When educators or parents think about STEM, literacy usually doesn’t come to mind. But various literary formats like historical fiction, informational books or picture books with science themes and topics can greatly support learning science concepts. Science concepts can be abstract and visual aids like illustrations or diagrams in books can help students bridge gaps between the abstract and concrete. For example, science-focused picture books can be sent home for parents and students to read together. If students stumble on words, the pictures or diagrams can help students stay engaged in the book, and parents can help. Picture books can be used at any grade level.
In her article "The Multidimentionality of Children's Picture Books for Upper Grades" in English Journal, Susan Massey asserts that picture books serve as connections for the development of reading and oral language skills, listening comprehension skills, phonological awareness, vocabulary development and content-area concepts.1
Here are three benefits of using science-focused pictures books to enhance learning:
In This Article:
- Pictures books can be used as icebreakers
- Science-focused picture books can provide visual aids
- Picture books support multi-disciplinary learning
1. Pictures books can be used as icebreakers
Picture books can help introduce a topic to students learning new concepts. Teachers can read a picture book to students presenting or frontloading science concepts naturally by reading aloud. Teachers can naturally discuss the content as they read through the pages asking probing questions and having students engage throughout the read-aloud. Students make connections as they listen to the text and view visuals to connect content and help activate background knowledge. During discussions, students can share schema. Later, the book can be placed in the library or a read-aloud center where students can reread it to one another to practice fluency and reinforce science concepts.
2. Science-focused picture books can provide visual aids
While teachers are reading, illustrations, graphics, diagrams and other pictures can help students visualize content and help them make connections to what they may already know or think they know about the content. Students confirm or reaffirm what they learn during the read-aloud, stimulating critical thinking.
With the advent of technology, some picture books may be available on YouTube and other platforms for students to listen to and view more than once in a learning station. Also, when students are introduced to or review a lesson or concept with modeling and practice, students can be prepared for the activity. Thus, visual aids are powerful, and picture books allow students to make guesses, share knowledge and activate schema.
3. Picture books support multi-disciplinary learning
Picture books provide students with deeper learning where critical thinking skills are developed. The science process includes components of writing a report or a summary of a science project or lab; with younger children, their summary will be oral. Students can participate in an exit ticket where they can share their knowledge by role-playing or creating a product that represents the content. Students can share how science is part of literacy (we read about it) and how events and people throughout history can impact science.
In short, science helps students make sense of the world. Science is connected to all disciplines taught at all grade levels; science can’t move forward without the ability to read and write. So, including literacy to support science content is critical. Additionally, with the gaps in literacy skills students may have, the vocabulary and fluency practice from reading books on science topics can be an asset to students to enhance literacy and science skills.
1 Massey, S. R. (2015). The multidimensionality of children's picture books for upper grades. English Journal, 104(5), 45.
Approved by the assistant dean for the College of Education on May 15, 2023.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.