Throughout the course of history, humans have always been fascinated by space. From the Ancient Greeks to Galileo to the astronauts of our time, the desire of people to study and observe space has been passed down from generation to generation. This fascination with space ultimately trickles down to the children of the world. Because space sparks a natural curiosity in children, the topic is ideal for a classroom teacher to use to teach children about science and a number of other subject areas. From physics, biology, and chemistry to history, social studies, and language arts, the topic of space and space flight can be used to create a multidisciplinary unit from which all children can learn. Some books that are ideal for elementary-aged students include the following:
Briggs, Carole S. (1999). Women in Space. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications Company. ISBN: 0-8225-4937-9.
Summary: This nonfiction book profiles women and the contributions they have made to the space program. It details the history of how women first gained acceptance into the male-dominated world of space exploration. Profiles include women from America (Sally Ride, Shannon Lucid) and the former Soviet Union (Valentina Tereshkova, Svetlana Savitskaya).
Rationale for Inclusion: This book is included in the text set in order to expand children’s knowledge of the historical social struggle women endured in order to gain admission into the space program. This book serves to shatter the stereotypical image of the “All-American, white male” astronaut. From this book, children learn that women have, are, and continue to make important contributions to the space program.
Cameron, Eleanor. (1954). The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet. Illustrated by Robert Henneberger. Boston: Little, Brown, & Company. ISBN: 54-8310.
Summary: This fiction book tells the story of young David Topman, his friend Chuck Masterson, and their journey into space. After building a spaceship, David and Chuck get recruited by Mr. Bass, an unusual scientist, to travel to the planet Basidium. Their mission is to save the planet’s dying population. David and Chuck successfully complete their mission. Once they return home to Earth, however, their spaceship gets destroyed and they discover that Mr. Bass has vanished.
Rationale for Inclusion: This book is included in the text set in order to allow children to read a fun and entertaining fiction book about space that also contains important scientific information. While the children read about David and Chuck’s adventure into space, they will also learn about gravity, life support systems required to sustain a human in space, and the heat a space craft faces when re-entering the atmosphere of the Earth. This book can be considered a core book because it teaches children a variety of scientific concepts about space and apace flight in the context of an adventurous story. Children can both learn and have fun by reading this book.
Cohen, Daniel, & Cohen, Susan. (1986). Heroes of the Challenger. New York: Pocket Books. ISBN: 0-671-62948-4.
Summary: This nonfiction book details the history of the most tragic event in the history of America’s space program: the explosion of the spaceship Challenger. It includes a detailed account of the events leading up to the disaster, biographies on each of the crew members, an explanation of what went wrong, and a speculative glimpse into the future of the space program.
Rationale for Inclusion: The purpose of including this book in the text set is twofold: to inform children of the most tragic moment in America’s space program and to allow them to learn about the heroic crew members that were involved in that tragedy. This book provides an important contrast with the book that tells the story of the first moon landing, often thought of as the space program’s proudest moment. The story of the spaceship Challenger gives children a new perspective about the space program. It reminds them that despite the many missions that have successfully been accomplished, space flight is still a dangerous undertaking.
Gauthier, Gail. (1996). My Life Among the Aliens. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons. ISBN: 0-399-22945-0.
Awards: CCBC Choices 1996.
Summary: This fiction book tells the story of 9-year-old William, his 7-year-old brother Robby, and the numerous aliens that drop by their house. The aliens the boys encounter take on familiar forms that range from a young boy to the neighbor’s dog to Santa Claus. With each visitor that they meet, the boys learn a little more about the universe from the point of view of the aliens.
Rationale for Inclusion: This book is included in the text set in order to expose the children to a fun, fictional story that has the potential to stretch their imaginations. This book can get children thinking about aliens from a new perspective. As the story of the two main characters and their contact with aliens unfolds, children might be pushed to clarify their own thoughts and ideas about aliens. Children might begin to question if aliens exist, what they would look like, and why they would travel to Earth.
Haskins, Jim, & Benson, Kathleen. (1984). Space Challenger: The Story of Guion Bluford. Minneapolis: Carolrhoda Books Inc. ISBN: 0-87614-259-5.
Summary: This nonfiction biography book tells the story of Lt. Colonel Guion S. Bluford, the first African American astronaut in space. It details his life from his initial interest in things that fly as a young boy to his struggle to get a college education to his acceptance into the space program and subsequent history-making journey into space aboard the space shuttle Challenger. The book includes numerous color photographs of Bluford’s space training and historic mission.
Rationale for Inclusion: The purpose of including this book in the text set is to further shatter the stereotypical image of the white male astronaut. This book illustrates the social struggle faced by Bluford in gaining acceptance into the space program. By reading this book, children will be able to view the space program from a different perspective: the perspective of an African American male.
Hawkes, Nigel. (1995). The Fantastic Cutaway Book of Spacecraft. Illustrated by Alex Pang.
Brookfield: Copper Beach. ISBN: 1-56294-903-9.
Summary: This nonfiction book contains numerous color illustrations and photographs of space shuttles and other equipment needed to explore the void of space. The text that accompanies the pictures explains in detail the various rockets used in the space program over the years. The text and pictures work in combination to give the reader a detailed, cross-sectional look at the spacecrafts and how the astronauts live and work in them in space.
Rationale for Inclusion: This book is included in the text set in order to give children a new perspective about the machines used in space flight. This book gives children a detailed look inside a number of spacecrafts. Using both words and pictures, it shows children how working and living in space is different from working and living on Earth.
Lauber, Patricia. (1990). Seeing Earth from Space. New York: Orchard. ISBN: 0-531-08502-3.
Awards: School Library Journal Best Books 1990, ALA Notable Children’s Books 1990, ALA/YASD Best Books for Reluctant Young Readers 1990, CCBC Choices 1990, Notable Social Studies Trade Books 1990, Booklist Editors’ Choice 1990, Parents Magazine “Best Kids Books” 1990, Children’s Choices 1991.
Summary: This nonfiction book provides a breath-taking look at the planet Earth from far out in space. Using photographs from satellites, shuttle missions, and Apollo moon landings, the book gives the reader a new and exciting perspective of the incredible features of the surface of the Earth. Included are photographs of the Himalayan Mountains, the Mississippi River, the Grand Canyon, a
nd the Mid-Atlantic Oceanic Ridge.
Rationale for Inclusion: This book is included in order to give students a new perspective in terms of how they view the world around them. The extraordinary pictures contained within the book show children how the Earth looks from far out in space. Using the pictures, children will be able to see that the features that look big to them on Earth (i.e. rivers, mountains, etc.) barely appear as a faint line when viewed from out in space.
Lewis, Claudia. (1967). Poems of Earth and Space. Illustrated by Symeon Shimin. New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., Inc. ISBN: 67-10253.
Summary: This book of poetry features beautifully crafted free verse poems about Earth and space. Topics include man’s flight to the moon, the relationship between the Earth, the sun, and the moon, and the stars of the night sky. Accompanying the poems are pencil and watercolor illustrations that expand upon the topics of the poems.
Rationale for Inclusion: The purpose of including this book is to get the children to think about space in a more imaginative manner. The beauty of the words in the poems, coupled with the beauty of the accompanying illustrations, has the potential to inspire the minds of children. As the children read this book, they will hopefully be encouraged to use their imagination to write their own poems about space.
Livingston, Myra Cohn. (1988). Space Songs. Illustrated by Leonard Everett Fisher. New York: Hoiliday House. ISBN: 0-8234-0675-X.
Awards: Children’s Editor’s Choice ’84 Booklist, Parents Choice Award Book 1984.
Summary: This book of poetry features free verse poems about space that are slightly more abstract and adventurous. Topics include the sun, the moon, the Milky Way, and space messages. The poems are accompanied by colorful collage-like oil painted pictures.
Rationale for Inclusion: This book is included in the text set to build upon the other book of poetry. Because the poems in this book are slightly more abstract and adventurous, it has an even greater potential to inspire children to think about space in a different way. This book has the potential to evoke a greater literary response from children who enjoy poetry.
Maurer, Richard. (1985). The NOVA Space Explorer’s Guide. New York: Clarkson N. Potter Inc. ISBN: 0-517-55752-5.
Awards: Outstanding Science Trade Books 1985.
Summary: This nonfiction books contains information about space and space flight that is more in depth and scientific in nature. It provides the classroom teacher with detailed information on the equipment used by the space program and the scientific principles required that help put the equipment into space. This includes information about the escape velocity required to break the gravitational pull of the Earth, orbital paths of space shuttles, and the space suit specifications necessary to keep an astronaut alive during space walks.
Rationale for Inclusion: This book is included in the text set in order to expand the knowledge of the classroom teacher. In particular, this book can provide the teacher with detailed information on spacecrafts and the process of space flight. With this knowledge, the teacher will be better prepared to answer the questions of children.
Maze, Stephanie. (1997). I Want to be an Astronaut. New York: Harcourt Brace & Company. 0-15-201300-8.
Summary: This nonfiction book provides detailed information on what it is like to be an astronaut. It emphasizes education, particularly in math and the various areas of science, as a way of securing the knowledge and skills necessary to become an astronaut. The text and the accompanying color photographs give the reader a good picture of the training that the astronauts must go through in order to go into space and the conditions that they face once they get there.
Rationale for Inclusion: The purpose of this book is to give the children a fun and informative introduction to the topic of space and space flight. In addition, this book gives children a general idea of the preparation necessary (i.e. training, education, etc.) to become an astronaut. For these reasons, this book can be considered a core book in the text set.
Ride, Sally, & Okie, Susan. (1986). To Space and Back. New York: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard. ISBN: 0-688-06159-1.
Awards: Booklist Editors’ Choice Children’s Book 1986, ALA Notable Children’s Books 1986, School Library Journal Best Books 1986, Outstanding Science Trade Books for Children 1986, Library of Congress 1986, Exemplary Book: Nonfiction Evaluation Workshop 1987, Garden State Children’s Book Award: Younger Nonfiction 1989, Booklist Recommended List: “The USA Through Children’s Books” 1988.
Summary: This nonfiction book is told from the perspective of real-life astronaut Sally Ride. It provides an authentic and detailed account of a space flight mission that begins with flight preparation and space shuttle launch, progresses to actual space flight, and concludes with re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere. The book also contains information and photographs that detail what life is like for an astronaut in space.
Rationale for Inclusion: The purpose of this book is to define the topic of space and space flight. As told by real-life astronaut Sally Ride, the authentic account of a real space mission provides children with a solid base of information about the topic. The photographs that are contained within the book extend the information housed within the text. For these reasons, this book is a core book in the text set.
Simon, Seymour. (1991). Space Words. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN: 0-06-022533-5.
Summary: This nonfiction book contains numerous words related to space. From asteroid to zodiac, this book defines and describes these words in terms that can be easily understood by fourth and fifth grade students. Detailed colored illustrations help to connect the written word with a visual picture of that word.
Rationale for Inclusion: This book is included in the text set to help children extend the definition of the topic. The book provides clear and concise definitions of words related to space and space flight. This book, therefore, can serve as a “space dictionary” that children can refer to when they come across a space word that is unfamiliar to them.
Sis, Peter. (1996). Starry Messenger. New York: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux. ISBN: 0-374-47027-8.
Awards: Caldecott Honor Book 1996, Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People 1997, CCBC Choices 1996.
Summary: This nonfiction biography book tells the story of the life and accomplishments of Galileo Galilei. It takes the reader on a journey beginning with Galileo’s birth, his training in science and math, his formulation of new scientific theories about the universe, his conflict with the Catholic Church, and his eventual death. Beautiful and elaborate color illustrations, diagrams, and passages from Galileo’s diary expand upon the information housed within the text.
Rationale for Inclusion: This book is included in the text set in order to give the children a sense of some of the first influential ideas and beliefs about space. In addition, the book also gives the children an idea of the identity of Galileo and how his work helped shape our ideas and beliefs about space and space flight. Also, as the children read about Galileo’s conflict with the church, they will also learn about some of the social tensions that existed (and still exist today in some ways) between science and religion.
Stein, Conrad. (1985). The Story of Apollo 11. Illustrated by David J. Catrow III. Chicago: Childrens Press. ISBN: 0-516-04692-6.
Summary: This nonfiction book details the history behind the fist landing of American astronauts on the moon. It begins with John F. Kennedy’s infamous statement calling for America to p
ut an astronaut on the moon, progresses into the “space race” between America and the Soviet Union, and concludes with America’s successful Apollo 11 mission. The unique pen-and-ink illustrations act as a nice complement to the information housed within the text.
Rationale for Inclusion: This book is included in order to give children a glimpse of what is considered to be the American space program’s greatest accomplishment: the first lunar landing. Through this story, children can see the space program from a perspective of pride and accomplishment. In addition, this book also contains information about the social and political issues involved in the “space race” between America and the former Soviet Union.
Stott, Carole. (1997). Space Exploration. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN: 0-679-88563-3.
Summary: This nonfiction book details what life is like for astronauts in space. It contains information about what astronauts wear, what they eat, how they sleep, how they work, and how they play while they are in space. In addition, the book contains detailed color photographs that expand upon the information in the text.
Rationale for Inclusion: The purpose of including this book is to further define the nature of an astronaut’s experience living in space. In addition, the information in this book has the potential to help change any stereotypical images a child might posses of how astronauts live in space.
Van Cleave, Janice. (1991). Physics for Every Kid. Illustrated by Babara Clark. New York: John Wiley & Sons Inc. ISBN: 0-471-52505-7.
Summary: This nonfiction instructional book contains information on various physics concepts and experiments. Topics related to space include gravity, flight, motion, and light. The step-by-step instructions, lists of materials, and expected scientific results make this book ideal for a teacher to use as a resource to create space-related experiments for children to conduct.
Rationale for Inclusion: The purpose of including this book in the text set is to provide the classroom teacher with a number of fun and educational space-related science experiments that children can conduct to further inform their ideas and beliefs about space. For example, the experiments about gravity that are in the book can serve to teach children the forces a space craft must overcome in order to leave the atmosphere of the Earth behind and enter into space.