Tag Archives: children

I don’t know!

Here’s a wonderful idea for a children’s book. A book encouraging children to question and appreciate the world around them. A book that isn’t afraid to tell kids “I don’t know!”

It’s the brainchild of Annaka Harris. She has launched it as a project in Kickstarter (see I Wonder by Annaka Harris).

Here’s how Annaka describes the background to the project:

Before my daughter turned two, she began ignoring questions she couldn’t answer. Then she moved on to giving answers she knew to be false. I realized that she had grown accustomed to being celebrated every time she answered a question correctly and was, naturally, less interested in exchanges that didn’t produce this response. But I also realized something even more important: I hadn’t taught her to say “I don’t know” let alone celebrated her ability to do so.

I believe that one of the most important gifts we can give our children is the confidence to say “I don’t know.” It’s the foundation from which we begin our investigation of the world: asking questions, taking the necessary time to understand the answers, and searching for new answers when the ones we have in hand don’t seem to work. The feeling of not knowing is also the source of wonder and awe.

In all social and emotional learning, children need our help identifying the many new feelings they experience: “Oh, that Batman costume scared you,” or “I know, you feel sad when Mommy leaves.” So I went looking for a children’s book that would help me talk about the experience of not knowing with my daughter, but I couldn’t find one…

So she is producing one – a 24-page picture book for children ages one and up. The image above is a composite sketch by the artist she has found to help her, John Rowe.

I liked the way Annaka justifies the need for such a book in her proposal:

We live in a society where people are uncomfortable with not knowing. Children aren’t taught to say “I don’t know,” and honesty in this form is rarely modeled for them. They too often see adults avoiding questions and fabricating answers, out of either embarrassment or fear, and this comes at a price. To solve the world’s most challenging problems, we need innovative minds that are inspired in the presence of uncertainty. Let’s support parents and educators who are raising the next generation of creative thinkers.

Annaka Harris is a freelance editor of popular science books and Co-Founder of Project Reason.

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Christmas gift ideas: One for the kids

Books are ideal Christmas presents. And as I am spending some time dealing with family business I thought reposting some of my past book reviews over the next few days could be useful am repeating some of my past book reviews.

I should have reviewed more books for children. But here’s a good one – about an important scientific topic.


Book Review: Evolution: How We and All Living Things Came to Be by Daniel Loxton

Reading level: Young Adult
Price: US$12.89, NZ$40.99
Hardcover: 56 pages
Publisher: Kids Can Press, Ltd. (February 1, 2010)
ISBN-10: 1554534305
ISBN-13: 978-1554534302

Today, February 12, is Darwin Day. The anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth 201 years ago. So I have decided to review a new book on evolution.

It’s a short book, but an important one. Important because it’s for kids – it’s aimed at children of ages 8 – 13. It’s about an important area of science, evolutionary science. I think kids will learn from this book, and they will enjoy the experience.

“Evolution” is beautifully illustrated and clearly written. Important evolutionary ideas are well explained in brief sections, often illustrated with examples and metaphors as well as pictures. Daniel Loxton is the editor of Junior Skeptic and regularly writes and illustrates for children so he is the ideal author for such a book.

I like the way that many of these sections use questions as chapter headings. “What about us?”, “Survival of the fittest?”, “If evolution really happens, where are the transitional fossil?”, “How could evolution produce something as complicated as my eyes?” are a few examples. The sorts of questions kids will commonly hear. Loxton devotes the second part of his book to such questions, ones commonly raised by creationist critics of evolution. This is good technique for capturing the reader’s attention and encouraging them to read further.

Loxton uses many examples and metaphors, as well as pictures, to illustrate ideas. His illustration of mutations acting over time with the metaphor of the children’s’ game “telephone” is done in both words and pictures.

My main criticism is that he didn’t use a metaphor to illustrate the important idea of “deep time.” A simple description of rock layers and differentiation of fossils is inadequate – even for an adult. One needs to compare the immensity of time with something pictorial, like the distance between people, houses, cities, countries, planets, and so on. An illustration of the process of fossilisation could also have helped.

However, kids of this age are continuously learning. They are always confronting ideas and words needing further explanation. So I think it is great that this book includes a short glossary (which does include a description of fossilisation) and index. This helps encourage the young reader to explore further – especially when they come across unfamiliar words.

The religion question

Several reviewers have expressed reservations about Loxton’s short answer to the question “What about religion?” Perhaps it would have been better to leave this out – but on the other hand it is a common question which kids will have to confront. Loxton’s inadequate reply was unavoidable, given the unwritten social rule that religion has a special role in our society. That we are not allowed to criticise religion. Any properly adequate reply would have lead to people being “offended” and campaigns to exclude the book for schools.

So perhaps the best advice is that he gave – kids should discuss this with family and friends. I think there are many things in this book which will raise further questions in the reader’s minds. Maybe it’s religion, the way fossils are formed, how life began, the age of the earth or universe. If this leads to discussions with family, friends and teachers – great. It’s all part of education.

So, I can highly recommend this book. It will be a great gift for the target age group – but even some of us older “kids” could probably learn from this short clearly written and beautifully illustrated book.

That’s my opinion. Now I must pass it on to my 9 year-old granddaughter and get her reaction.

See also:
Evolution: How we and al living things came to be – available from Fishpond.co.nz.
forgoodreason Interview with Loxton about the book
Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe Interviews Daniel loxton
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A reminder of reality’s magic

This is really a reminder about another sciency book for the kids – especially with Christmas coming up.

Back in May I posted on a new book by Richard Dawkins (see The Magic of Reality for young people). I am posting again on this because the book, The Magic of Reality: How We Know What’s Really True, will be released this month in the UK (October 4 in the US).

It’s bound to be excellent, given Richard’s well known literary and science communication skills. And the illustrator, Dave McKean, has illustrated many award-winning books.

And the recommendations are good. Lawrence Krauss describes it as “
“Exhilarating. The clearest and most beautifully written introduction to science I’ve ever read.” As for Ricky Gervais – he says: “I wanted to write this book but I wasn’t clever enough. Now I’ve read it, I am.”

Looks like the book is aimed at the older child and teenager, and appears suitable for adults as well.

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Another book for the kids

This looks like another great sciency book for young kids. Ankylosaur Attack (Tales of Prehistoric Life) is aimed at an age level of 4 and up. It should really appeal to the kid already interested in dinosaurs.

The author is Daniel Loxton. He is also  the author and illustrator of Evolution: How We and All Living Things Came to Be which I reviewed in One for the kids. That book is a finalist for Canada’s largest children’s non-fiction prize, the Norma Fleck Award. (Winner to be announced Oct 4, 2011.)

Here is the book description for Ankylosaur Attack:

“This mind-blowing feast for the eye uses photo-realistic, computer-generated images to illustrate what dinosaurs might have looked like in their natural environment. Complementing the extraordinary images is an exciting, scientifically accurate story about a young ankylosaur (a plant-eating, heavy-plated dinosaur) living along the banks of a grassy lake. When he encounters an old ankylosaur, he gently endeavours to make contact, only to be rebuffed. Then a T. rex attacks, and the youngster knows the old dinosaur is in grave danger. Will the T. rex triumph? It looks that way, until the young ankylosaur comes to the rescue, tail club swinging. Ankylosaur Attack is book one in the Tales of Prehistoric Life series. Dramatic stories + eyepopping visuals = a surefire hit with young dinosaur lovers.”

Publication date is September 1, 2011.

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Some things for the kids

Well actually for their parents and grandparents. Especially with Christmas on the horizon.

Right where you are now

Right Here You Are Now is a bedtime story for kids. It’s also scientifically accurate, so it’s more than just a bedtime story—it’s an educational adventure. This book will help kids understand geologic time. Seems pretty important to me.

This is how Tracy Reva describes the book in her review:

“While this book contains a lot of information it’s presented in a very appealing manner that will make children want to read it. The pages are bright and colorful, and the illustrations make children wonder what comes next. The facts are presented in a manner that encourages the curiosity of young readers and the passages of reading material are short ones. The book itself is 26 pages and it packs a lot of interesting facts into each and every page. I am so impressed with it I plan to buy a couple of copies to use as presents for my grandson, niece and nephews.”

See also: review by review by Lavanya Karthik

The book will be launched in the UK on 25 September.

Register here to be informed when the book is released and can be purchased.

Thanks to The Dispersal of Darwin

Charlie and the kiwi

Charlie and Kiwi: An Evolutionary Adventure is another book aimed at young children (4 – 8 yrs). And it has a local theme which will appeal.

It was supported by a grant from the US National Science Foundation, so again it will be scientifically accurate. It uses Charles Darwin to take the reader on a journal through time and through the important scientific principle of evolution.

Published last June it is available now.

Again thanks to The Dispersal of Darwin

Skeptics dictionary for kids

The Skeptic’s Dictionary for Kids is a web site – and obviously for the older kids. great for research, school projects and just searching.

This was set up in July and is being continually added to. The web page also has some interesting links which will be useful for kids interested in science.

And links to some kid’s sciency books:

Thanks to Phil Plait, The Bad Astronomer.

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One for the kids

Book Review: Evolution: How We and All Living Things Came to Be by Daniel Loxton

Reading level: Young Adult
Price: US$12.89, NZ$40.99
Hardcover: 56 pages
Publisher: Kids Can Press, Ltd. (February 1, 2010)
ISBN-10: 1554534305
ISBN-13: 978-1554534302

Today, February 12, is Darwin Day. The anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth 201 years ago. So I have decided to review a new book on evolution.

It’s a short book, but an important one. Important because it’s for kids – it’s aimed at children of ages 8 – 13. It’s about an important area of science, evolutionary science. I think kids will learn from this book, and they will enjoy the experience.

“Evolution” is beautifully illustrated and clearly written. Important evolutionary ideas are well explained in brief sections, often illustrated with examples and metaphors as well as pictures. Daniel Loxton is the editor of Junior Skeptic and regularly writes and illustrates for children so he is the ideal author for such a book.

I like the way that many of these sections use questions as chapter headings.  “What about us?”, “Survival of the fittest?”, “If evolution really happens, where are the transitional fossil?”, “How could evolution produce something as complicated as my eyes?” are a few examples. The sorts of questions kids will commonly hear. Loxton devotes the second part of his book to such questions, ones commonly raised by creationist critics of evolution. This is good technique for capturing the reader’s attention and encouraging them to read further.

Loxton uses many examples and metaphors, as well as pictures, to illustrate ideas. His illustration of mutations acting over time with the metaphor of the children’s’ game “telephone” is done in both words and pictures.

My main criticism is that he didn’t use a metaphor to illustrate the important idea of “deep time.”  A simple description of rock layers and differentiation of fossils is inadequate – even for an adult. One needs to compare the immensity of time with something pictorial, like the distance between people, houses, cities, countries, planets, and so on. An illustration of the process of fossilisation could also have helped.

However, kids of this age are continuously learning. They are always confronting ideas and words needing further explanation. So I think it is great that this book includes a short glossary (which does include a description of fossilisation) and index. This helps encourage the young reader to explore further – especially when they come across unfamiliar words.

The religion question

Several reviewers have expressed reservations about Loxton’s short answer to the question “What about religion?” Perhaps it would have been better to leave this out – but on the other hand it is a common question which kids will have to confront. Loxton’s inadequate reply was unavoidable, given the unwritten social rule that religion has a special role in our society. That we are not allowed to criticise religion. Any properly adequate reply would have lead to people being “offended” and campaigns to exclude the book for schools.

So perhaps the best advice is that he gave – kids should discuss this with family and friends. I think there are many things in this book which will raise further questions in the reader’s minds. Maybe it’s religion, the way fossils are formed, how life began, the age of the earth or universe. If this leads to discussions with family, friends and teachers – great. It’s all part of education.

So, I can highly recommend this book. It will be a great gift for the target age group – but even some of us older “kids” could probably learn from this short clearly written and beautifully illustrated book.

That’s my opinion. Now I must pass it on to my 9 year-old granddaughter and get her reaction.

See also:
Evolution: How we and al living things came to be – available from Fishpond.co.nz.
forgoodreason Interview with Loxton about the book
Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe Interviews Daniel loxton
Buy Now banner 240x52

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