While the status of evolution in public schools remains a pretty fierce debate, we do have plenty of great children’s books on the subject. Here are a few of my favorites:
My personal favorite is Ubiquitous: Celebrating Nature’s Survivors by Joyce Sidman. This beautiful blend of poetry, science, and art is not just for kids. I encourage anyone interested in science or nature to browse this book for its unique perspective. The timeline on the end pages is of particular interest as it attempts to show evolutionarily just how briefly humans (life, really) have been on earth.
Our Family Tree: An Evolution Story by Lisa Westberg Peters seems like a good followup to On the Day You Were Born since the structure is pretty similar. Each spread is dominated by a large painting with poetic text explaining scientific ideas. Each illustration is further explained in the end notes, and a time line incorporates the illustrations to tie it all together. This book may require adult guidance since it does simplify the ideas quite a bit, but it is a good choice for exploring our connection with the natural world.
Steve Jenkins has written and illustrated many award winning picture books about animals, and his book about evolution, Life on Earth: The Story of Evolution, is one of his best efforts. Jenkins is strong supporter of science education. He writes on his web site about the wonder of science,
“My own belief is that the more we understand about what the universe is and how it works, the greater our appreciation of the beauty and wonder of the world, of each other, and of being here to think about it all.”
His unique illustration style mixed with his appreciation for science creates books that are really quite outstanding. The time line compares geologic time to a 24 hour day, which may be helpful to put it into perspective for kids.
Robert Winston’s Evolution Revolution is a good choice for slightly older kids than the above. While the layout makes the book easy to browse and eye-catching, the book is dense with information about history, genetics, Darwin, and more. There are suggested activities throughout, and an animal guessing game creates a fun, interactive tone to the book. This a a great choice for sharing the excitement of science.
Evolving Planet is not as densely packed with information as Evolution Revolution, but the thickness of this book may be intimidating to some kids. Dinosaur lovers are bound to love it though because it spends more time on dinosaurs than any of the other books mentioned in this post. The book is a companion to the exhibit of the same name at the Field Museum in Chicago, which presents the four billion year history of life on Earth.
These are just a few of the books that I recommend to families looking to explain evolution to young kids. It can be hard to talk about with kids because it’s complicated and it isn’t kind or pretty. But they may be more ready than you think.
This post is part of a series inspired by my appearance on Atheist Talk where I spoke about children’s books for secular families. These posts are not intended to be alienating to religious readers. (In fact, most of the books will likely be appreciated by religious readers as well as secular.) My goal is to empower secular families to engage with the world through books. Read last week’s secular Thursday post, or start at the beginning with Behind the Scenes of Atheist Talk.