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Maria Salvadore

Reading Rockets' children's literature expert, Maria Salvadore, brings you into her world as she explores the best ways to use kids' books both inside — and outside — of the classroom.

Starting early with science and math

March 10, 2011

Lots of schools are trying to get children ready for standardized tests. Science and math are usually a focus though the skill and drill approach doesn't do much to cultivate lifelong learners.

Children's books may inspire and intrigue — recognizing the pleasure in learning in science and math. Stuart Murphy's MathStart series adds playful storytelling and real life situations to basic math and arithmetic.

Questions, Questions by Marcus Pfister (North South) poetically poses questions about the natural world accompanied by stunning illustrations. It is sure to arouse interest, and remind children that "…there's so much I want to know."

A tree tells the story of George Washington Carver in Jean Marzollo's The Little Plant Doctor (Holiday House). The naive voice is complemented by Ken Wilson-Max's illustrations to reveal a budding scientist whose work as an educator and scientist are still remembered; Carver's Missouri home is now a national park.

Web resources can also be huge fun and enhance both the understanding of various topics while engaging both adults and children. I came across terrific resources for teachers from the Jefferson Lab in Newport News, Virginia.

There are pages of activities and information especially for children, K-12, though I found them rather sophisticated for younger children; most would need the help of an adult to translate information. There are even videos in the "Frostbite Theater" that are short, snappy, and informative — and could be used with a broad range of children.

Books and other resources — like this site — may just make test preparation a bit more fun for kids all the way through high school and take the sting out of testing.

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