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Perfect Pairs: Teaching Science through Literature

by Melissa Stewart 

Some students love reading fiction. Others would much rather delve into a richly-illustrated, fact-filled nonfiction title. Because different children enjoy different kinds of books and learn in different ways, pairing fiction and nonfiction titles is a great way to introduce and reinforce science concepts. And when you follow up the reading with discussion questions and fun, inquiry-based activities, students are even more likely to remember the experience—and the content.

I began pairing the science books I’ve written with popular children’s fiction titles in 2006. From time to time, teachers contacted me to say how much they appreciated my suggestions. But the positive feedback really started to roll in when I began giving presentations about Perfect Pairs at conferences for teachers and librarians. And it increased exponentially when I jumped into the social media arena by setting up a Twitter account (@mstewartscience) last year.

Perfect Pairs highlight curriculum connections between award-winning science-themed trade books and a wide variety of fiction titles. Sometimes even I’m surprised by the results. For example, it turns out that middle grade novels like Project Mulberry by Linda Sue Park and Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo by Greg Leitich Smith really bring the experimental process and the scientific method to life for tweens. And elementary students learn to appreciate rocks in a whole new way by reading stories like Everybody Needs a Rock by Byrd Baylor and Rocks in His Head by Carol Otis Hurst. 

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