Saturday, July 5, 2008

Science Books from the 50's and 60's

When you shop at library book sales, where often children's books are 25 to 50 cents each, you pick up a lot of books that might be interesting. As it turns out, by serendipity I have found a surprisingly high number of really great science books published in the 1950's and 1960's. Perhaps only the better written or more popular books survive, or maybe it was a heyday for children's science, or possibly books have been dumbed down today, or it could be that I have not looked at enough modern science books; I don't know. All I know is that some of my best science books are from this era. Even searching "juvenile physics" or "juvenile chemistry" in the library catalogue, which lists results by publication date, shows that the older books seem to be the more interesting ones.

Some of the gems I have found include:

Authors like Jeanne Bendick, Millicent Selsam, Franklyn Branley, and Jerome Meyer.

Series like the How and Why Wonder books of Grosset & Dunlap, AllAbout books from Random House, the Golden Library of Knowledge, and Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science (still published today.)

Oddities like Arnold Roth's Crazy Book of Science ('71), with its cartoons and funny stories that make information memorable, and Our Wonderful Earth by Herbert Townsend that introduces geology and earth science, natural science, and world culture to young children all in one book. Even classic authors with a single science title, like Holling C. Holling's Pagoo and Virginia Lee Burton's Life Story.

Of course you have to stick basic information, otherwise the books are hopelessly dated--though you can find some interesting historical information. For example, in The Wonder of Light by Hy Ruchlis, I found out that housewives had hung clothes to dry because of UV light's germicidal power and that special UV lamps were used in hospital operating rooms to kill harmful germs. "A moderate amount of exposure to ultraviolet light is healthful," he states because it creates vitamin D. We now know how harmful UV rays are, though, so we put vitamin D in our milk and took those lights out of the operating room!

On the other hand, science history books are very informative; they were much more common and interesting than they are now. Clocks, Calendars and Carrousels by John Navarra and A Short History of Science and Scientific Thought ('49) by F. Sherwood Taylor are two excellent examples.

Many contemporary books seem to have more interest in advancing political agendas than advancing scientific ideas, which leads to a decrease in quality. Whether it's making Christians look bad, or making sure something relating to Evolution or the age of the earth is in every book, or trying to be more "cool" than informative, or dumbing down the contents...well, it dilutes the book pool. Still, we have authors like Gail Gibbons and Robert Wells; series like Magic School Bus, One Small Square, and Kids Can!; other gems like Tibaldo and the Hole in the Calendar by Abner Shimony, Galileo for Kids by Richard Panchyk, and How to Think Like a Scientist by Stephen P. Kramer. I'll be writing more about authors and series in future posts; keep an eye on my reviews on Shelfari for other great science titles.


Prince Andrew and the Queen Mum said...

I am going to have to show some serious restraint! i will be checking out the library sale however. I have decided I am going to get the NOEO chem I for this year and then add on some other chem books... i need scaffolding for myself in teaching science.

Kris! said...

The beauty of "thinking outside the textbook" is that you often find your own gems at a library book sale or used book store that are as good or better than what a program recommends.

Noeo will give you a schedule, and it will cost you around $30 with shipping. All it does, however, is tell you to read so many pages each day and then write or draw what you've learned, and schedule in the experiments. A lot of Chem I is based on Super Science Concoctions. Try borrowing that book and seeing if you could base a year of science on it using living science supplimental books; I bet you can.

I understand completely how you feel--I used Noeo for two years before I had the confidence, and suffered the frustrations, enough to realize that I don't need someone else's program so long as I have a good spine to build off of. And I figured out that this is true for all the subjects I teach. The public library and modern technology are incredible blessings that make it easy.

Prince Andrew and the Queen Mum said...

what do you think about the kits...for the experiments. that is our downfall. we have 1000 experiment books and they just take us on numerous rabbit trails.

Kris! said...

O.K. since you asked...

First, the experiments are clustered at the beginning and the end of Chem I rather than at regular intervals.

Second, I found the Young Scientist Kits (YSK) to be a tremendous waste of money:

I did not bother with the YSK for Physics I; I used Janice vanCleave's Physics and Gizmos and Gadgets to pick out experiments relating to what we were studying.

You could do the same thing for Chem I--in fact many of the experiments in the YSKs were also in the Kids Can! or living science books used with the program.

At first you feel like you're missing something, or you wish you knew what was being done in the YSK, but after awhile I realized that it didn't matter--I just did what interested my kids and worked for me. Just doing something regularly will get you quite far in science.


Prince Andrew and the Queen Mum said...

thanks Kris. I did push the 'purchase' button earlier today before i read this. I kept going back and forth and now as I see your blogs thinking...gee...maybe i can call and cancel LOL! Part of the reason I was thinking that it would just give me a bit of scaffolding for the year. I feel lost w/ moving to CM which is so different. Most folks around here plop workbooks down in front of their kiddos and let'r rip. Which isn't 'bad'...but it doesn't work for us.. so anyway...thanks!!! I did read how folks thought that the kits were a waste of time (on homeschoolreviews)-but in the end I really liked the idea of owning most of those books anyway;) You are so right about kids just doing anything. I told DH about it and he said...DS knows way more science than most kids his age anyway!! I'm just 'treating' myself to a somewhat easier planning of science- gotta use that stimulus check somewhere;)

Kris! said...

The books are well worth buying, that's for sure (I only took issue with Starry Messenger in Physics I. Even if you are not Catholic, you may want to look at the images on the "torture" pages before reading this to your child, which are totally irrelevent to the story.) Noeo may be just the thing you need to build your confidence, too. If nothing else the YSK are very convenient!

Beck's Bounty said...

Thank you for this. Our library sales are coming up very soon, and I will certainly keep an eye out for books such as these.

God Bless.