Using Picture Books with STEM Learning
Does literacy have a place in STEM curriculum? For those of you who aren't sure, STEM is short for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. There has been a lot of talk lately about integrating the arts in STEM areas - enter STEAM. STEAM is no longer just a gaming term. I'm in full support of this because I think the arts fit naturally amongst STEM goals, but what about literacy?
While some topics might lean more towards one curriculum area of another, in reality they are all linked in the real world. You can't purchase a book to read without understanding currency. You can't build a structure without plans that are drawn of the ability to communicate with the other builders. Scientific research requires note taking, mathematics, and often lengthy paper writing.
In the real world, interest and skills are used together. Shouldn't the same be true of education?
One tiny way of merging the subjects more naturally together is to include quality children's books in STEM curriculum units.
*Increases opportunities for important literacy development in a useful context.
*Can give abstract mathematical or scientific concepts a relate-able context.
*Explains concepts in a new way. Adding an additional teaching approach that could help reach more children.
*Read a children's book before you start a new topic as an introduction.
*Do group or individual research on a topic using children's books and report findings.
*Read a children's book that gives additional information about a topic and encourage questions and discussion.
*Read a children's book and do a hands on activity inspired by the story.
*Offer baskets of books on the topic for additional reading or further support.
Once Upon an Elephant by Linda Stanek
Once Upon an Elephant is a beautiful look at the way these large, lumbering creatures affect all of the other creatures in the great Savannah. Told through gentle repetitive phrasing and soft expansive illustrations, you can feel the slow movement of the elephants as they shape the world around them. Elephants are able to adapt the world every day with their tusks, their trunks, their footprints and even their dung. The impact that they make and the animals they help, so wonderfully described throughout the book, are in great danger as elephants grow closer to extinction. A powerful message and elegant book about these great animals. 3+
*You can find books about most kinds of animals. We gathered this whole collection of books about Ducks when my daughter had an interest.
Been There Done That : Reading Animal Signs by Jen Funk Weber
This book reminds me of the first time I ever went on a hike with a naturalist. Their ability to turn a seemingly empty forest into a world full of animals through insightful observation was seemingly magical. In Been There Done That, two children go on a walk in the woods together. Cole doesn't see any animals, but Helena is watchful and perceptive about the small changes to the environment that indicate "something had been there." Easily read as an interesting story or used as a launch pad for your own scientific discoveries, Been There Done That is a fascinating adventure in the woods. 3+
Moonshot : The Flight of Apollo 11 by Brian Floca
We are a huge fan of Brian Floca and this book is no exception. Stunning illustrations, fascinating information, and amazing retelling of the story of Apollo 11 for the next generation. 4+
*Find all of our Space Unit books in this post.
Where Does Kitty Go in the Rain? By Harriet Ziefert
What is rain? Do cats like rain? Do ducks like rain? Do butterflies? If your child is filled with seemingly endless questions, this book is for them. There are two layers to this warm, rainy day book. On each page are a couple sentences that carry the story of a girl and her mom watching through the window on a rainy day. Also on each page is a question and a lengthier answer. These sidebars address simple questions about rain and how animals react to rain with preschool friendly language. Informative and lovely, this is perfect for your rainy season. Don't miss the activities included on the final pages to compare, research, observe and create about your own rainy day. 3+
*You can find more books about Weather on our Weather Unit Booklist.
National Geographic Kids: First Big Book of Why by Amy Shields
When a child gets to about the age of 3 an endless stream of whys seems to pour from their mouth. This book has answers to more questions than I could think of. Fascinating information about a wide range of topics supported with beautiful photographs. 3+
Living Color by Steve Jenkins
Each and every one of Steve Jenkins' books could be on this list. They are all informative, fascinating, and beautifully illustrated. LIVING COLOR is about the various ways that color communicate things in the animal world. Red can communicate poison or what you ate for lunch. Blue can distract you or help someone blend into their environment. An amazing look at the diversity of colors and animals in our world. 5+
Doug Unplugged by Dan Yaccarino
Charming story about a little robot who unplugs one day and heads out into the world. 3+
All About Robots: A Kids Picture Book about Robots by Emma Jacobs
Filled with tons of photos and fun facts about robots. If you have a child curious about robots this is a must. 3+
Building Our House by Jonathan Bean
Inspired by an amazing true story, Building Our House is the story of a family that buys a piece of land and slowly builds their own house. Step by step the reader is walked through what it takes to build a house. The tools, the foundation, the insides, and most importantly the time. An afterward shares Jonathan Bean's story that he remembers primarily through photographs taken during the five years it took his parents to build their home. He tells the story through the eyes of his oldest sister. A daring adventure for a young family to undertake that demonstrates fortitude and patience that is rarely seen in today's world. A remarkable story and fascinating look at the details involved in creating a home. 2+
Iggy Peck Architect by Andrea Beaty
Find it Online
From a young age Iggy loves to build with anything on hand. While his parents are generally encouraging, his teacher puts a stop to all this creative thinking. One day on a class trip a bridge breaks leaving the class stranded and his teacher in shock. Fortunately Iggy's architect spirit is there to save the day. Such a fantastic book about creativity and engineering. 3+
*More books about Architecture and Building from our Skyscraper Unit
See Inside How Things Work by Conrad Mason
This is a fascinating lift the flap book about machines and gadgets from car engines and toilets to submarines and more. For a kid who wants to understand how everything works, this is perfect. 3+
Alexander Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday by Judith Viorst
We love all three of Viorst's books about Alexander. In this one, dear Alex has some pocket money but it somehow disappears much more quickly than he intended. 3+
Cash Kat by Linda Joy Singleton
Kat and her grandma head to the park to pick up trash. As they work, Kat keeps her eye out for pennies hoping to earn enough for an ice cream cone. Along the way lessons in currency, the environment, and generosity are integrated into this playful math picture book. 5+
Perfect Square by Michael Hall
The author of the creative "My Heart is Like a Zoo" has another fun shape book. We love this one for a discussion about creativity and art - but at the heart of the book it is about the shape, Square. This one explores the square and invites the readers to manipulate and get to know a square. Unique illustrations and topic - inspirational book.
*Our Square Activity that was inspired by Perfect Square.
Just How Long Can a Long String Be?! By Keith Baker
This little book surprised me with the amount of creativity and delight captured inside. A little ant asks his friend the bird a question, which prompts a rather complicated response. Have your string ready, you'll want to do some experimenting and measuring when you're done. 3+
Little Houses : A Counting Book by Helen Musselwhite
Darling book that reminds me of the great Mitsumasa Anno. Bright colorful houses and a whole host of things to count. 2+
*Want more counting books? Here are our Favorite Counting Books
Picture Books Reviewed
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