Teaching With Trade Books – Science

As a middle school science teacher, you probably feel like you don’t have enough time to teach all of your content within the course of a school year. Why on earth would you ever want to add more material in the form of trade books when you can’t seem to finish your assigned textbook? Turns out that making time to incorporate children’s literature in your classroom can led to rich results.

One of the most immediate benefits of using trade books is increasing student engagement. High quality trade books are written as to spark interest and create a desire to read. Many contain colorful, interesting illustrations, photographs, and diagrams, all of which draw students into the text and improve comprehension. Contrast this with the reaction that many students have toward the textbook: either a lack of interest or an assumption that the assigned reading will be too difficult.

Incorporating children’s literature also allows you to differentiate instruction and support English Language Learners and struggling readers in a way that textbooks cannot. If you visit the children’s section of your school or local library, you’ll discover a wealth of books for students on every reading level and topic. Using trade books which better match students’ abilities can help them build content knowledge and interact more successfully with the required text.

Of course, successful integration of children’s literature into your middle school science class requires planning and forethought. Here are some tips for using trade books in your classroom. The following resources will guide you in finding exemplary trade books and lessons.

Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12
The books that appear in these lists were selected as outstanding children’s science trade books. They were selected by a book review panel appointed by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and assembled in cooperation with the Children’s Book Council (CBC). NSTA and CBC have cooperated on this bibliographic project since 1973.

Libros de Ciencias en Espanol (2006)
If you have Spanish-speaking students in your science class, you will likely be interested in learning about the recent releases of Spanish trade books for children. From delightful board books and counting books for the very young to comprehensible series on contemporary scientific topics and lively introductions to Earth science, these books published in Mexico, Venezuela, Spain, and the United States, will draw Spanish speakers into the world of science.


Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears: Integrating Literacy in K-5 Classrooms Virtual Bookshelf
Even though most of these books are for elementary students, many can be used up into the middle school classroom.

Ohio Resource Center (ORC) Science Bookshelf
The Science Bookshelf features outstanding trade books that support science instruction in K–5 classrooms – although many of the books and commentary are perfectly usuable at the middle level (i.e. Scientists and Their Work and First to Fly). Science Review Board members have selected books that will appeal to students and enrich the teaching and learning of science. Each book review includes:

— a brief summary of the story
— the main mathematical ideas
— suggestions for how to use the book
— the value of the book in standards-based instruction
— standards alignment
— a list of related ORC resources

Search for Literature
The California Department of Education has created this online literature search for science and mathematics with over 1,400 titles in the search database. The search includes the typical categories found in a search for literature at a library, such as author, title, and keyword. It also contains a customized search for selecting up to three categories that relate more specifically to education. Those categories include grade level, language, genre, classifications (types of books), curriculum connections, awards (by author or illustrator), science subject area, mathmatics subject area, science standards connections, and math standards connections (California state standards). Teachers will find useful a recommended list of literature for science and mathematics.

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