Science and nature books for kindergartners

Discover the many facets of life on earth with an award-winning photographer's take on dirt, an exploration of corn's cultural history, and a stunning photo-essay of one colorful chameleon. This book list will encourage kindergartners to ask questions about the science behind the everyday and the exotic.

By GreatSchools Staff

A Handful of Dirt

A Handful of Dirt
by Raymond Bial
Walker Books for Young Readers (2000), $17

Dirt gets its due as award-winning photo-essayist Raymond Bial takes readers on an up-close tour of one of the planet's most precious resources — and the microscopic creepy-crawlies and mammals that depend on it. As Bial writes, "Without soil, there would be no life on earth." Understanding this concept is vital to teaching kids the fundamentals of ecology.

Corn Is Maize

Corn Is Maize: The Gift of the Indians
by Aliki
HarperCollins (1986), $6

Did you know that one tiny kernel of corn can produce up to 1,000 plants? In this history of the ubiquitous crop, kids learn how early Native American farmers discovered, cultivated, and harvested corn — and shared their agricultural knowledge with the Pilgrim settlers. Your child will develop a new appreciation for popcorn, cornbread, tamales, and tacos.

On Earth

by G. Brian Karas, Putnam (2008)
ages 5-8

With minimal text and colorful pictures, On Earth offers children "a giant ride in space/spinning like a merry-go-round" as it explains the earth's daily and yearly cycles. Kids get a rudimentary explanation of the planet's orbit, rotation, and tilt; gravity; why we have seasons; and what happens as day turns into night. Vocabulary is simple for early readers, but some adult explanation of complex scientific concepts may be necessary.

Bottom line: Kids will get a first glimpse of how their everyday observations are connected to the larger life of the planet.

Stars Beneath Your Bed

Stars Beneath Your Bed: The Surprising Story of Dust
by April Pulley Sayre, illustrated by Ann Jonas
Greenwillow Books (2005), $18

Who knew that something as ordinary as dust could be so fascinating? Using watercolors and free verse, the book explains what dust is, its many sources (such as pollen, fires, and volcanic ash), and how it colors spectacular sunrises and sunsets. There is a two-page section at the end with additional information that will require adult explanation.

My Bag and Me!

My Bag and Me!
by Karen Farmer, illustrated by Gary Currant
Penton Kids (2008), available used

In this straightforward and clever book, a little boy shops with his mom and learns that what he buys and how he takes it home can have a big impact on the environment. By including a reusable shopping bag, this book gives even the youngest readers a tool for reducing their carbon footprint.

Chameleon, Chameleon

Chameleon, Chameleon
by Joy Cowley, photographs by Nic Bishop
Scholastic (2005), $17

Chameleon, Chameleon lets readers explore the tropical world of Madagascar's panther chameleon. Nic Bishop's full-color photography captures the lizard's unusual appearance and behavior in amazing detail — check out the stop-action shot of the chameleon snaring a caterpillar with its long tongue. The brief text of the book is supplemented by notes on the creature and how the photos were taken.

The Nature Treasury: A First Look at the Natural World

by Lizann Flatt, Maple Tree Press (2005)
ages 6 and up

Answering your youngster's questions about plants, animals, water, and just about anything else having to do with nature is easy with this reference book in hand. Broken up into 22 sections, The Nature Treasury covers topics like "How animals grow", "Soil up close," and "What animals eat." With double-page spreads depicting ecosystems ranging from savannas to tundras, this book will have kids searching the panoramas for the animals that live there. Large labeled ovals with the animals superimposed on them act as guides, so children can scan the scenes to find where the sea stars are hiding in the coral reef or the sidewinder in the desert. Children will be enchanted by the lush illustrations.

Bottom line: A great go-to book for curious kids — and parents who don't know all the answers!