Sharing Books, Talking Science

Longtime friend-of-the-blog Valerie Bang-Jensen has a new book out this season, Sharing Books, Talking Science: Exploring Scientific Concepts with Children’s Literature.

With her co-author Mark Lubkowitz, she draws connections between literature and science, leading to the delightful conclusion that “every book has the potential to be a science book.”

From the introduction:

I marvel at folks who can take something complex and present it as if it were common sense. I stand back and study how they break it down and present it in a manner that leaves me thinking, How come I didn’t think of this? That is exactly how I felt by the time I reached the end of the first chapter in this book. And on the last page I would have given Valerie and Mark a standing ovation had I been in their audience. This work is smart yet they make it so very accessible.”

This sensibility has a lot in common with what Robin Sloan termed the “culture of clear explanation,” and it’s a laudable thing to nurture, for if we collectively lack anything in this topsy-turvy world, it is the ability see patterns, to identify and understand systems (or to admit that we cannot understand them), and to make connections between seemingly disconnected things.

In my final year of high school I took a course called “science communications,” which was, in essence, a course about the techniques of clear explanation. For one of our assignments–the topic escapes me now–I drew a short comic strip rather than handing in the expected essay. When the marked assignments were returned, I received a poor mark with the notation that the medium I’d chosen was “not appropriate to the subject matter.” Being a cheeky lad, I used the next assignment, where we were to conduct a “demonstration” of something, to demonstrate against my poor mark, and attempted to make the case for why, in fact, a comic strip was completely appropriate to the subject matter.

Mark and Valerie’s book is, in essence, a vindication of that thesis.

You can purchase Sharing Books, Talking Science in the USA directly from the publisher; in Canada you can purchase it from Amazon.ca or from your local bookseller (ISBN 978-0-325-08774-0). You should also encourage your local teacher resource library to purchase a copy.

Oh, and you can listen to them talking about the book here (thank you to Oliver for tracking that down).