No, No! I am not a book hater or a science hater. I just do not like a certain type of science books for kids. These are the books with glossy pictures which claim to explain science to kids. They have lots of pictures and talk about everything from space to robots and animal kingdom. These are typically aimed at kids in the age range 3-10.
Whenever I am in a book store, I am tempted to buy these books since they are so attractive. As a parent, you feel good buying them since it feels like you are getting something fun and interesting for your child. But after I started tinkering with the Raspberry Pi (and now Arduino) with my son, I have been feeling that science books are a waste of time. I did not realize why until this realization hit me. I decided to write up this post with what I learnt.
When one reads science books, it feels like someone is telling you how the world works and you have to take them at their words. How different is this from reading about history, news or philosophy? Yes, these books have flashy pictures and diagrams and so do the books on history! Essentially, by making the kids read them, we are giving them a message that we adults know best and they should understand the world with the books we give them.
I feel that science has to be experienced and cannot be “read” or “explained”. I have noticed that kids who read these books seem to know it “all” since they have read about science in “books”. Aren’t we killing the natural curiosity that kids are born with by giving them a book to “read” and “understand” science? Reading a science book is equivalent to someone leaking the ending of a thriller.
I feel that the best way to teach science to kids is to let them do experiments and create hypothesis about why something works the way it does. They will make mistakes in their hypothesis. I feel that they should be making mistakes. We parents aren’t doing well if they aren’t making mistakes! They can hone their hypothesis by performing more experiments to understand better. This way, they will feel motivated to test their hypothesis and own the conclusions they come to.
The other impact of just “reading” science books is felt much later in adulthood. Take a look at folks who take issue with darwin’s theory, climate change etc. It is no wonder that they feel that science is just another class of fiction!
This is why I have stopped buying science books which have glossy pictures with “explanations”. You should too! Don’t forget to post your thoughts in the comments if you disagree.