Combine the magic of children’s books with the wonders of the natural world. These are just a few of the many reasons to use picture books, presented in no particular order.
Appeal a broad range of students. Children enjoy different kinds of books and learn in different kinds of ways. Some children love knowing facts and they naturally gravitate to nonfiction. Others prefer narrative stories that captivate their imaginations and speak their feelings. Creative nonfiction picture books appeal to both of these types. They wrap facts in an interesting package.
Engage students rather than overwhelm them. Science text books, with their broad range of topics and specialized vocabulary, can feel overwhelming, especially to struggling students or those with limited language skills. Picture books, on the other hand, offer a non-threatening way to approach science. They typically focus on just one concept and present new vocabulary within context. Picture books engage students, which leads to greater comprehension and retention of information.
Make life science more accessible. Hands-on lessons are excellent for teaching science—experiencing the “real world” is a great way to engage students’ interest and generate enthusiasm. But how many students can physically walk through a rainforest or swim through the sea; or, for that matter, go to the moon? However, ALL students can visit those places through the pages of a beautifully illustrated picture book. Books can take you anywhere!
Activate visual thinking. Because illustrations are tied to the meaning of a picture book, students must shift their comprehension from text to image. It’s interesting to remember that the brain processes images 60,000 times faster than it does text. Some might say that understanding happens “in a blink of an eye.” Ninety percent of the information sent to the brain is visual, and 93% of all human communication is visual.
Help all students in the class get “on the same page.” Picture books, by their very nature, give a broad overview to topics. Using clear and concise explanations and descriptions, picture books provide the same background knowledge to entire class of students. This base of common knowledge gets all students on the same page and sets the stage for then differentiating instruction or doing a science lab.
Make the most of limited instruction time. With the emphasis on math and reading, many teachers just don’t have enough time to teach science. High-quality picture books that present science concepts through literature allow teachers to address two parts of the curriculum in the same lesson.
Provide teachers with greater confidence when teaching science. Elementary teachers are well prepared to teach reading and literature, but often receive limited training in teaching science. Picture books provide a comfortable entry point for teachers to introduce science concepts with confidence.
Perfect Pairs: Using Fiction & Nonfiction Picture Books to Teach Life Science, K-2 by Melissa Stewart and Nancy Chesley (http://www.melissa-stewart.com)
Picture Perfect Science series by Karen Ansberry and Emily Morgan (www.pictureperfectscience.com)
“Picture Books Across the Curriculum” article by Keith Schoch (firstname.lastname@example.org)