Welcome to Top Grade: CanLit for the Classroom, a blog and preview video series that features new releases from Canadian book publishers ideal for use in K-12 classrooms and school library collections. Throughout the year, we dive into new titles, highlighting relevant curriculum links and themes.
Written by secondary school teacher Spencer Miller
One of my clearest memories of elementary school is from a second grade science class. I can picture myself sitting cross-legged with my classmates in front of my teacher and her large flip chart paper pad as she illustrated and explained the types and species of trees in our province. When I walked home that day, I looked at the trees in my neighbourhood in a brand new way.
That excited feeling of knowing something new about the world has lingered in my mind for over 20 years. I’m appreciative of my second-grade teacher who must have planned, prepared and delivered lessons every day, never knowing what moments were going to stick.
How can we spark curiosity and a love of science in our students? I believe that reading can play a role. Like my second grade teacher, science writers and illustrators know how to make scientific concepts come alive in the minds of their readers. They know how to make science fun and encourage readers to explore and experiment on their own.
Recently I’ve been blown away by the quality and variety of science books for kids in Canadian children’s publishing. Some of the most creative and imaginative writing for children is happening in science books. These books can show kids everything from the wonders of the cosmos to the magnitude of microbial life to the insides of their digestive system.
Here is a list of brand-new science books for kids to spark curiosity and exploration!
Fiona The Fruit Bat (ages 3-7) is a sweet, fun, and informative picture book about the fascinating science behind echolocation. The book is written by a real-life biologist who works with bats in his everyday life. In addition to learning all about fruit bats and how they navigate their way through dark spaces, the book shares a comforting message to help kids scared of the dark.
In Class: TeachEngineering suggests giving students the chance to experience echolocation themselves by wearing blindfolds and having another student guide them by making snapping noises in front of, behind, or to the side of them.
Rock? Plant? Animal? How Nature Keeps Us Guessing (ages 4-8) is an interactive guessing game that features some of nature's most unusual “species”. Each page features a realistic illustration of what is either a rock, plant, or animal. Readers have to study each image and guess what they are looking at—then turn the page to find the answer. The answers are hard to believe! This interactive reading experience highly encourages curiosity and exploration.
In Class: In this case, the activity is built right into the reading experience. Read the book together as a class and have your students guess what they are looking at before you turn the page and reveal the answer.
The Museum of Odd Body Leftovers (ages 7-11) is an illustrated tour of our “leftover” body parts that introduces readers to the bizarre and fascinating science of evolution. Your reading experience is designed to feel like you’re visiting a museum. Each spread of pages feels like you’re standing in front of a new display or exhibit. There’s even a gift shop at the end. This engaging format makes learning about evolution relevant and exciting.
In Class: This book teaches us about evolution by learning more about our bodies. Learn more about hiccups and goosebumps or get acquainted with our ancient human cousins with videos from SciShow Kids.
Poopy Science: Getting to the Bottom of What Comes Out Your Bottom (ages 8-12) covers everything kids ever wanted to know (and more!) about the grossly fascinating topic of human waste. Exceptionally engaging and overflowing with silly puns, gross facts and comic-style illustrations, this is definitely a book kids will pore through on their own. Underneath all the jokes and giggles there is some serious knowledge to gain about the science of digestion, health, and sanitation.
In Class: For readers interested in learning more about the digestion system, check out It Takes Guts: How Your Body Turns Food Into Fuel (And Poop) by Dr. Jennifer Gardy.
Beware the Burmese Pythons: And Other Invasive Animal Species (ages 8-12) is an intriguing look at invasive animal species from around the world. Each section introduces a new species and explores how they got into new ecosystems (spoiler alert: it’s always humans) and the damage they've caused. Information is presented in fun, eye-catching formats like comic strips and newspaper articles. The book makes sure to include possible solutions to the problem of invasive species asking readers “if you were a scientist or conservation officer, what would you do?”
In Class: Research an invasive species from where you live and create a comic, poster, or news article to inform your community.
The Science of Boys (ages 12-18) is a middle grade novel that weaves real science and enthusiasm for scientific principles into a humorous story about friendships, family, and belonging. The story is about 12-year-old science nerd Emma Sakamoto who wants to reinvent herself when she starts high school. Mishaps ensue as Emma tries to apply scientific principles to the mystery of getting a boyfriend. Throughout the story, author Emily Seo, who holds a PhD in chemistry, breaks down real scientific concepts and terms.
In Class: This book cleverly prompts readers to consider how scientific thinking can be applied to daily living. What are the benefits of thinking like a scientist? Challenge students to creatively illustrate the scientific process of an everyday situation like winning a basketball game, getting a part-time job, or making a new friend.
Spencer Miller graduated from the University of Calgary with degrees in English and Education. He participated in various projects examining the potential of children’s literature in the classroom as an undergraduate researcher. He is currently a secondary school teacher in Montréal/Tiohtià:ke. You can follow more of Spencer’s passion for books on Instagram @YACanadaBooks.