Science classroom libraries

I am a new elementary librarian, and I want to prioritize science nonfiction. I’m looking for suggestions to help teachers who often do not have time to collect books from the library. I also need ideas for books to purchase.  — J., New York

I spoke with a librarian colleague, who did what you are considering. She suggested asking teachers for a schedule of topics they work on throughout the year. She had a large plastic tub for each classroom where she put corresponding books covering a range of reading levels. For each unit, the classroom received a new set of supplementary books. She often had older students or parent volunteers prepare the boxes.

To find appropriate titles for all grade levels, I have used the NSTA website. Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K–12 and the Best STEM Books K-12 contain lists compiled by NSTA in association with the Children’s Book Council. The titles are listed by year and include an annotated description of each book. NSTA Recommends also has monthly updates in the NSTA journals.

All of these titles are also in the second source, NSTA Recommends. This is a broader, searchable list that includes reviews of books and other media. The reviews are written by science educators and can be searched by format (e.g., print, kits, DVDs), keywords (e.g., weather, machines, insects), and grade level (K through college). The lists can be exported as Excel spreadsheets.

The School Library Journal also has a list of recommended Science and Nature Books for Kids.

Some teachers might be willing to help you select the books or suggest topics—perhaps during a faculty meeting or workshop on science and reading.



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3 Responses to Science classroom libraries

  1. Iris Lee says:

    Among my must-haves are the Phenomenon-Based Learning Books (from NSTA Press) and, if you can get them as well, the accompanying materials (from Arbor Scientific). The activities can be done at any level, so either the lower-level or the high-performing students can start from wherever they are and will get a lot out of them.
    This link
    will get you to all editions — elementary, middle-school, and high school. For your elementary classroom, you’ll want the Grade 3-5 edition.
    The books are based on “Phenomenon-Based Learning” (PBL), which builds knowledge of and interest in physical science as a result of observations of real-world phenomena, in this case, some fun gizmos and gadgets.
    There are kits of materials designed to go with the book that are sold by Arbor Scientific. You can see them here: (Click on any book to see the kits.)
    The kits are expensive, but they provide enough materials for dozens of activities and would be a great investment for any school. Or, if money is tight, the materials can be purchased individually instead.

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