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Science Books & Films Suggests 10 Top Summer Books for K-4 Students

Ten great books for students in kindergarten through the fourth grade, suggested by Science Books & Films at AAAS, promise to stimulate children’s imaginations and help combat summer learning loss.

The diversity of bats, the language of birds, “wacky” animal defenses, and the inspiring true stories of Albert Einstein, oceanographer Sylvia Earle, and environmentalist Rachel Carson are all covered by the list from Science Books & Films (SB&F).

“When children’s minds are engaged by reading a good book, they are learning,” said AAAS Senior Project Director Maria Sosa of SB&F, an initiative within Education and Human Resources at AAAS. “Keeping younger students intellectually stimulated over the summer is important. That’s when many students, particularly those with fewer enrichment opportunities, risk losing ground academically.”

The suggested SB&F books are fun to read, too. Sosa composed the list based on her extensive experience reviewing science resources for SB&F, an online critical-review journal. This year’s SB&F summer book suggestions include a total of 60 titles across three categories of readers: Children in kindergarten through fourth grade; middle and junior high school students (grades 5-9); and older high school students / young adults.

Check out the complete SB&F summer reading list, and share your summer reading experiences on Twitter by using the hashtag #SBFsummerbooks.

For younger children, SB&F‘s suggested books include these 10 great summer reads, listed in alphabetical order, by title:


A Place for Bats

by Melissa Stewart (illustrated by Higgins Bond). A dozen different bats are presented in this charming, fact-filled book, which introduces young readers to the ways that human action, or inaction, can affect bat populations. The engaging narrative will open kids’ minds to a wide range of environmental issues. Atlanta, Ga.: Peachtree Publishers, 2012, 34 pages.


On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein

by Jennifer Berne (illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky). By capturing Einstein’s ideas and thought processes at a very high (but comprehensible) level, this beautifully illustrated book is a perfect introduction to Einstein. It’s also a book the whole family can enjoy. The art, in pen and ink and rapid brush watercolor, is emotionally nuanced and stimulating. San Francisco, Calif.: Chronicle Books, 2013, 56 pages.


Bird Talk: What Birds Are Saying and Why

by Lita Judge. Common birds such as goldfinches and blue jays hold their place in this book, along with more conventionally charismatic species like sage grouse and birds of paradise. Mating calls, greeting ceremonies, communicating with chicks, and strategies for avoiding predators are illustrated with appealing examples. The simple, accurate language clearly explains the birds’ vocalizations and will engross three-year-olds as well as adults. New York, N.Y.: Roaring Brook Press, 2012, 48 pages.


City Fish, Country Fish

by Mary M. Cerullo (photographs by Jeffrey L. Rotman). This beautifully engineered book describes how fish live in their natural habitats, whether they live in “city” coral reefs or the cold “country” waters. Ocean photographer Jeff Rotman contributes stunning photographs that enhance the enjoyment of Mary Cerullo’s delightful text. Gardiner, Me.: Tilbury House, 2012, 30 pages.


Life in the Ocean: The Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle

by Claire A. Nivola. The heart of this book is the inspiring story of Sylvia Earle, world-renowned oceanographer and environmentalist. Author and illustrator Nivola conveys Earle’s passion for the ocean environment in words and images that will capture a young reader’s attention and imagination. New York, N.Y.: Farrar, Straus and Giroux: 2012, 32 pages.


The Long, Long Journey: The Godwit’s Amazing Migration

by Sandra Markle (illustrated by Mia Posada). This book tells a remarkable story about a shorebird, the Bar-tailed Godwit, and its yearly migration from Alaska to New Zealand. Outstanding full-page color illustrations capture the life of this hardy bird from its spring birth in Alaska, to its arrival in New Zealand the following fall. The story is simple and heart-warming, and the illustrations are appropriate for very young readers. Minneapolis, Minn.: Millbrook Press, 2013, 32 pages.


Ocean Sunlight: How Tiny Plants Feed the Seas,

by Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm. From tiny aquatic plants to the biggest whale or fish, Bang and Chisholm present a moving, living picture of the miraculous balance sustaining each creature’s life cycle and the food chain deep within the oceans. The lyrical text also provides a clear explanation of the role of the sun in photosynthesis on land and seas. New York, N.Y.: Blue Sky Press, 2012, 48 pages.


Slime, Poop, and Other Wacky Animal Defenses

by Janet Riehecky. This book demonstrates that sometimes the best defense is a good offense. The use of poop, both as a dousing agent and as repellent smell, or of vomit as a poison, are just two examples that will capture the attention of any reader and convince them to keep turning the page. Descriptions of each offensive tactic are accompanied by an image of the attacking animal, making the reader feel like they are on the front lines. Minneapolis, Minn.: Capstone Press, 2012, 32 pages.


Rachel Carson and Her Book that Changed the World

by Laurie Lawlor. Rachel Carson, a biologist and environmentalist, wrote Silent Spring, a game-changing book that pointed out the dangerous effects of chemicals on the living world. Lawlor’s exploration of Silent Spring conveys the importance of the work and the impact that Carson’s message had on the world. Baltimore, Md.: Holiday House Publishers, 2012, 32 pages.


Saving Yasha: The Incredible True Story of an Adoptive Moon Bear

by Lia Kvatum (photographs by Liya Pokrovskaya). In this lovely little book, we encounter two scientists who bring an orphaned bear cub to safe surroundings, where he is allowed to live and grow in the company of two other orphaned cubs of the same species. As the story unfolds, we learn in the most direct and simple (yet enthralling way) about the steps taken to raise the bear cub and return him back to the wild. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society, 2012, 32 pages.

SB&F, established in 1965 by the nonprofit AAAS, serves as an authoritative guide to science resources for students, teachers, librarians, caregivers, and others. See