than I could present in a single post.
To keep this topic manageable, I’m offering a limited scope this week: picture books about science. Specifically, today’s books are about scientific method (observation, research, hypothesis, testing and conclusions) and basic science concepts (cause and effect, attributes, perspective…). Noticing these methods and concepts as you read can be a fun activity.
Of course, this post could be part of a Monday Books post, but the concentration on the scientific aspects of the books seems more suitable for a parent post.
Carol Otis Hurst is a wonderful source for books ideas. Click here for a huge list of books on all sorts of topics. Today’s list starts with some of Hurst’s science book suggestions, followed by some of my own.

Letting Swift River Go by Jane Yolen and Barbara Cooney
This book presents not only the mechanics of storing water, but the results of that action on the people who are displaced by those actions.

Everybody Needs a Rock by Byrd Baylor and Peter Parnall
This book describes the qualities to consider in selecting the perfect rock for play and pleasure. Its emphasis on attributes makes it an important science book.

Shark in the Sea by Joanne Ryder and Michael Rothman
We experience one day through the eyes of a shark.

Tigress by Helen Cowcher
This book builds on the conflict between the needs of a wild animal and those of the people.

The Day Jimmy's Boa Ate the Wash by Trinka Hakes Noble and Steven Kellogg
Jimmy's boa constrictor wreaks havoc on the class trip to a farm. This book gives varying perspectives and the idea that each action causes a reaction.

In the Beginning: Creation Stories from Around the World by Virginia Hamilton and Barry Moser
This is an illustrated collection of twenty-five myths from various parts of the world explaining the creation of the world. It belongs in a science collection for contrast, food for thought, and the evidence of the very human need to explain the unknown.

Cook-a-doodle-doo by Janet Stevens
With the questionable help of his friends, Big Brown Rooster manages to bake a strawberry shortcake which would have pleased his great-grandmother, Little Red Hen. The added insets give explanations and information about each process, making this a good science book.

You Can't Take a Balloon into the Metropolitan Museum by Jacqueline Preiss and Robin Preiss Glasser
In this wordless story, a young girl and her grandmother view works inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art, while the balloon she has been forced to leave outside floats around New York City causing a series of mishaps that mirror scenes in the museum's artworks. Finding the science behind each of the balloon’s moves is just one activity from this book.

Owl at Home by Arnold Lobel
In each of five short stories, Owl could do with a little science training. His interpretation of natural events is confusing to say the least.

A Seed Is Sleepy by Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long.
This book is an introduction to an assortment of seed and plant facts. It starts with an opening page spread showing sunflower seeds nestled within the center of a ripe sunflower head. Beautiful illustrations show seeds next being secretive (lying dormant for a season or for years), fruitful (encased in blueberries and papayas) and so on.

The Magic School Bus Series by Joanna Cole, illustrated by Bruce Degen
By my last count, there are 69 books in the Magic School Bus series! I haven’t read them all, but each one I have read has been a winner. They show science in ways that are entertaining, informative, funny and understandable. Their scope is quite comprehensive – from archaeology to bees to the human body.

Flotsam by David Wiener
Science is all about exploring, looking closely, imagining, looking closer still, persisting and sharing. The boy in this wordless book does all these things and more. The illustrations are really quite indescribable and magical.

Science Verse by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith
Ha! It’s possible adults will enjoy this book as much as the kids. Some well-known poems and songs are re-written around science concepts. For example, The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere becomes The Senseless Lab of Professor Revere, about the senses.

11 Experiments That Failed by Jenny Offill and Nancy Carpenter
A girl asks questions [What is the best way to speed up a boring car ride?], forms hypotheses [Yodeling makes time go faster.] and conducts experiments [Yodels in the car.] Each conclusion is based on the results of the experiment [Walked to school.] Although the hypotheses and experiments were all failures, the scientific method is quite good. And funny.

I hope you and your child enjoy some of these science picture books. They definitely gave me some things to think about! Some Wednesday in February, I’ll write about picture books dealing with history.

MARK YOUR CALENDAR: March 7th is World Read Aloud Day. It is sponsored by LitWorld, an organization that strives to unite literacy efforts across the world. I will post more information as the day gets closer.

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