We have a guest post on the blog today from Ellen’s husband, Tim. Tim is a credentialed high school physics, chemistry, and math teacher who taught public high school for over ten years. He loves getting kids of all ages excited about science and teaching tough concepts to them in ways they can understand. His breadth and depth of knowledge is incredible, and we’re thrilled to have him here today to share some of his favorite science books for kids.
Has your kid ever asked you a question about nature that you couldn’t answer? Or have you ever been curious yourself about how things work around you? From how atoms bond to the biology inside of you, science is full of great puzzles that people have worked on for centuries…and that right there can be the intimidating factor. If it took scientists centuries to figure everything out, how can you know what they know?
Teaching is about distilling knowledge into understandable chunks that others can learn, and good books are great at that. Unfortunately, most “science books” do so in the most boring way possible. But there are great books out there that either you or your kid can use to learn from. Here are some of our favorite science books for kids (from preschoolers all the way up to high school), on a wide range of topics.
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Fun and goofy, this book is full of visuals and cartoons (who would have guessed?) about physics. And I hear you, physics can be intimidating! But this book breaks down concepts and provides great visuals to help you understand. In many ways the topics of the book parallels the concepts a high school physics course would cover. If your student is taking a physics course, or just interested in how the forces around us work, this is a great supplement.
Despite being a cartoon guide, I would judge this book as 5th grade or above. There is a lot of reading that goes along with the concepts, and younger readers could get bogged down by the vocabulary. Still, if you have a budding scientist (or an avid reader), you could get this for them younger and let them enjoy the pictures and diagrams that they will get more context on as they grow.
See above, but for Chemistry. This also parallels the concepts that are taught at the high school chemistry level and would make a great supplement for any student taking such a course.
Join Sherlock Ohms in his search for the elusive elements! This book has great and simple visuals as it walks through the periodic table and all the elements on it. Each element is talked about and given a set of good concise facts, including appearance, element of danger, and super power! Did you know that Beryllium has X-ray vision, or that Carbon is a master of disguise? How about that Oxygen is essential for life? (Okay, I hope you knew that one, but it’s an amazing superpower, don’t you agree?) Add on a list of common places to find such elements (usually containing places that are found even in rooms inside your house), and what more could you ask for?
There is lots of reading, but the visuals make it a great book to just flip through and see some of the amazing pictures. The budding scientist will enjoy the pictures at a young age and they can easily learn some great simple facts about each element, but reading skills may make this one great for about 3rd grade before kids will sit down and read full pages.
Who doesn’t like flipping through great illustrations and seeing a flap to fold back? What’s underneath, what new take on the picture is about to be revealed? Usborne makes some great books, and their flap books are just amazing! With titles about all kinds of science, like Weather and Climate, Your Body, Atoms and Molecules, or even just The Universe, these books not only scratch that itch to flip the flap but also provide great knowledge about the world around us.
Great for early elementary kids (though our preschooler enjoys looking through them, too!), these books have lots of little bits of writing scattered throughout the page, so that students have a lot to look at and learn, without being overwhelmed by big paragraphs. They are a great mix of a simple design and amazing information. Maybe if you read them, you’ll eventually remember the difference between altostratus and an altocumulus clouds!
Another great Usborne book (no flaps on this one, sorry!) and one great for the budding space explorer. The “Things to know” themselves are very simple and direct: Did you know that moon dust is so sharp it can cut through spacesuits, or that Neil Armstrong’s boots are still on the moon? No? Now you do! But the pages add great pictures to illustrate the nooks and crannies of the facts to intrigue your explorer into learning even more.
This is a great book for 3rd grade and above. It is a quick read for the main points but full of amazing facts. And next time you see that movie with the space laser battle you’ll know that a real laser battle in space would actually be dark and silent. Why? Well, you’ll have to read and find out!
By the Smithsonian, this is a great complement to the Element in the Room book. Where that is illustrated, this has real life photographs. Besides the elements themselves, the book also has pictures of beautiful minerals, things each element is used in, and even some pictures of scientists famous for working with those elements. Trust me, you’ll be stunned by some of these photographs.
The pictures are great for any age, but the reading is about a 5th grade level. Many short paragraphs, but there are a few longer sections (usually three or four paragraphs long) that take a bit of reading comprehension. Still, the draw of this book is its pictures and I’m sure kids of any age will enjoy flipping through this book again and again.
Another Smithsonian book, this one is almost two hundred pages of visual after visual of the human body. The amazing drawings are both full of facts and vocabulary. This is great for those interested in how the human body works or for those taking a high school anatomy course. It outlines the amazing systems found in our body as well as going through each place in our body, piece by piece.
A few of the visuals might be tough for the squeamish, but the Smithsonian does a great job of realistic drawings without looking too real to upset most people. Like most of these books, the pictures can be enjoyed by most any age, but this one seems more geared for junior high and high School kids and students.
Have you wondered how we actually can see atoms? Or maybe you’re curious on how we apply the many properties of atoms into both everyday and novel things? This is a great complement to any of the element books. The book focused on the behavior of the atom than facts of the elements themselves, and its language and reading is higher level (junior high and high school). The text itself takes up more than half the book, but it is full of great illustrations and pictures, and takes a very thorough approach to all the ways an atom works.
This is also a great complement to any student taking a high school chemistry course, but the book’s order of concepts is very different from a typical high school course, so it is more of a supplement than something to read alongside their textbook.
Another great chemistry book that has some amazing photographs in it. The focus is on different kinds of compounds and how they interact. I think my favorite thing about this book is that every compound has its molecular structure shown, so you can visualize how H2SO4 actually looks at the atomic level.
Definitely a great book to flip through for any age, but the text is again aimed towards junior high and high school aged kids. Similar to the Atom book, it is a great complement to a chemistry course, but is ordered in a different way than the topics would be found in an average chemistry course.
Have you ever wondered how cells know where to go? They can’t see, can’t talk, can’t hear, but somehow they still communicate and still know where to go. This three-hundred-plus page book is focused on just one system: the Immune System. A system often shrouded in mystery that is explained away by talking about “white blood cells,” but is far, far deeper than that.
Developed and written by the creator of Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell, this book has language that defies its text and topic. It is written in a way that is understandable and in context that helps engage the reader, speaking in terms about the very real constant war going on in your body for your survival. The illustrations are comparatively few in this compared to the other books on this list (though the ones that are there are amazing), but this is a treasure in our household. Not soon after getting this book conversations were filled with Helper T-Cells and Macrophages. I can’t recommend this book enough because of the wealth of knowledge contained inside it, that is presented in a very comprehensible way. If you’re still not convinced, Kurzgesagt has a couple Youtube Videos about the Immune System, which make a nice prelude to the book itself.
And if you have a child who struggles with reading or has dyslexia (or just prefers to listen to books out loud), the Immune audiobook for this is also phenomenal.You can try Audible Premium Plus and Get Up to Two Free Audiobooks