Field Notes

May 10, 2019

3 Children’s Books to Jumpstart Summer Learning

By Sarah Baier, education program specialist at the Lilly Center

The other day, a coworker asked for suggestions on good kids books to share with you. I tried to keep my groans quiet and to myself. I knew my turn would come to input my ideas; after all, I’d raised a bunch of kids, surely I would have a couple of favorites. I was pretty sure I couldn’t give my coworker what she was really looking for. Why? Well…here’s the truth:

I love to read.

But I do not like cute stories.

Yep, I can’t stand traditional storybooks. Stories are meant to be told by your grandfather. Rich oral histories, embellishments to ordinary life, lessons on how to live and love. Those are stories.

Books, on the other hand, are meant to be poured over for the information they impart. Sifted and sorted for clues, labels and language to explain the mysteries of the world around us. Manuals tattered and soiled from years of being dragged through mud, rain and life. Loved as a dear friend. That is a book.

So, favorite books? Well, there are a few criteria: It must spark imagination and innovation, and be alive with visual interest, color, depth, movement. And it must inspire action. That is how you’ll know it’s a great book. With all of that in mind, here are three kids books that I like quite a bit:

Compost Stew by Mary McKenna Siddals. This is a rhyming alphabet book that teaches kids (and adults) the basics of composting. Each letter stands for an ingredient in the “Compost Stew” that becomes a tasty treat for the earth.

Make a Splash by Cathryn Berger Kaye and Philippe Cousteau. This book is great for small groups or families that are interested in putting learning into practice. The book contains tons of info on protecting our waterways and culminates in a kid-designed service project for their own community. It’s a great opportunity for kids to identify a water-related problem close to home and work to get it fixed.

Turn This Book into a Beehive by Lyn Brunelle. This brilliant little book is exactly what the title implies! The book is absolutely full of facts on bees and how vital they are in our world. The book contains several fun experiments/activities and then kids can actually make the book into a hive. The mason bees in your yard will love you!

So there you are. Three great books to keep you and your kids reading and creating this summer. Enjoy!