There is nothing better than hearing your child get super excited by something that they are reading. I love when J finds a book that grabs her so much that she has to rush and tell me details right away. Even more so when what she is so excited about are actual facts that I have to look up on wikipedia to confirm.
What great books manage this? The Magic School Bus series of course!
The Magic School Bus was created by Scholastic as a way to mix science with fictional stories. The first book, At the Waterworks, was published in 1985. Nine years later, they turned the books into a really great television show for kids. The books are about an elementary school class taught by Ms. Frizzle, who has some very unconventional teaching methods. She has a bus that is able to turn into nearly anything and take them on spectacular field trips to impossible locations such as the solar system, clouds, the past, and the human body. Each of the books is written in first person by one of the students in her class, some of whom like these field trips more than others.
We were first introduced to the series when J was 4 and a friend gave us some of the picture books that are considered the “original series.” These books work really well because you can read them in different ways for different ages and interest levels. The story has multiple parts – the main text, the word bubbles from the characters, and additional facts on notebook paper. We don’t usually read the notebook paper parts, but I know that J has read them on her own.
We later moved on to the chapter books and some of the early readers. The chapter books are truly wonderful. They come in a wide range of lengths and topics. Each book is again told in the first person from one of the students and the story that they tell is supplemented with research notes from other students as well as information “From the Desk of Mrs. Frizzle.” There are also black and white photos and the chapters themselves are relatively short.
What is wonderful about these is that J will read them at start shouting at me from across the room about different facts that she has learned. Keeping on the ocean theme as I have a budding marine biologist on my hands, these are things she told me from “The Fishy Field Trip.”
“Mommy, did you know that there are such fish as cleaner fish? They clean other fish! They sometimes go into other fishes mouths and clean their mouths.”
“There is a fish called a stonefish. They look like stones because it is their way of getting food. They live in coral reefs and there are lots of little fish there. They sit there and open their mouths and eat the little fish.”
“Oh cool! Look at this fish! This is a crown of thorns star fish. The thorns are poisonous, but did you know that one little crab can try to attack it without getting hurt?”
These are pretty awesome things for your 6 year old to be telling you. I honestly had to look some of these facts up on wikipedia since it was news to me.
There are also Level 2 Readers which are great quick reads and excellent for storytime. They are full of pictures and basic facts. I actually wish that we had found these earlier, since J had no problem reading the large picture books by the time we found these.
There was also a fantastic television series and books that tied in with that. We’ve never actually read any of those books, so I’m not sure what they are like. As for the show itself, you can watch full episodes on You Tube, although we were also able to find and tape a number of them on cable.
So if you are looking for a great way to get your kid excited by science, hop on the magic school bus!
According to Scholastic.com, here is the age break down
Level Readers – Interest K-2, Grade Level Equivalent 1.8
Original Picture Books – Interest Level PreK-5, Grade Level Equivalent 3.5-3.7
Chapter Books – Interest Level – Grade 3-5, Grade Level Equivalent 3.1-3.9