We have been studying earth science this year in our homeschool. I posted previously on the books we used to study weather, and now I would like to share the books we have been using to study geology. Personally, I find it takes some work to find living books that are at the right level for my kids so hopefully others can make use of this and save themselves some time in hunting around.
Beneath Our Feet by Ron Vernon — This book covers a lot of ground (so to speak) and I used it as our spine book for much of our time on geology, reading it aloud to all the kids. The unique part of this book is that the author has taken microscope photos of many rocks and minerals and shows them through the book. There are many other, life-size photos as well so that one can see the patterns in rocks really well. The text was at times hard for my kids (ages 8-13) to follow, especially the younger ones, but I think for the most part they got the gist of things. I liked that this was not textbook-y at all. That is hard to find in science books these days.
Be Your Own Rock and Mineral Expert by Michele Pinet and Alain Korkos — This book is more textbook-y. Well, maybe that’s not quite the right word for it but it is one of those books with lots of little boxes of disjointed text. It also contains experiments and things to do. I had my 10-year-old read this and the level was fine for him. I skipped over the practical, hands-on parts. I think it gave a nice introduction to the kinds of rocks and how they are formed, but it is not a living book.
Rocks in His Head by Carol Otis Hurst and James Stevenson — This is a picture book about a man who collected rocks. I had my 8-year-old read it. It is a nice story if you have younger kids. I am not sure she learned much about rocks from it but maybe it will inspire some kid with a love of rocks themselves.
Pebble in My Pocket: A History of Our Earth by Meredith Hooper — I also had my 8-year-old read this one. It is a little tougher. Basically, it follows the life of a pebble through time showing the changes in the earth. For her narration, I had her make a timeline of the earth as given in the book (I should confess here that I am not a young earth creationist [I did a long series on that too; you can see some of the posts here, here, and here]; if you are, this book is not for you). It was a bit of a challenge for her and she certainly could not have read this book in one sitting, but I was pleased enough with it.
How to Dig a Hole to the Other Side of the World by Faith McNulty — This was one for my 10-year-old. As with the previous book, I had him narrate by making a chart; this one was of the layers of the earth. He did well with this and I think it was a book that was well-suited to his level (he is close to an on-level reader; if anything a little behind for his age). I don’t recall that there was anything young earth people would object too but I couldn’t say for sure since it’s been a few months now.
The Rock Book by Carol Lane Fenton and Mildred Adams Fenton — This is an older book but a living one (mostly) on rocks. I had my 11 and 13-year-old read it. I will say they didn’t seem to love it but they did a decent job on their narrations so I think they understood it. I talks about how a kind of rocks are formed and then will have a chapter describing all of that kind. I skipped those descriptive chapters and just stuck to the ones on how they were formed. At times it is quite detailed. I would recommend this book, though I am not sure my kids would. It is upper middle school to high school level.
Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne — We did this classic as a read aloud at lunch times. It took quite a while and at times, as all Verne’s books, can drag when it gets too descriptive. I am sure there were times the kids were tuning out but by the end, I do think they cared about the characters and the ending. This seems to happen a lot with classic books which stretch their level of understanding; they don’t get everything but it is basically a good story so they end up caring. If you are looking for an accurate description of the earth’s interior though, this is not the book for you. It is quite fanciful.
Geology of the Eastern Coast by Kathleen Brown and Cynthia Light Brown — This is part of a series of books which treat different areas of the US. We are on the east coast so I chose this volume. I really liked the idea of this book, looking at the formations where we are and how they came to be. Even after I got the book and opened it and saw how textbook-y it looked (with vocab words in bold even) I still really wanted it to be a good book. I had my 8-year-old read it and it was probably too tough a choice for her. And in the end it was just too textbook-y for me. There were periodic experiments, some of which we did, and she really liked that part.
Birth of an Island by Millicent Selsam — This one my 8-year-old liked. It is basically about how an island formed and how plants and animals came to be on it. I think it took her 2 or 3 sittings to read but it is not a hard book. Pleasant is what I would call it.
Storybook of Earth’s Treasures by — This was a used book store find, I can’t even find it on Amazon. It tells the story of gold, coal, oil, and iron. My 10-year-old read it easily and did well narrating it so I think it was well suited to him. If you run across it, I would recommend it.
The Story of Diamonds by Jean Milne — I used this as a read aloud, mostly because we ran out of time to do it otherwise. This is a nice book which covers a lot, how diamonds are formed, how and where they are mined, and stories of some famous diamonds. Perhaps it was the subject matter but the kids seemed genuinely interested and asked good questions.
The Story of Salt by Mark Kurlansky — I am having my 10yo read this one. He hasn’t startde it yet but it looks good to me.
Black Gold: The Story of Oil in Our LIves by Albert Marrin — This is a find, a real treasure. It is a living book as evidenced by the fact that my two older kids narrated it very well and often seemed excited to tell me bits of it. It could also be read by older kids but my middle schoolers did well with it.
Bedrock by Lauret E. Savoy, et.al. — This is another book I was really pleased to find. It is a collection of poems, essays, and excerpts on things geological. They are arranged by topic and really do come from a wide variety of sources. They also vary in value. It takes some looking through to find the ones you will like but I really enjoyed looking through this book and ended up reading a number of the selections to my kids. There were, for instance, some very vivid descriptions of what it was like to live through an earthquake or a volcano.
And finally, my younger two kids went through a selection of shorter books on individual subjects. If your library is like ours, it has a ton of these books, of varying value. Most are not true living books but some are better than others. Here are ones my kids read:
Earth Alive! by Sandra Markle — I think my 10yo read this and that it was decent. We got it from the library; we did not pay the $95+ that Amazon wants for it!
Volcanoes by David L.Harrison — Read by my 8yo. I honestly don’t remember much about it.
Cracking Up: A Story about Erosion by Jacqui Bailey — Read by my 8yo. She seemed to genuinely learn things from it and to be pleased that she did.
Geysers by Roy A. Gallant — My 10yo read this and did well with it. Gallant is one of those prolific authors but based on this book, he does a decent job of making his subject interesting.
Caves and Caverns by Gail Gibbons – Another prolific kids’ author. She seem to have books on everything. They tend to be fairly simple. My 8yo read this one.
Icebergs and Glaciers by Seymour Simon — And yet another prolific one. I am not crazy about this sort of book but he seems to do a decent job. It seems like a fairly easy book though I am under the impression that some of his are a bit more difficult.
And that’s our geology list. We are going to do fossils and dinosaurs next and I have a couple of books that I am really excited about. When we have finished, I will post on them.