"A CASE FOR READING SCIENCE" is written by Angela Robb.
"I have been raised by parents who both love books and I soon acquired my own love of reading a variety of different books. My natural curiosity
about how things work, and my love of the natural world, both served to fuel my reading of science. I read science because I wanted to know
more about how the created world worked.
Knowing how things work
I still have not forgotten the excitement I experienced when reading a basic book about how taps work. “So when we pull or turn the handle,
that’s what happens inside!” It was such a revelation for me to realise how an ordinary, every-day-life tool actually performed it's task. Have
you ever wondered how taps work? Do you know? How about knowing
how a car engine ignites, or why birds and airplanes both can fly? This interest in knowing how things worked is a major motivation in reading
Naming nature - identification guides
From a young age, I have loved animals, plants, and most things in the natural world. This naturally encouraged learning more about the
natural world, not only through my own observations, but also through
much reading of science books - especially those with good pictures. When our family noticed a bird in the garden, or found a crawly-
creature on the patio (or in our bedroom!), we would often wonder what it was. Referring to a well-used book (Collins Field Guide to New Zealand
Wildlife) helped us discover that the bird in our yard was a goldfinch, who
naturally ate seeds, or that the little critter was a common skink (or maybe a copper skink) that would need live bugs if I wanted to keep it as
a pet. Often we would flick through these nature guides in our own time
and only later discover some animal was familiar because we could recall the photo and name from the book. We could then look it up by name to
learn more about it. Having these reference guides proved valuable.
Practical information (for a personal interest, to learn from the expertise of others, to add interest to life...)
When I wanted a pet, my parents wisely made me learn about caring for pets first. This motivated me to explore the local library. There I found
the aisle of pet care books and it soon became a familiar favourite of mine as I browsed books about rabbits, chickens, budgies, tropical fish,
and Newfoundland dogs. After becoming the delighted owner of a pet
rabbit, I would borrow every guide on rabbit care, soon deciding on a couple favourite books, and then refferring to them for ideas,
suggestions, and help - especially when breeding my bunnies or dealing
with sick pets. It wasn't long before I discovered the other side of the
aisle, and enjoyed browsing all sorts of books – from dairy cows and small-farming, to square-food gardening and composting. In these books
I found years of experience written to give me a head-start when
them myself - and even though I still have not owned a dairy cow,
knowing more about these animals and how they can be raised has added interest to my life. There is a wealth of knowledge found in
practical books applying science to everyday life - like preparing food, cleaning techniques, and how to make the best paper airplane. We do
well to find books about what we want to learn, and then learn from
someone who knows more than us.
Enjoying nature from a new view - photo books and nature journals
Besides being practical, science books are also enjoyable. I was given a large book about baby animals for one birthday, and thought I have
yet to read any of the text (written at an adult level), I browsed the photos and often practiced drawing ducklings, bear cubs and foals
copied from the pages. There are some talented artists and
photographers whose love for nature is shown in stunning glimpses of nature. These illustrated books are a pleasure to browse through and
observe the natural world in ways we may never have noticed or had the
chance to experience on our own. Most of us will never travel to Antarctica, notice the detail in a butterfly’s wing, or get a close-up view
of an owl’s nest, but through these books we can not only see them, but often read about the experience for ourselves. We might be inspired to
start our own nature journal, or go exploring the world with a camera.
These closer looks at nature give us a greater depth of understanding and appreciation for the wonders of creation.
Stories of scientists - biographies
Besides enjoying books about science, you can also read about scientists themselves. My Mum, who is not so interested in science, finds
biographies of scientists a fascinating entryway into the scientific world. There are a wide range of these book, from children's picture books to
those with more detailed chapters. Through them my family has enjoyed
the intricate snowflakes photographed by George Bentley, discovered multiple uses for the peanut with George Washington Carver,
experimented gliding with the Wright brothers, and started the stars with
Johannes Kepler. The stories of these curious scientists inspire us to a greaterinterest in the world around us and how it works.
This wide variety of science books has not even included the type of science books most common at school – scinece textbooks. Some of
these are well-written and can be a helpful way to get a more detailed
knowledge of science. There are also a host of other area-specific books available to facilitate an interest in science – whether a whole book dedicated to how spiders spin webs, why we see colours in a rainbow, what makes up a cell, how our body digests food, or a collection ideas for
creative science experiments to try at home.
So what are you waiting for?
Look up some of the books recommended below, or search your library for books in an area of interest, and get inspired about science. Why
don’t you get yourself (and your children) interested in exploring the
incredible world around us, and how it is designed to work?
- Edith Holden, A Country diary of and Edwardian Lady
- Joyce Blake, New Zealand is a Garden (and other titles)
- Elaine Power, Elaine Power’s Living Garden: An illustrated nature diary, Countryside and garden birds of New Zealand (Look for her
other nature books, in particular those with a focus on birds)
- Leslie & Roth, Keeping a Nature Journal: Discover a whole new way of seeing the world around you
- Chris Gaskin, A Walk to the Beach
Stories of Scientists
- Jacqueline Briggs Martin, Snowflake Bentley (George Bentley)
(also see - Kenneth Libbrecht, The Art of the Snowflake: a photographic album, for wonderful photography and story)
- John Hudson Tiner, Johannes Kepler: Giant of Faith and Science (Johannes Kepler) - look out for other titles both scientist biographies
and other science books by this author
- Sam Wellman, George Washington Carver: Inventor and Naturalist (George Washington Carver)
- Quentin Reynolds, The Wright Brothers: Pioneers of American Aviation (Orville and Wilbur Wright)
- You could also look up “Scholastic biographies” for books about scientists
Children’s Picture books
- Jenkins & Page, What do you do with a tail like this?
- Let’s-Read-And-Find-Out Science books (easy-read books that explore scientific ideas) Titles include: Volcanoes/by Franklyn M.
Branley ; illustrated by Megan Lloyd. Bugs are Insects/by Ann
Rockwell ; illustrated by Steve Jenkins. What makes day and night/
Franklyn M. Branley ; illustrated by Arthur Dorros. Clouds/by Anne
Rockwell ; illustrated by Frané Lessac.
- Leonora and Arthur Hornblow, Insects do the Strangest Things (see books with similar titles by these authors)
- Philip Dobson, How Taps work (this is the book that I loved as a child - strangely available at Auckland libraries only in Chinese/English
Bilingual version titled “Taps and Water”)
- Chris Gaskin, A Walk to the Beach
- Sandra Markle (a host of books on the natural world, some with all illustrated) titles include...Killer whales, Sneaky, spinning, baby
spiders, and, Insects : biggest! littlest!
Photos of the Nature
- Paul Sterry, Baby animals : a portrait of the animal world (the book I have enjoyed drawing pictures from)
- Geoff Moon, New Zealand Birds in focus: a photographer’s journey, New Zealand Forest Birds and Their world
- Thomas Marent, Titles include: Butterfly, Frog, and, Rainforest
- Chris Gaskin, A Walk to the Beach
- Geoff Moon, The Reed field guide to New Zealand wildlife
- Barrie D. Heather & Hugh A. Robertson ; illustrated by Derek J. Onley, The field guide to the birds of New Zealand
- Terence Lindsey, Collins Field Guide to New Zealand Wildlife, (the guide our family owned and used)
- Andrew Crowe - this author has done fantastic work in all areas of New Zealand flora and fauna, keep an eye out for any titles by him,
such as... -Which New Zealand bird?, illustrated by Dave Gunson. -The life-size guide to insects & other land invertebrates of New Zealand
- The life-size guide to New Zealand wildflowers
Some of my favourites in areas of personal interest
Permaculture - Introduction to Permaculture, Bill Mollison
Composting - The compost book, David & Yvonne Taylor ; illustrated by Helen McCosker.
Digestion - Good Gut Health, Kathryn Marsden
Rabbit care - The Rabbit Handbook, Karen Gendron
Gardening - Square Food Gardening, Mel Bartholomew."
THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS~ with all this wealth of ideas of where to start reading science, declare a science week at your house - there's something suggested here for ALL ages. You could all swap books after a day or two, which would be a great conversation starter.