Your Kids Love ‘Cosmos.’ Keep Them Interested in Science With These Books.
The relaunched TV series can inspire children to read more about the universe. Here are some great titles to get them started.
Meanwhile, Space, Stars and the Beginning of Time, by Elaine Scott is aimed at a slightly older audience—the publisher suggests it for 9-to-12-year-olds, but I think a bright 7- or 8-year-old could read it with a parent. It’s about all we’ve learned from the Hubble Telescope, and it’s illustrated with big, spectacular photos (many from the telescope itself). The book begins with an anecdote from A Wrinkle in Time: Meg asks her mother, “Do you think things always have an explanation?” Mrs. Murry replies: “With our human limitations, we’re not always able to understand the explanations. But you see, Meg, just because we don’t understand doesn’t mean that the explanation doesn’t exist.” Science writer Scott really has a gift for explanations that make sense to those of us with minimal science educations—adults as well as kids. She’s as good at talking about what we don’t know as she about what we do.
As humans, we will continue to study the cosmos and wonder: Where did we come from? What is our fate? Are there others out there, asking the same questions we ask? As science moves forward, each generation will ask more questions and make more discoveries than the generation preceding it. The body of knowledge will grow as we seek scientific answers to the question of how the universe came to be the way it is.
She points out that even as we learn more and more about the hows, science will never answer the whys. That’s something religion can do.
Another photographic extravaganza is The Lives of Stars, by Ken Crowell, a Harvard-trained astrophysicist. It’s for kids 9-12, and while it lacks the quirky wit and crystal-clear explanations of Scott’s book, it’s gorgeous to look at (it’s oversized, so the space pics really pop), and to kids who already have an interest in science, it’ll be catnip.
Finally, a book for slightly older kids: The Universe: An Illustrated History of Astronomy, by British science writer Tom Jackson. It would work for kids 10 and up, I think. It’s heavy, hardbound, and huge, with an impressive coffee-table-esque design. The publisher, Shelter Harbor Press, currently has three other books in the same series: one about mathematics, one about the elements, and one about physics. They’re all beautiful. They’d make an awesome bar mitzvah gift for a science geek, and I use that word in the most affectionate way. (Reader, I married one.)
And a heads-up: This fall, I look forward to a new picture book biography (for preschoolers to 8-year-olds) of the original Cosmos dude, Carl Sagan. I haven’t seen a review copy, but I’m optimistic. I like the way author/illustrator Stephanie Roth Sisson draws the wee child Sagan with what looks like an incipient comb-over.
Sagan (agnostic Jew) and Tyson (atheist non-Jew) would probably agree that spirituality and science go hand in hand. Tyson sounded awfully Jewish when he said, “I am driven by two main philosophies: Know more today about the world than I knew yesterday, and lessen the suffering of others. You’d be surprised how far that gets you.”
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Covering my hair makes me feel like part of the Orthodox community. But how I cover it makes me feel like an individual.