October 28, 2020

November 2020: Budding Scientists



Ready for Science Week? 

Science is a way of looking at the world, of understanding it and, sometimes, of transforming it. And it’s all around us. From morning to bedtime, you and your little one walk around a world touched by science: you press buttons and turn slice pan into toast; you tap a finger across a pane of glass and transform dots on a screen into Granny’s voice!  

We are all consumers of science. But how about becoming actors of science and encouraging kids of all ages to put on their science eyes too? Science relies on observation, on understanding cause and effect, on experimenting, failing, trying again. All these skills can be fostered in very young children and nurtured as they grow up to help them become more at ease in a world they understand more fully.  

Growing a budding scientist doesn’t have to involve turning your kitchen into a chemistry lab (although that could be fun too) and can start with babies. Think of the Baby Einstein series of books and other products if you need proof that it’s a viable idea! Encourage your little one to look, to recognise shapes, colours, patterns and cause and effect. That’s essentially what they are working on when they throw their lunch overboard from their highchair and it doesn’t come back up. They’re observing, trying out theories and acting on their findings.  

Baby books looking at opposites, colours, patterns and so on, all help laying the foundations for the scientific mind to develop. The That’s Not My  series is all about observing, finding differences and similarities, classifying and rewarding perseverance! Stuart J. Murphy and Lois Ehlert’s A Pair of Socks operates on the same basis, asking the reader/listener to help reunite a lonely sock with the correct partner (2+). 

With slightly older readers and for a brilliant take on sequencing and cause and effect, try the wordless Before After by Anne-Margot Ramstein and Matthias Arégui (ages 3–8). Hey, Water! by Antoinette Portis is another fantastic book that grows with your young reader: the more you read it, the more there is to learn about water in all its forms, from the familiar tap or puddle to the far-away iceberg. Small World by Ishta Mercurio and Jen Corace is all about growing, too: it follows the curious and intrepid Nanda who finds that the more she grows the more the world grows too, from the circle of her mother’s arms to the unexplored territories of outer space (ages 4–7)! 

Once your reader’s scientific appetite has been sufficiently wetted, throw them in at the deep end with This Book Thinks You’re a Scientist by Harriet Russell (8+) which encourages kids to think, investigate, imagine, experiment and check their theories! For those who enjoy finding out about fellow science heads, Anne Blanchard and Tino’s Super Scientists: 40 Inspiring Icons covers some major figures in various fields from Thales to Neil Degrasse Tyson via Ada Lovelace or Avicenna (8–12), while Rachel Ignotofsky’s Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World celebrates amazing thinkers and makers who happen to be women (10+). Finally, for an in-depth look at concepts, discoveries and people, with a particular focus on contributions by Irish scientists, try The Great Irish Science Book by Luke O’Neill and Linda Fährlin. 

So, off you go, grab a book and put on your science eyes! 

Science Week runs from 815 November 2020. 

Written by Juliette Saumande (@juliettesaumande), a children’s book writer and professional bookworm whose latest title, My Little Album of Dublin, is illustrated by Tarsila Krüse and published by The O’Brien Press. 

Hey, Water! by Antoinette Portis, Scallywag Press, ISBN 9781912650262 

‘Hey, water, I know you! You’re all around!’ Antoinette Portis’s book starts with what the young reader knows (water from the tap, the bath, the shower) and gradually builds on this knowledge (the river, the lake, the ocean, icebergs!), throwing in the mix early concepts such as up and down, fast and slow, silent and loud, as well as scientific facts (steam and snow and ice are water in disguise). There is even an extra section at the back for anyone who wants to know more about water forms, the water cycle and water conservation. With beautiful illustrations and a fun, lively text, this book is brilliantly multi-layered and will grow with your reader! (Age 2–7) 

Before After by Anne-Margot Ramstein and Matthias Arégui, Walker Books, ISBN 9781406357936 

This a wordless book that is brilliant for sparking conversations! Each page or double-page spread shows a ‘before’ and the next an ‘after’, and it’s up to the reader to figure out what the relationship between the two is. Left page: an acorn; right page: a fully grown oak. Left page: an ice cube; right page: a puddle of melted ice. Left page: a sheep; right page: a bundle of yarn. It’s a clever look at cause and effect, at time, history, technology and even storytelling, and it’s full of subtle humour and jokes (left page: an egg; right page: a chicken; left page: a chicken; right page: a egg!). Highly recommended! (Age 3–8) 

This Book Thinks You’re a Scientist by Harriet Russell, Thames & Hudson, ISBN 9780500650813 

The subtitle of this book says it all: this one will have your reader ‘Imagine – Experiment – Create.’ Organised around seven key areas inspired by the Science Museum in London (force and motion, electricity and magnetism, earth and space, light, matter, sound and mathematics), this is full of open-ended questions, thought experiments and investigation challenges. Kids are invited to write and draw their ideas into the book, but also to go forth into the world to check things out. And on every page a ‘How It Works’ section explains facts and concepts in accessible language. Whether you fancy building an obstacle course for light, wonder how many people you can fit on a bus or are itching to pack your bags for a trip into space, this book is for you! (Age 8+) 

The Great Irish Science Book by Luke O’Neill, illustrated by Linda Fährlin, Gill Books, ISBN 9780717185580 

Professor Luke O’Neill doesn’t just want you to read about science. He wants you to think like a scientist. A journey from the incredibly massive to the incredibly tiny, this book touches upon lots of concepts and disciplines from astronomy to medicine to microbiology, via genetics and climatology. Each chapter also offers portraits of relevant Irish scientists throughout history, experiments to try at home and speculation about what the future might look like. With bite-sized, chatty text and stylish illustration that carry a lot of extra humour, The Great Irish Science Book has tons to offer! (Age 9+) 

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