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– by Dr. Donna Phillips
With children outdoors, as well as bugs, birds, and animals, it is the perfect time to encourage them to explore the natural world around them. Books are a must to prepare, research, guide, and inspire them. Equipment that might come in handy would consist of containers for collecting, gloves, magnifying glass, a net, a hand shovel, binoculars and/or a telescope, tongs, plastic bags, a pail, labels or post-it-notes, perhaps a membership to the science museum, and don’t forget the sunscreen.
For our beginning scientists Bugs Galore (Candlewick Press, Somerville, 2014, $6.99), written by Peter Stein and illustrated by Bob Staake, is a good choice. Don’t let this format fool you. Even though it appears to be simple, it is full of ideas and information about kinds of bugs, where to find them, and how they behave. Written in simple words and format, it is a book that young children will easily understand and which provides ample opportunity for discussion and for their questions. Also, its sturdy format will stand up to being outdoors as a resource and guide.
Summer is perhaps the most interesting time of year for the study of weather. The variety of cloud formations, rapidly changing weather, stretches of warm, sunny weather and times of colder, cloudy weather, and the variety of weather across the country (including tornados and hurricanes) provide many opportunities for exploration. Your budding scientists will enjoy Wild Weather (Scholastic, New York, 2014, $6.99), part of The Magic School Bus series written by Joanna Cole and illustrated by Bruce Degen. It has chapters addressing clouds, water, and rain; wind, thunder, and lightning; hurricanes and tornados; climate change weather forecasting; weather careers, and more. Presented in the format of the books in the series, the information is easy to access with captions, notes, diagrams, descriptions, and outstanding photographs.
We live in the perfect place to become a “birder” and Birds (Scholastic, New York 2014, $12.99) is written with support from Barbara Russ, a literacy consultant, and Kim Dennis-Bryan, a natural history consultant. This book as part of the Discover More series and is designed for the beginning reader. While it is not specific to any area or types of birds, it provides general information that all birders need to know about studying our feathered friends. It explores what makes a bird a bird, the variety of beaks, feet, plumage, nests, and eggs as well as flight, bird senses, and more, all supported by a glossary and an index. This is the perfect format for children who are just learning how to navigate information texts. With lots of colorful photographs, diagrams, inserts, and information, this book is the perfect start to outdoor discoveries. Access to an online site to download a free digital book on How to Be a Birder, helps children learn to integrate technology with printed material.
Has your family visited the Mummies exhibit at the Buffalo Museum of Science yet? It has sparked great interest in the Egyptian culture. Ancient Egypt (Scholastic, New York 2014, $12.99), by Penelope Arlon, is the perfect companion book for a visit to the exhibit. The book is divided into Discovering Ancient Egypt, Everyday Life, and Afterlife. Held within the chapters are information on major discoveries, a timeline, important sites, and names of pharaohs and people who have made major discoveries. It also includes interesting facts about Egyptian artifacts and inventions. Outstanding photographs, easy to read print, use of headings and captions, and thoughtful layout make this book perfect for the developing reader and scientist. As part of the Discover More series, this book not only provides fascinating facts and information about the ancient Egyptians but it has a website that one can go to download a digital book entitled Amazing Mummy Tales by entering the code provided in the book. This book and access to the website will inspire and encourage children to ask questions and search for answers... two attributes of all successful scientists.
These are just a few of the books that can invite and encourage your child to become a scientist. They are available from your local library or bookstore. If none of the topics of the books presented in the article are of interest to you, there are many more for you to choose from. If your child has not picked a favorite topic yet, a trip to look through the stacks and shelves may help them find one. If they like the format of the Discover More books, there are many other topics that might intrigue them. This trip might be great for a cloudy, rainy day — so the next time the sun comes out, you can all be on your way to new discoveries and learning!
Dr. Donna Phillips is an assistant professor in the Education Department of Niagara University. Her specialty is literacy and children’s literature. She lives on Grand Island, NY and is the mother of two adult children.