Children’s Literature in Science and Math? Yes, Indeed.

By Laureen Reynolds

Research shows that children’s literature not only provides pleasure to students, but also significantly enhances their academic success. The right book can enable deep exploration of a topic, encourage research, help to differentiate instruction, and expose children to many new and different perspectives. Now, with the implementation of the Common Core State Standards and renewed interest in fiction and nonfiction, it can also help meet the requirements of the standards as well as the needs of students.

Indeed, children’s literature is a common thread that spans all grade levels. That fact is not contested. But does it span all subject areas? In this article, we’ll weigh in on this question by looking at the significant role both fiction and nonfiction can play in two important subject areas.

Science: Investigative learning through books

The use of children’s literature to teach science is becoming increasingly more common. A properly selected book—either fiction or nonfiction—can be a useful tool for promoting both literacy and science learning. In fact, some science publishers include a list of recommended children’s books in their classroom materials for teachers.

There are many benefits to using developmentally appropriate books in science instruction. Teachers can accommodate a wider range of reading levels and learning styles. They can dive more deeply into topics covered broadly in textbooks. They can engage children in exploration, investigation, and inquiry through books and encourage discoveries of scientific principles. They often can provide more up-to-date instruction using information from recently published books as opposed to dated textbooks. Whether teaching with narratives, informational text, or picture books, it’s all about connecting children to the natural world outside their classroom to make science more relevant, interesting, and meaningful. Once children learn how science relates to their lives, they are more likely to apply the concepts learned.

Math: Making difficult concepts less intimidating

Math is not a rigid set of rules and formulas that must be learned, memorized, and kept within the walls of the classroom. Math is alive in many wonderful children’s books with math-related themes and content. Through these books, children can develop healthy attitudes towards math and realize the variety of situations in which math can be used beyond the classroom.

Math can be challenging, for both teachers and students. The value of books in simplifying instruction cannot be overstated. Engaging books make math more exciting for every student when used to introduce manipulatives, inspire a creative math experience, pose an interesting problem, and develop or review a math skill. Learners who struggle with math can feel less intimidated and have more fun learning math through clever and interesting books. By the same token, students who excel in math can deepen their learning by fully understanding how math is all around us. Even in the early grades, picture books can be used to introduce pre-readers to mathematical concepts, such as counting, subtraction, addition, size, and time.

When teachers offer children opportunities to share and discuss books in math and science, children are motivated to read more and learn more. It’s up to teachers who know and love children’s literature to champion its creative and consistent use in all subject areas.


Build on your understanding of the significant role of children’s books across the curriculum. Get up-to-date on the newest and most exciting titles in SDE’s webinar What’s Hot in Children’s Literature (Grades K–5) by classroom teacher and author Laureen Reynolds.

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