Using Trade Books in Teaching Elementary Science: Facts and Fallacies

Using Trade Books in Teaching Elementary Science: Facts and Fallacies
Author(s): Diana C. Rice
Reviewed work(s):
Source: The Reading Teacher, Vol. 55, No. 6 (Mar., 2002), pp. 552-565
Published by: International Reading Association
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Diana C. Rice
tr ade
Using
Tradebooks can be a valuable
additionto thescience curriculum,
if teachersknowhow toselect
good ones.
One day while waiting
in reading education
1
:eaching
*
1
Facts
and
for a colleague
a
to complete
call, I picked up a children's
on
trade book lying
her desk and casually
be
gan to glance through it.After her call, she not
in the book.
it was
to me
She explained
and
would
be a good book to use
science. As a science
mentary
because
of inaccuracies
agreed
suggested
in teaching
that
it
ele
I dis
educator,
I had noticed
in
the book.
on a discussion,
almost a de
bate, about using trade books in science teaching.
over the next several
This dialogue
continued
We
embarked
concepts
instruction.
from
trade books
used
in
Using tradebooks in teaching
science: A growing trend
a
For generations,
trade books have been
rich part of childhood.
Most
of us remember
a
or hiding
with
before
bedtime
parent
reading
under the covers with a flashlight,
trying to fin
a
ish those last few pages of
story or
captivating
novel. Many
of us remember
the
anticipating
next
in the book our teacher
chapter
us
to
reading
during quiet time after lunch
each day. The titles may vary but the memories
exciting
was
are quite
552
The Reading
similar.
Teacher
Vol. 55, NO.6
trade books have remained a staple
Though
of pleasure reading for elementary
the
children,
role of trade books in elementary
instruction has
in the content areas. In
expanded,
particularly
science classes,
trade books or "library" books
were initially used as supplements
to science in
more
struction
As
teachers
1973).
(Blough,
an
to
adopted
integrated approach
teaching, the
range of trade books
the science curriculum
that found
only science
tion, science
books, but also fic
even
and
poetry (Casteel
broadened
their way into
to include not
informational
fiction,
1992; Short & Armstrong,
1993).
even
trade
books
have
Recently,
begun to re
some
texts
science
in
science
place
elementary
classes (Armbruster,
1993; Ross,
1994).
While
the use of trade books in teaching sci
ence has grown
there is
increasingly
popular,
Nordstrom,
and eventually
sparked our collaboration
on a research project to explore the use of trade
we wanted
books in science classes. Specifically,
to look at whether or not children develop accu
science
fallacies
& Isom, 1994; Ediger, 1995; Lamartino, 1995;
weeks
rate science
science:
elementary
phone
ed my interest
how wonderful
in
books
MarCh
very little quantitative
support for their use in
science classes (Royce & Wiley,
1996). A num
ber of important questions
remain unanswered.
What evidence
is there that children are learning
"good science" from trade books? Is the content
in trade books accurate enough to serve as a sub
stitute for content provided
sci
by traditional
ence texts? If not, what is an appropriate
role
for trade books in the elementary
science class?
Using tradebooks in teaching
science: The right reasons
are many
reasons for the
pragmatic
of
trade
in teaching
books
growing
popularity
science.
One
is
their
elementary
widespread
There
2002
?2OO2
International
Association(pp.552-565)
Reading
from local bookstores,
availability
professional
and commercial
sources,
(Kralina,
catalogs
development
1993). The number of trade books published
method
each
has
year
(Lynch-Brown
metric growth
dren's
books
Tomlinson,
increased
tenfold
since
1900
& Tomlinson,
1998). This
has resulted in over 120,000
geo
chil
in print today (Lynch-Brown
&
are
so
trade books
1999). Because
into whole
language and the
integrated
curricula,
"readily ac
they have become
and heavily
promoted
by
cepted by educators
easily
matic
publishers" (Mayer, 1995, p. 16).
Problems
with
texts have been ama
science
the trend toward using trade
jor force driving
books in elementary
science. Not only are trade
books more widely available (Kralina, 1993;
& Tomlinson,
1999; Walpole,
Lynch-Brown
are
1999), they
generally more up to date than
texts found
in many
the science
elementary
1991; Ross,
1994; Tyson &
Woodward,
1989). Science texts can be daunting
for many children, particularly
those who have
Texts
often
contain
unfamiliar
reading problems.
classrooms
(Moss,
vocabulary (Casteel & Isom, 1994; Short &
Armstrong, 1993; Tyson & Woodward, 1989)
and
tend
to cover
a large
number
of
topics
(Lamartino, 1995; Tyson & Woodward, 1989).
books, on the other hand, tend to be
an in-depth
and provide
focused
look at
Trade
more
single concepts (Cullinan, 1981;Moss,
commodate
differences
in reading
1991;
to be an
can ac
find trade books
Ross,
1994). Teachers
trade books
attractive
because
option
abilities
students (Carlile, 1992; Gee & Olson,
of
1992;
Lamartino,
1995; Nordstrom,
1992; Ross,
1994)
and also provide
for differences
in learning
1997).
styles (Madrazo,
Trade books are generally more interesting
and less confusing
for children than texts (Ross,
1994). Butzow and Butzow (2000) pointed out
that children's
books have story lines that help
children understand and remember concepts bet
ter than textbooks that tend to present science as
lists of facts to be memorized.
Trade books
con
pictures and the graphics are supe
texts for explaining
rior to many
abstract ideas
(Kralina, 1993). Trade books also provide a con
tain colorful
text for understanding
difficult science concepts
(Dole & Johnson,
1981). Both fiction and non
fiction can be used to support the inquiry ap
science
1992;
(Nordstrom,
proach to teaching
to facilitate
Short & Armstrong,
the
1993),
Using
trade books
of problem-solving
skills
(Daisey,
1994; Ediger, 1995), to introduce the scientific
and the excitement
& Norton,
of discovery
(Janke
and to enhance creativity
and
1983),
thinking skills (Kralina, 1993).
Many children simply find science textbooks
too boring (Dole& Johnson, 1981;Moss, 1991).
trades are fun to read (Kralina, 1993;
1992), are more interesting and rele
In contrast,
Nordstrom,
vant to students'
lives
(Butzow & Butzow,
2000;
Dole & Johnson, 1981; Hammond, 1992;
Kralina, 1993;Maria & Junge, 1993; Stiffler,
1992), and less intimidating (Carlile, 1992;
Casteel & Isom, 1994; Crook & Lehman, 1990;
Dole & Johnson, 1981). They have been shown
to positively
affect
self-esteem
and social
skills
(Kralina, 1993) and have also been cited as pre
than do
senting a more human side of science
textbooks
(Huck as cited
in Short & Armstrong,
1993;Kralina, 1993;Ross, 1994).
Advocates
more
positive
that trade books
of trade books
of women
view
also point to the
and minorities
Unlike
communicate.
texts that have been criticized
of women
poor
science
or
for the absence
and minorities
representation
(Potter & Rosser,
1992), trade books
of achievement"
celebrate
diversity
"view
and
(Daisey,
1994, p. 133). The dearth of females and people
in science texts suggests
that only cer
can be scientists
and promotes
of fe
stereotypes.
Ultimately,
large numbefs
of color
tain people
males
and minorities
feel alienated
from science
(Daisey, 1994). The number of students in these
science illiterate is, in
groups who are considered
fact, disproportionately
large (Glynn & Muth,
a
women
con
As
and minorities
result,
1994).
tinue to be underrepresented
in graduate and un
science
and science
programs
dergraduate
careers (Clark, 1999; Hill, 1999; Milbourne,
1999; Rosser & Kelly, 1994).
Lamme
and Ledbetter
(as cited
in Ross,
1994) provided some indication of the growing
status of trade books
day. Promoting
they observed,
in elementary
science to
the use of trade books over texts,
in the content areas
"Textbooks
simply cannot match the flexibility, depth or
quality provided by tradebooks" (p. 7).Walpole
an even
expressed
that "new science
stronger view in sug
text books aspire to
gesting
match the trade book models"
(p. 358).
(1999)
in teaching
elementary
science:
Facts
and fallacies
553
can be used
Many books;many children
first
today are often a
to science"
(Barlow,
trade books offer a solu
trade books
"Children's
child's
introduction
1991, p. 166). In fact,
tion to the lack of textbook
support for science
for young children (Stiffler, 1992). Yet, many of
the benefits of using trade books in teaching sci
ence are not reserved
for younger
children.
Trade
books
have
teaching
science
(Daisey,
1994;
also been
recommended
in middle
Flood,
Lapp,
for
and high school
& Ranck-Buhr,
1995; Pottle, 1996).
As
I have
science
more
information
and ac
books,
tivity books. Pottle (1996) suggested thatfiction
on science
topics are an excellent
vehicle for interdisciplinary
studies because
they
are available
on such a wide variety of topics.
trade books
others in reading and science education
advocated
the use of fiction for a variety
of reasons
for
Barrow & Salesi,
(see
example,
Many
have
1982; Butzow & Butzow, 1988, 2000; Casteel
& Isom, 1994; Dole & Johnson, 1981; Ediger,
1995; Fisher, 1980; Nordstrom, 1992; Ross,
1994; Short& Armstrong, 1993; Smardo, 1982).
is a genre also recommended
classes
today for science
quently
Short
&
1997;
1993).
Armstrong,
Poetry
more
fre
(Madrazo,
The
of trade books,
acceptance
growing
as a resource
fiction
and nonfiction,
in
is
in
science
much
evidence.
very
teaching
both
Teachers
who
in
recently been involved
textbook adoptions will have noticed that in pro
their elementary
science
series, many
moting
are including
trade books among the
publishers
recent editions of
to accompany
many products
have
texts.
science
elementary
For
example,
Houghton Mifflin has identified over 100 trade
books
for
use
with
their
Science
series,
a
wide
Works,
including
Discovery
variety of
and
fables
and
science
fiction,
tales, biographies,
a
In addition,
informational
books.
number of
popular
methods
Harlan
Wolfinger,
teachers
and early childhood
elementary
texts (see for example,
Gega,
&
Rivkin,
2000)
(Butzow
science
1994;
1997;
2000; Martin,
as well
as resource
& Butzow,
2000;
books
for
Cerullo,
1997; Fredericks, 1997) identify tradebooks that
554
The Reading Teacher
Using tradebooks in teaching
science: A theoreticalperspective
In recent
in the philosophi
years, changes
a
cal stance of
large part of the science education
in a convergence
have resulted
of
community
in science and reading.
theoretical perspectives
As a result, the pragmatic reasons for using trade
are not
previously
from
both
fields.
support
Rosenblatt's
transactional
view
of read
(1991)
the reader's prior experi
ing as an act in which
books
indicated,
ap
integrated
to
the
extension
proaches
teaching encouraged
of the range of trade books in the science cur
riculum beyond nonfiction,
such as biographies
of scientists,
in lessons integrating
lan
reading,
or
and
otherwise
be
science,
guage arts,
incorpo
rated into science lessons.
Vol.55,No.6 March
2002
in science
without
described
theoretical
and personality
interact with
ence, knowledge,
the text to create meaning
is in tune with many
of today's teaching practices
&
(Lynch-Brown
Tomlinson,
1999). It is also in accord with the
constructivist
view of teaching and learning sci
ence that has emerged
as the predominant
per
over the past 20
in
education
science
spective
This perspective
holds that learners ac
tively construct their own meaning when new in
years.
formation is linked to prior knowledge (Duschl,
1990).With thewidespread adoption of this in
teractive constructivist
now seem more open
view, science educators
to the potential of alterna
tive teaching strategies such as using trade books
(Armbruster,
1993).
Examination
of these theoretical
underpin
some insight into the
also
nings may
provide
failure of science
to embrace
females and people
to suggest why ex
of color and, concomitantly,
panding reading in science may increase access
to the field for these groups. Rosenblatt's
(1991)
are
two
stances
holds
that
to
there
read
theory
ing: the efferent relating to the factual, analytical
aspects of reading and the aesthetic, or emotion
as it
al, aspect of the reading process.
Science,
has traditionally been taught, has generally failed
to address
the aesthetic
of reading in
construc
Contemporary
tivist views of teaching and learning science ap
more
the importance
of both
preciate
fully
stances. Similarly,
trade books are more likely to
favor
component
of the efferent.
promote both stances than are texts that tend to
evoke efferent responses.
Since women
and mi
norities
tend to respond to the emotional, more
and real world aspects
relevant, more personal,
of the nature of science
(Beane,
1988; Rosser
&
for the
1994) this increased appreciation
Kelly,
aesthetic
has
the
of reading
component
poten
to these
tial to help open
doors
laboratory
underrepresented
were
to the chil
communicated
jump from ponds to oceans
and have either white or yellow bottoms were
two of the "pseudofacts"
children reported in in
terviews. That is, the children were remembering
groups.
unintentionally
dren. That whales
The qualityof science content in
tradebooks:The story ofMr.
Blueberry
Without
a doubt,
to science
trade books
have much
to
contribute
instruction and their inclu
sion as a part of the regular science curriculum
is
more
common.
there
has
However,
becoming
been little consideration
of the quality of science
content in these books. An examination
of the lit
erature
finds
in both
science and reading education
little research on the nature of the relation
ship between quality of content in trade books and
of science concepts. A handful of
the development
the effects of trade books and
studies comparing
and atti
traditional texts on science achievement
tude toward science
can be found
dicated that the children
learned relatively
few
new facts about whales
from this book. Indeed,
found that several new misconceptions
Mayer
(see for exam
the erroneous ideas held by the little girl instead
was
information Mr. Blueberry
the
Some
of
children
providing.
actually thought
the whale was a person, perhaps a reflection
of
the anthropomorphic
view characteristic
of chil
of the correct
dren of this age.
Mayer's (1995) findings supported thework
of Jettonwhose 1992 study (as cited inMaria &
that second graders
Junge, 1993) demonstrated
than the science
remembered
ideas
rather
story
even when
had
information
been told that
they
of reading
the purpose
more about whales. The
study combined
ple, Fisher, 1980;Lamartino, 1995; Lyttle, 1982;
Maria & Junge, 1993). Findings in these studies
concepts.
were
elements
but suggested
that
inconclusive,
generally
the children learned at least as much from trade
books as they did from science texts.
Mayer (1995) provided a rare look at how
trade books influence
the development
of sci
ence concepts.
In a simple but revealing
study,
read Dear Mr. Blueberry
(James, 1991), a
Mayer
to 16 children
fiction trade book about whales,
from kindergarten
through third grade. After she
read the book to each child, Mayer
asked the
child to retell the story and to answer
10 ques
tions about what had been learned from the sto
ry.Mayer had chosen this topic because whales
are a popular subject in children's
literature and
this particular book in part because she felt that it
described whales
In ad
"fairly and adequately."
a
it
is
trade
book
intended
for
children "in
dition,
pre-school
through second grade, an age group
that is a common target for teaching science with
children's
literature" (pp. 16-17).
In the book, the character of Mr. Blueberry
and corrects misconceptions
directly addresses
about whales
in a series of letters exchanged
with a little girl. Apparently,
choice of
Mayer's
was also based on the as
Dear Mr. Blueberry
that the direct contrast between
inac
sumption
curacies and correct ideas about whales would
leave little room for confusion. Her findings
in
Using
trade books
elements
the book was
trade book
to learn
in the Jetton
of fantasy with
science
Mayer (1995) concluded that a number of
fered with
in Dear Mr. Blueberry
inter
actually
the development
of science concepts.
Misrepresentations
apparently confused
also
bias
and illustrations
in the book
some of the children. Mayer
own gender
that the "children's
suggested
and understanding
of animal behavior"
(p.
17) were influenced negatively by the way in
which the girl and the whale interacted in the
story. She
reported
that the children
she inter
viewed thought that the little girl in the story
looked
demonstrates
how
silly. This response
can take away quite unexpected
views
of characters
in trade books that are surely not
the intent of the author.
children
(1995) study is only
Unfortunately,
Mayer's
a single example of empirical research designed
to address
the specific
of how chil
question
dren's ideas in science are affected by the con
tent in trade books. Obviously,
one study does
not provide
not a basis
conclusive
for crying
to trade books
regard
classroom.
evidence
and is surely
"the sky is falling" with
in the elementary
science
work raises im
However,
Mayer's
a
concern
issues.
The
first
is
with accu
portant
content
are
of
in
trade
books
that
used in
racy
science.
There
is
also the question
of
teaching
how content, whether accurate or not, affects the
development
in teaching
of children's
science
concepts.
elementary
science:
Facts
and
fallacies
555
Fromfireflies to fungi
about
shortly after our first discussion
no
trade books that my reading colleague
Itwas
using
ticed theMayer (1995) study cited in an article
on reading
in science. We found the results of
research eye-opening
and her study pro
Mayer's
vided a focal point for our own research.
The first phase of our project was to carry
out a content analysis of a sample of trade books
science concepts
that are commonly
addressing
found in elementary
classrooms. Of the 50 books
we selected, many were written by popular au
thors of children's
literature such as Ruth Heller,
Jerry Pallotta,
Twenty-eight
Eric Carle,
of the books
and Tomi dePaola.
in our sample were
variety of ways,
and artwork. This
science concepts
in a
in text as well as in drawings
about
finding
supported
Mayer's
(1995) suggestion that misrepresentations
both
text and illustrations
confused
some
in
chil
also discovered
that while many errors
are
some
in content
of the misinforma
explicit,
tion ismore implicit or may be inferred from text
dren. We
and illustrations.
A detailed description
amples of misinformation
ex
of the numerous
we identified
in the
the scope of this
sample of 50 books is beyond
discussion. A few examples of what we found in
clude seeds fly high enough to be burned up by
the sun {The Tiny Seed, Carle,
1987), fireflies
around the moon
{The Grouchy Ladybug,
can walk on two
Carle,
1996), and crocodiles
dance
1983). In The
legs {Cornelius, Lionni,
Quicksand Book (dePaola, 1977), the drawings
depict jungle scenes with children dressed like
is
and Jane, implying
that quicksand
is not true. Slugs,
found only in jungles?which
are identified
as "bugs" in
snail-like
creatures,
Tarzan
1987).
Bugs (Parker & Wright,
ly a term reserved for a specific
and is not an appropriate name
are members
of the mollusk
"Bug" is actual
group of insects
for slugs, which
group of animals.
In TheMixed Up Chameleon (Carle, 1975),
A Color of His Own (Lionni, 1975), and The
YuckyReptile Alphabet Book (Pallotta, 1989),
556
The Reading Teacher
Vol.55,No.6 March
2002
shades
brown.
of green
Even
or yellowish-green
to shades of
the more
colored
brightly
cannot change to bright red, yellow,
chameleons
or
the environment
blue,
white,
just because
around them is one of these colors. A similar bit
a
of exaggeration
to Hide
is found
in How
(Heller, 1992) where,
a spider is shown
camouflage,
low and then to pink or white,
Butterfly
flower
as science trade books,
19 as fanta
categorized
as
and
three
realistic
fiction
books,
sy
(Rice &
The
Rainsford,
1996).
question
guiding our re
search was, "How accurate is the science content
in children's
trade books?"
The trade books we examined
communicat
ed misinformation
a reptile whose
skin changes col
to environmental
is
conditions,
to hues such as bright red, yel
shown changing
are limited in the col
low, or white. Chameleons
ors to which
can
from
they
change,
generally
the chameleon,
or in response
that she decides
Carle's
shown
as an example of
changing "to yel
on the
depending
is right."
"mixed
in amore
is, in fact,
up chameleon"
natural green on the last page of
as Mayer's
book. However,
that particular
when both
(1995) study clearly demonstrated,
and science facts are presented
inaccuracies
in
re
the same book, children do not necessarily
the correct information.
first time I read one of these books, the
misinformation
about chameleons
communicated
hit home for me as an elementary
science meth
member
The
ods teacher. In my
university classes, both under
and
graduate
graduate, more than one student has
in
responded
surprise when I've pointed out that
at
least those native to our area, don't
chameleons,
turn scarlet or bright blue!
such as "icky" {The Icky Bug
Using words
Book, Pallotta,
1986) and "yucky"
Alphabet
Book,
Pallotta,
{The Yucky Reptile
Alphabet
of science
1989) reinforces negative
stereotypes
as a messy,
Such
smelly, repulsive
experience.
often communicated
and
images,
by parents
attitudes
toward
teachers,
encourage
negative
science. These attitudes affect all children, but
reinforce
that
cultural stereotypes
particularly
discourage
girls' development
est in science (Ballou,
1986).
of greater
inter
Another
of how subtle stereotypi
example
cal images may be communicated
is found in the
from
The
Ocean
passage
following
Alphabet
Book
(Pallotta,
1986): "E is for eel. Eels are
slimy. Eels are long and thin like snakes. If you
do not
like to hold snakes,
then you probably
not like to hold eels." This analogy rein
forces the common misconception
that snakes
are slimy, when
they are actually dry and cool
would
to the touch.
A glaring error is found in the popular chil
trade book, The Reason for a Flower
dren's
(Heller, 1983). In the closing pages of the book,
(1995) who questioned the children about the
content
of Dear Mr. Blueberry only after she read
them the book, we asked the children the same
set of questions
before and again after we read
the book. These procedures allowed us to explore
a picture of a mushroom
is accompanied
by the
no
are
have
flowers
"Plants
fasci
that
statement,
a
science
too."
For
former
life
me,
nating,
children's
disconcert
this reference is particularly
decades
ago and
ing. Fungi were reclassified
a
in
different
Mushrooms,
kingdom.
placed
which are examples of fungi, are not plants.
result of exposure to the trade book content.
We assessed
the children's prior knowledge
number
the
of correct responses on
by counting
What science are children learning
fromtradebooks?
Pretests
the pretests.
based on the five stories
to
the second graders resulted in an overall
read
score of 58% correct. Fourth graders scored an
teacher,
It was
clear from our research
that many
of
the trade books that teachers might select for sci
ence classes
content.
contained
questionable
we
followed
lead
and ex
Next,
(1995)
Mayer's
or
what
misinfor
scientific
information,
plored
children
mation,
Like Mayer, we
take away from trade books.
as our topic be
chose whales
cause
of the popularity
of whales
children
and
the
tary
availability
on the subject.
We
identified
10 books
with
elemen
of trade books
on whales
common
centers. Content
in elementary media
analysis of these books revealed a number of sci
or misconceptions.
In order
entific inaccuracies
to focus on a smaller and more manageable
ly found
number of concepts, we narrowed
the sample to
a set of five or six
five books. We then developed
true or false questions
for each story. Each set
re
of questions
included at least two questions
lated to errors in content that we had identified.
Two classes
of second
and one
graders
our
class
in
fourth-grade
study (Rice
participated
& Rainsford, 1997;Rice & Snipes, 1997). To the
second
graders, we
1987), The Whales
read Whale
Song
(Johnston,
(Rylant, 1996), Dear Mr.
(James, 1991), / Wonder If I'll See a
Blueberry
Whale
"The
(Weiler,
1991), and the chapter,
Three Gray Whales"
in Animals Who Have Won
Our Hearts (George, 1994).We read the fourth
graders Whale
Song,
The Whales,
and Dear Mr.
prior knowledge
cific changes in children's
sheets required the children to sim
circle
ply
"yes" or "no" in response to each ques
or
tion. For the younger
children,
"smiley"
were
on
the answer sheets.
used
"frowning" faces
were
of grade level, the questions
to the children
to reduce the impact
of differences
in reading
level. Unlike Mayer
Regardless
read aloud
Using
trade books
correct
on the pretests
spe
as a
on the
three stories read to them (Rice& Snipes, 1997).
It was
apparent that the children had some prior
about whales
and their behavior.
knowledge
next characterized
changes that the chil
dren made
in their answers
to
from pretest
If a change resulted
in the correct an
posttest.
We
swer on the posttest, we identified that change as
a "correct" change. Likewise,
a change from a
answer on the posttest
to an incorrect
correct
was
labeled "incorrect." An analysis of the chil
dren's answers revealed that for the majority
of
the questions,
children did not change their an
swers
from pretest to posttest. When
they did
the
answers,
however,
posttest answers
change
mirrored
the
information
in the
very closely
book
read to them, whether
the in
in the book was correct or not. Two
that had been
formation
illustrate what we observed.
examples
One of the questions we developed
for The
Whales
"Do
have a
whales
was,
1996)
(Rylant,
sense of smell?" The correct answer was "no."
content in The Whales
clearly indi
this: "But a rose is lost on them, for they
areas
haven't
any sense of smell." (In whales,
are greatly reduced, or
of the brain for olfaction
more often nonexistent,
indicative of the lack of
The
science
cates
a sense of smell. Though not demonstrated
it is
that baleen whales, which eat plankton,
possible
have some sense of smell [see Fontaine,
1998].)
On
Blueberry.
Answer
of 76%
average
and to pinpoint
science concepts
both
the pretest, about half of the children in
and fourth grades got this question
the exception
of
answering
"yes." With
second
wrong,
one child,
all of the children who had answered
incorrectly on the pretest changed their answers
on the posttest.
This "correction"
of the chil
dren's ideas was clearly based on information
in The Whales.
in teaching
elementary
science:
Facts
and
fallacies
557
an
We also found that children
changed
swers to reflect incorrect
information
(Rice &
1997). For Whale Song
Snipes,
1987), we
(Johnston,
"Do whale babies
the question,
answer
correct
is "yes" (see
The
(calves) sleep?"
Whale
1995). However,
Song contains
Payne,
statement:
the following
"Softly she sings, six,
six, six. But does her calf sleep? No! He just
asked
and sings seven!"
added.) It
(Emphasis
to see how children might
infer that baby
of the second
do not sleep. Nineteen
correct
the
answer,
"yes" on the
graders gave
on
this
number
the
but
posttest
pretest,
dropped
to
to nine. Fourth graders responded
similarly
laughs
is easy
whales
the reading ofWhale Song with 13 of 25 students
answers
to "no." These
their posttest
indicated that the children apparently
changing
responses
took the book quite literally and based their "in
correct"
answers
posttest
on the book's
content.
reflect a trend that we ob
examples
in
served with both second and fourth graders
their
the study. If children
answers,
changed
These
the in
reflected
their posttest answers generally
itwas accurate or
formation in the book, whether
not. As others have reported (see for example,
can
Lamartino,
1995; Mayer,
1995), children
and do learn science from trade books. But, not
cannot always discrimi
children
surprisingly,
nate between
accurate
content. As Mayer
from trade books
cepts, but...science
and inaccurate
warned, what
is not always
misconceptions"
science
children
"science
learn
con
(p. 43).
Misconceptions and tradebooks
are alternately referred to in
literature as na?ve concep
or
alternative conceptions,
both
held
These
ideas,
by
are science concepts
that are
Misconceptions
education
science
tions, preconceptions,
science.
children's
children and adults,
"at variance with current
(Wandersee,
Mintzes,
scientific
& Novak,
knowledge"
1994, p. 179).
There is a large body of evidence indicating that
may inadvertently be introduced
or teachers
&
(Cho, Kahle,
misconceptions
by textbooks
Nordland, 1985;Gauld, 1997; lona, 1989,1994;
Wandersee
and
Steiner,
1994). Miller,
ac
out
without
the
that
pointed
et al.,
Larson
(1996)
of correct scientific explanations,
companiment
can also
literature and storytelling
children's
the
lead to misconceptions.
prob
Compounding
lem, a vast body of research on misconceptions
ideas can be very tena
indicates that erroneous
558
The Reading Teacher
2002
Vol.55,No.6 March
and resistant to extinction
(see for exam
et
Miller
Yore, &
al., 1996; Shymansky,
ple,
et
and
Wandersee
inter
al., 1994)
Good,
1991;
in
science
fere with subsequent
(see for
learning
cious
1994;
Yore, & Alvermann,
Holiday,
et al., 1994).
assume
that the science misconcep
example,
Wandersee
Many
tions that children develop in the early years will
be tested and corrected as children mature, have
more life experiences,
and complete higher level
courses
in middle
and high
school
science
the
in sci
research
(Johnston,
1991). However,
ence education
the
that
suggests
opposite,
just
we cannot assume
that children's
ideas in sci
ence will
become
more
(Duschl,
sophisticated
se
surveys of randomly
1990). In fact, periodic
over
the past 20 years
lected American
adults
have shown that many adults retain naive and er
roneous
ideas
the results
of
in science.
the national
Over
the past decade,
of Public
"Survey
of Science
Toward and Understanding
Science
and Technology"
Board,
(National
in demonstrat
2000) have been very consistent
are "illiterate
in science"
ing that Americans
on the
For
1988, p. A3).
("Poll finds,"
example,
of those sur
past three surveys, only 45-47%
Attitudes
veyed knew that it takes the Earth one year to
go around the sun, instead of one day or one
month. This response pattern persists into adult
inter
hood despite the fact that Earth, sun, moon
are
in
the
introduced
early
typically
relationships
addressed
years and are usually
elementary
school earth science.
cor
of the 1999 respondents
about
half
Only
to
"the
the
"false"
statement,
rectly responded
lived at the same time as
earliest human beings
the dinosaurs"
(National Science Board, 2000).
in
fact,
Dinosaurs,
by
early humans
predated
more
than 60 million
years. Misinformation
again
in middle
about
the coexistence
is introduced
books,
television,
and humans
of dinosaurs
and
perpetuated
movies,
and,
in children's
in some cases,
this is
teachings. Apparently
through religious
corrected
that wasn't
another misconception
at
not
for
the 50%
least
science
classes,
through
or so of the adult respondents
"true" to this statement.
who
answered
is that erroneous
problem
underlying
be retained or interact with new in
or unanticipat
to produce unintended
to link
In fact, attempts
ed learning outcomes.
new
to incorrect
ideas to build
information
The
ideas may
formation
may simply result in failure (Duschl,
meaning
that
lack of understanding.
is, a complete
1990),
It stands to reason that the introduction
of inac
curate information, whatever
the source, should
if possible.
Our research
suggests
that by adding trade books containing
inaccura
we risk com
cies to the science
curriculum,
these problems.
For this reason, it is
pounding
that teachers exercise
caution in se
imperative
be avoided
trade books, either
to the science
complement
lecting
as a substitute
text.
for or
The problems created by presenting
inaccu
rate content perhaps have greater implications
in science than in any other subject. Because
sci
ence has historically
been taught in an authori
tarian manner,
to find that
it is not unusual
students assume that information must be cor
rect
simply because
they heard it in science
In this context, children are at greater risk
of accepting
incorrect information whatever
the
source?whether
from the teacher, science texts,
or trade books.
class.
Cullinan (1981) underscored thisproblem as
what
to text books,
they read when
"Children do not question
they are given one text
book, which is held up as embodying the final
truth on the subject" (p. 385). The ex
content will always be ac
pectation
curate and realistic
is reflected
in the words of
a proponent of scientific accu
John Burroughs,
and whole
that science
racy in books
same students then protest that they
changed their
answers only because
trusted
that I would
they
never read them something
was
that
incorrect.
Somewhat
embarrassed,
they lament, "But you're
the science teacher! We never thought you would
read us something that wasn't correct."
Using tradebooks in teaching
science: A reasonableoption
teachers have felt
elementary
in science and science education
Historically,
Accuracy:A high priority
it relates
some of their answers based on the book content,
just as the second and fourth graders did. These
about nature:
underprepared
and have been uncomfortable
(see for example,
Pratt,
teaching
science
1981; Ramey-Gassert
Shroyer, 1992; Royce & Wiley,
&
1996). The re
for preservice
teachers'
quirement
elementary
in science is typically limited to "no
preparation
more than two science courses"
(Bethel, as cit
ed in Royce
and Wiley,
1996, p. 18). Two, or
even three courses,
are a bare minimum
given
the range of topics in the elementary
science cur
riculum. While many elementary
teachers view
see
science as important, they do not necessarily
as
science
instruction
important at the elemen
tary level (Butzow & Butzow, 1989).
In contrast, reading and reading instruction
are of prime importance and elementary
teachers
more
feel
comfortable
with
children's
generally
literature
than with
texts (Butzow &
science
Butzow,
1989). For these
in teaching
books
science
teachers, using trade
seem to be a
would
reasonable option (Royce & Wiley,
1996).
It isalwaysan artist'sprivilegeto heightenor deepen natural
effects. Hemay paintus a more beautifulwoman, or a more
beautifulhorse, or a more beautiful landscape,thanwe ever
saw;we are not deceived even though he out-does nature.
We knowwherewe stand andwhere he stands;we know that
this is the powerof art. Butwhen he paints a portrait,or an
actualscene, or event,we expect him to be trueto the factsof
thecase, (cited inEggerton,1996, p. 21)
there is evidence
that many ele
Unfortunately,
teachers may not be discriminating
in
mentary
selecting trade books for use in science (Baker &
On numerous
day. Sudol and King (1996) pointed out that
I have observed how
occasions,
both
and
children
students,
adults, assume that
science content is accurate by virtue of the fact
that they heard it in "science" class. For example,
inmy elementary
science methods
courses, I in
troduce
the use of trade books
by reading
The
Whales by Cynthia Rylant (1996). I give my col
that
lege students the same pretest and posttest
we developed for elementary children in our
study
of trade books. Invariably a few students change
Using
trade books
Saul, 1994). Simon (1982) reported thatwhen a
science
particular
topic was studied, all of the
books
in the school library on that topic were
taken from the shelves
and signed
"promptly
out" (p. 5), a practice that is still in evidence
to
teachers
have
often do not take time (or, Imight add,
time) to think about the accuracy of content
in books they choose. Apparently,
these teach
ers just assume
that the information
is correct
and fail to consider
that they may be teaching
In light of the large body of
"misinformation."
research on misconceptions
and the recent re
search on trade books,
such actions must be
viewed
as significant
in teaching
errors
elementary
in judgment.
science:
Facts
and fallacies
559
Table 1
for
trade
books
teaching science: A comparisonof guidelines
Selecting
Examples of articles providing guidelines
Criteria
Types of literature
Accuracy
Believable
Butzow & Butzow, 2000
Mayer, 1995
Pottle, 1996
Fiction & Nonfiction
Fiction
Fiction
Sudol& King,1996
Nonfiction
characters
Realistic passage of time
Race and/or gender equity
Quality of illustrations
from
Fact distinguishable
fantasy or fiction
Current
information
or
in the scientific
is little question
about the need
communities
education
There
science
for accurate
science
content
in literature used
in
teaching science, though there is some difference
of opinion about how strictly accurate the infor
mation must be (Johnston, 1991).Mayer (1995)
the opinion that teachers must be able to
in trade books and be pre
recognize weaknesses
to
with
them.
Others have suggested
deal
pared
that, at the very least, they need to be cognizant
voiced
in trade books
of inaccuracies
of the possibility
there are a
&
1996). Fortunately,
(Royce
Wiley,
to assist teachers
number of resources available
trade books for
of high-quality
their science classes.
trade books for teaching
Tips on selecting
in the sci
in
been
available
science have,
fact,
some
ence education
time
literature for quite
in their selection
1973; Janke &
(see for example,
Blough,
a
Norton,
1983; Simon,
1982). More
recently,
number of authors from both the reading and sci
ence
education
guidelines
mentary
communities
have
published
trade books, which ele
for evaluating
teachers may find helpful
(Butzow &
Butzow, 2000;Mayer, 1995; Pottle, 1996; Sudol
sets of guidelines
vary
1996). These
in their foci and goals, but all of them
propose accuracy as an important criterion. Busy
education
may use any of these
professionals
to quickly and
sets of guidelines with confidence
& King,
somewhat
efficiently
560
select
The Reading Teacher
trade books
for teaching
2002
Vol.55,No.6 March
a comparative
summary
sets
of these four
of guidelines.
teachers may also refer to vari
Elementary
ous reviews
in identifying
trade
for assistance
ence. Table
Identifyingand selecting quality
tradebooks
sei
1 provides
re
These
teaching.
in Table
described
on content accuracy.
1, place strong emphasis
Reviewers
also consider how current books are,
of cultural, gender, and
and look for evidence
books
for
their
science
like the guidelines
sources,
Some
racial biases.
of the reviews
include
infor
and
illustrations,
organization,
will be familiar
Media
specialists
mation
about
consistency.
with most of these resources, examples of which
are found in Table 2. Science
is
and Children
to elementary
teach
perhaps the most accessible
ers as it is commonly
found in libraries and is
written
with
National
affords
them
teachers
in mind.
Teachers
Science
a choice
Science
and
Membership
Association
in the
(NSTA)
of several publications
Children.
Appraisal:
including
also bears spe
Science Books for Young People
in
because
it is somewhat
cial mention
unique
a
that each book is reviewed by two individuals,
children's
specialist
Many
teachers
and a subject area
specialist
1991).
(Holzheimer,
are also available
to help
resources
content
in expanding
their science
media
a step that will contribute
to better
knowledge,
in a number of ways. For ex
science
teaching
for Science,
the ERIC Clearinghouse
ample,
Education
and Environmental
Mathematics,
(CSMEE) recently published an extensive list
of adult-oriented
provide
reliable
trade books that
informational
on a wide
content information
Table 2
of
that
review
tradebooks foruse in teaching science
Examples publications
Publication name
Publisher
Publication schedule
Appraisal:Science Books forYoungPeople
NortheasternUniversity
3 timesa year
Bulletinof theCenterforChildren'sBooks
Universityof Chicago Press
monthly
Science and Children?
NationalScience TeachersAssociationand
annually, inMarch issue
Science TradeBooks forChildren"
"Outstanding
Children'sBookCouncil
Science Books:A Quarterly
Review
AmericanAssociation forAdvancementof Science
quarterly
Science Books andFilms
AmericanAssociation forAdvancementof Science
5 timesa year
variety
Books
of science
on the list,
Teachers
lished
and mathematics
entitled
"Books
Achieve
topics.
to Help
were pub
Science Literacy"
the mid-1980s
and mid-1990s
content and skills for science litera
between
and address
cy outlined in Project 2061: Science for All
Americans
Advancement
found using
for the
Association
(American
can be
of Science,
list
The
1989).
the "Search ERIC Database"
feature
on the ERIC/CSMEE website
(http://www.
or on ERIC microfiche
ericse.org)
libraries
many college or university
Czapla, & Stern, 1996).
available
in
(Cwiklinski,
Using tradebooks in teaching
science: Some suggestions
ence. Elementary
teachers may access this infor
at science and
by attending presentations
mation
reading
professional
organization
meetings,
by
and professional
reading popular publications
the Internet. While
it
journals, and by exploring
is beyond the scope of this article to provide an
of the many potential uses of
in-depth discussion
trade books, mention
of a few examples will pro
vide a sense of the range of possibilities.
some educators
While
feel that hands-on
science leaves no room for science reading, there
are, in fact, a number
that combine
science
of strategies for teaching
the strengths of reading
science
instruction. Casteel
a
for example,
described
and nonfiction
books may be incorporated
into thematic
that require students to exercise
literacy
Using
and organizing
data, and drawing conclusions.
that focusing on the literacy as
They suggested
pects of science instruction reduces many of the
factors contributing
to children's
dislike of sci
ence and, thus, helps children
learn science
while
they become
and communication
more
proficient
in reading
skills.
The
learning cycle is another strategy that
integrates literature and science (for details, see
Barman,
1992; Marek & Cavallo,
1997). The
first and last of the three stages in the learning
engage children in hands-on
experiences,
creating an initial concrete context for introduc
tion of new science concepts and an opportunity
at the end of the lesson to demonstrate
under
and reinforce these
standing, obtain clarification,
same concepts.
Sandwiched
between
these two
cycle
Today science and reading educators, class
room teachers, and children's authors are sharing
creative ways to use trade books in teaching sci
and activity-based
and Isom (1994),
number
of ways
fiction
such as predicting
and organizing while engag
in
science
activities
that require
science
ing
as
such
skills
process
hypothesizing,
gathering
trade
units
skills
trade books
of ac
stages is the term introduction,
consisting
tivities that have traditionally constituted
the en
tire science
such as reading
the text,
lesson,
terms. Trade
and defining
videos,
watching
books and other types of children's
literature are
very appropriate
as are textbooks,
for the term introduction
stage
films, and other resources.
et al. (1996) described
another strat
uses
that
children's
literature
and
hands-on
egy
case
to
in
this
address
mis
experiences,
directly
lessons
with
What
I
conceptions.
Introducing
IWant
Know-What
to Know-What
I Learned
a miscon
(KWL) charts, the teacher identifies
Miller
ception held by the children, followed by a
demonstration
that contradicts
this invalid idea.
A variety of related children's
literature, exam
or
of
real-life connections,
of
ples
applications
are then combined
the science concept
with a
in teaching
elementary
science:
Facts
and fallacies
561
number
dren's
to facilitate chil
activities
ideas.
toward more valid scientific
of hands-on
shifts
Others have described various strategies that
use trade books to engage children in inquiry ac
struc
tivities. For teachers who desire a more
to that afforded
similar
by
approach
Crook and Lehman
textbooks,
(1990) recom
instruction
direct
mended
using a five-phase
trade books to engage
that uses nonfiction
model
research
children in clearly defined, purposeful
a
and
different
Short
activities.
tack,
Taking
an
(1993) described
Armstrong
inquiry cycle ap
tured
proach that brings together fiction and nonfiction
centers and displays.
literature with observation
In their view, literature should support "the 'do
ing' of science, not take the place of observation
and experimentation"
p.
(Short & Armstrong,
of this
185). One of the important components
strategy is paired reading of trade books.
to
that has the potential
Another
technique
enhance the use of trade books (as well as science
second
the
is Questioning
science
texts) in teaching
see
a
or
detailed
discussion,
Author,
QtA (for
& Kucan,
Hamilton,
Beck, McKeown,
1997).
Initially used with social studies texts, this strat
texts or for nar
egy is appropriate for expository
rative texts including fictional stories, novels, and
fables. Rather than using the typical questioning
after reading
pattern that assesses comprehension
of ideas, QtA assists students in
and formulation
while
they are reading. With
comprehending
uses
QtA, the teacher
"queries" to stimulate dis
uncover
to
and to en
cussion,
misconceptions,
as
of meaning
construction
courage collaborative
the children read. A strength of QtA for the sci
as I see it, is that it has the po
ence classroom,
manner
in
the authoritarian
tential to reduce
been presented by
actually requiring, children to ques
encouraging,
tion what the author is trying to say and why.
which
science has traditionally
and the informa
paring their own observations
in
tion in their texts to the science
presented
can also
trade books
(Martin,
1997). Children
read
sources
several
(Nordstrom,
a
on
given
topic
1994; Short &
1992; Ross,
1993; Simon,
1982). As Blough
Armstrong,
a given that chil
it's
almost
out,
(1973) pointed
or disagreements
if
dren will find contradictions
on
sources.
read
Based
multiple
they
multiple
verify
readings,
they can make
comparisons,
note
and
and errors.
inconsistencies
facts,
also be taught to evaluate
Students may
seems
statements
such as "evidence
qualifying
to indicate"
or "some
scientists
1973, p. 22) and to analyze
books to determine
whether
say" (Blough,
the content in trade
the author has in
informa
all of the necessary
supporting
the facts fit together logically, and
tion, whether
is up to date (Casteel
the information
whether
chil
& Isom, 1994). In pursuing such questions,
in research that facilitates
the
dren can engage
cluded
for becoming
of skills necessary
development
more
and
better con
critical
readers
better,
sumers of scientific
In addition, the
information.
of
of reports and communication
preparation
so basic to science can become oppor
findings
tunities to develop both writing and verbal skills.
should also feel free to use parts
Teachers
that are inaccurate,
sections
of books, omitting
or
out of date,
For ex
otherwise
problematic.
a
Flower
The Reason for
ample, using Heller's
(1983) can contribute much to a lesson on flow
ers, z/the teacher stops short of that last page in
are plants.
dicating that mushrooms
One final thought on using trade books in el
in science
for using trade books
Strategies
lessons generally presume that the content is ac
as we have seen, this is not al
curate, however,
an
case.
McMillan
the
(1993), himself
ways
to my under
methods
science
students,
graduate elementary
who complete
research projects on using trade
books in science. Several of them reported that
trade
science
nonfiction
that even nonfiction
books
children with whom they worked in their field
author
of children's
books,
out
points
misinformation
containing
sometimes
make
shelves despite thorough
their way to bookstore
that authors must
review. He stresses
guard
in
their
not
misstatements
books,
only
against
but also errors of omission.
562
trade books that contain errors
Fortunately,
or that leave open the possibility
of misinterpre
in teaching
tation can be used effectively
sci
ence. Errors, whether
identified by the teacher or
the children, can be used to help children learn to
question the accuracy of what they read by com
The Reading Teacher
2002
Vol.55,No.6 March
ementary
science
can be attributed
who were already familiar with a
placements
to be more critical of what was
seemed
concept
read to them than were the students for whom
the concept was relatively new. It appeared that a
children's
"little bit of knowledge"
encouraged
their acceptance
of
and discouraged
questioning
what
the "science"
had read as "fact."
teacher
that quality of content is
issue to be considered when select
students
concluded
My
not the only
ing and using trade books, but that when trade
books are used is perhaps as important. Although
teachers often read a trade book at the beginning
of a lesson to provide a context, arouse curiosi
(Martin, 1997), my students
ty, or raise questions
the opinion
that, in many
instances,
expressed
trade books might be better suited for later in
the lesson or unit, rather than earlier.
Use good science tradebooks in
your classroom
in this article, I raised several ques
tions about the appropriate
role of trade books
in teaching science. A review of the reading and
science education
literature clearly demonstrates
both pragmatic
and theoretical
support for their
use in the elementary
science classroom and sug
gests a wide range of strategies for their integra
into
recent
the
research
curriculum.
science
has demonstrated
learn not only "good
but also encounter
science"
errors
However,
that children
from trade books,
in their
reading.
lies the basic problem.
Science content
in trade books cannot always be trusted to be ac
Therein
curate, particularly
given that most authors of
children's
science trade
books, even nonfiction
lack
credentials
(McMillan,
state
of
omission,
1993).
incomplete
value statements,
outdated
ments,
information,
and lack of detail create problems
just as overt
books,
information
ly erroneous
As a result, teachers
in selecting
trade books
does.
should exercise
caution
for their science
class
%es, not simply default to trade books just because
they and their students might be more comfort
this form of literature
science
not
texts. Trade books should supplement,
sup
plant quality science texts; they should be picked
with care, not swept en masse
from the library
shelf. Teachers
middle
school science classes
today, especially
trade books, were not written with the in
tent that they would become part of the science
fiction
As Mayer
"a book
(1995) noted,
an
be
excellent
lit
children's
of
might
example
same
a
resource
at
the
for
but
erature,
time,
poor
curriculum.
learning science"
of
the potential
science
the problems,
(p. 18). Despite
to enhance
trade books
the
and to invigorate science in
and limited only by our
curriculum
is significant
imaginations.
In her poem,
"Half Moonshine,"
Judith Viorst
(1995) aptly captured the challenge facing ele
teachers in choosing
trade books for sci
mentary
ence. In a clever series of comparisons,
Viorst
contrasts myths or misconceptions
with accurate
scientific
facts about the moon,
labeling each
as either "moonshine"
or "true" (p. 22).
The ability of teachers to identify both the short
comings and strengths of trade books and to rec
statement
ognize whether
scientific fallacies
are being
students
or facts?moonshine
is critical to the effective
source in the elementary
presented
or truth?
use of this valuable re
science
classroom.
science
Errors
able with
about their science backgrounds
these resources particularly helpful.
It is only fair to note that fault does not nec
lie with trade books or their authors.
essarily
and
Many of the books being used in elementary
find
struction
Earlier
tion
feel confident
will
must
have
than with
a clear
idea of their
and the specifics of how a particular
objectives
trade book will be used in instruction. Today, ed
ucators in both science and reading are making
of quality trade books?and
identification
there
are many?easier
recom
by providing critiques,
and guidelines
for evaluating
trade
mendations,
books for teaching science. Teachers who don't
Using
trade books
atFlorida
Riceteaches
StateUniversity
(115StoneBuilding,
of
Florida
FL
State
Tallahassee,
University,
College Education,
32306,USA).Shemaybe reached
bye-mailat
Theauthor
[email protected]
wishestoexpressappreciation
toformer
AnnDudley,
in
SeniorInstructor
colleagues,
ofSouthCarolina
Education,
Aiken,andChristy
University
at
teacher
Aiken
Williams,
Snipes
fifth-grade
Elementary
on the
USAwhocollaborated
School,Aiken,SouthCarolina,
research
forthisarticle.
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