As spring starts to head our way, we notice the important changes. The temperatures begin to warm, plants that had gone dormant during the winter months are beginning to sprout new growth, and in many places a yellow pollen covers the ground for a few weeks. While most people appreciate the colorful flowers and greenery of spring, we take for granted that all of this happens. One player that is especially important in the annual cycle is the bee.
It is a proven fact that we need bees. Without bees, we wouldn’t have the variety of fruits and vegetables that we are used to. Bees are important in the chain of life of flowers and vegetables, let alone in the production of honey. But over industrialized lifestyles are killing off bees. Since knowledge is power, there are fortunately a number of books trying to show the next generation, and their parents, just how important bees are and what we can do to help them.
National Geographic Kids does a great job in giving young readers important information about bees in their Level 2 Reader, Bees. This book is chock full of useful facts about the bees that buzz all around us. From baskets in their legs to hold pollen to solitary vs social bees, this book has it all. It acknowledges that many of us see bees and want to run the other way, but that without bees we would not get some of the foods that we love, let alone honey. Kids are also able to get close up photographs of bees to understand the difference between honey bees and other bees, and the many other kinds of worker bees. A great book for K-2.
Also good for young learners is Honey Bees from the World of Insects series. This book specifically focuses on the honey bee and gives information in 1-2 sentences per page, relying on frequently occurring common words. The large pictures are a great added detail because kids can see parts of the bee they would never normally notice. For example, the spread showing the two different ways that bees carry pollen is something that would immediately grab a child’s attention. This is the kind of book that an emerging reader would be able to read on their own while still getting a world of information.
Another option for young learners is Why Do We Need Bees? from the Usborne Lift-the-Flap Questions and Answers series. These are questions and answers that work for kids 3+ on a wide variety of topics about bees and why they are important. Does your little one want to know how they draw nectar out of flowers for honey or how they spread pollen? Answered. How about where bees live and why we need them? Yes. The final spread focuses on why bees are in danger and what we can do to help them. An awesome option for young inquisitive minds.
The Bee Book, from Charlotte Milner and DK Publishing, is a great book that mixes visual learning with a large amount of text. This beautiful book holds a large amount of information, but doesn’t feel overwhelming. Pages are laid out with bright and colorful illustrations and text flows well with key terms bolded in a larger font. I actually like this move away from the photography heavy DK books we all know and love (I still love them, I just really appreciate this concept).
Also in the strong nonfiction category is the beautiful Bees and Wasps book from the Usborne Beginner Nonfiction series. These books are amazing for the K-2 set filled with amazing photography and text that will not overwhelm. All topics are broken down into useful bits of information that help encourage young learners and newer readers. Since this book focuses on both bees and wasps, it also spends a fair amount of time showing how the relatives are similar and different.
In the book Give Bees a Chance, author/illustrator Bethany Barton tries to help kids see the importance of bees while acknowledging that most people fear being stung. Using boldly colored illustrations and a very large font, Barton lures readers in and puts out a lot of information. The graphic are what really set this book apart. What is also great about this book is that it works well for a wide variety of ages. Preschoolers will love the energy, but even 3rd and 4th graders will get a wealth of knowledge from the book. Barton also wrote I’m Trying to Love Spiders, I think I’m going to have to check that one out as well.
For the slightly older child, definitely check out You Wouldn’t Want to Live Without Bees. This book, part of an awesome series, is teeming with information about how bees enhance our lives. The premise of these books is to present serious information in humorous manner. That said, the text is clearly presented with funny illustrations that bring the subject to life. This book explains what life is like for a bee, how honey is made, and environmental challenges bee colonies face.
Another great book for visual learners is Bees: A Honeyed History, by Wojceich Grajkowski with illustrations by Piotr Socha. This book has an amazing amount of information, though you honestly don’t have to read it all in order to learn a lot. Each spread in this book features large illustrations with all sorts of information included. Then at the bottom of the page is text that is appropriate for older learners. It even includes illustrations of the various “dances” that bees perform for each other as their method of communication. Details on how pollination works and what other creatures participate in that role, long-ago history on humans and bees, the art of beekeeping, and how honey is made are also included in this 72 page book.
Also useful for older elementary school students is What’s the Buzz? Keeping Bees in Flight, by Merrie-Ellen Wilcox. This book was born out of questions that Wilcox got from a young neighbor about the beehives that she and her husband keep at their home in Victoria, British Columbia. Written in a manner that feels like your neighbor answering questions, this book gives a wide variety of information on the world of bees, how they work, what life is like in the hive, and most importantly, what is hurting bees today and how we can make a difference. As someone who loves the product of bees helping in pollination, this is a must read to encourage kids to make a difference and change the world.
If we can encourage children to see past the fear of a bee sting and instead see the value of the bee, maybe we can also help encourage them to do their part and save the bee population. Small farmers across the country need bees and we all benefit from the beauty in nature.
There is a world of amazing nonfiction out there for children of all ages. Check out some other titles in the awesome nonfiction picture book challenge link-up hosted weekly by Alyson at Kid Lit Frenzy.