Here’s a really good question from Katrina Refugee:
Due to the unforeseen events of Katrina, my family and I ended up staying with relatives in South Carolina, and my children (for the year) are going to a small Christian school with their cousins (the public schools in this area are quite horrendous and we were trying to ease the transition as best as possible). They will be back in public school next year, but in the meantime have been exposed to some really silly creationist crap in the science classroom.
Can you recommend some reading material for the summer to “wash away” all the stuff they have been exposed to this year? We have diligently discussed all the fallacies of what they are being taught, but I am not a scientist and I would feel much better if they had some appropriate books to read over the summer.
They are aged 15 and 14.
This is a serious request, and I would greatly appreciate any advice you may have.
I’ve put a few ideas below the fold.
That’s a hard age, depending on the temperament of the teenagers. I was a bookworm at that age, so I just spent all my time in the library over the summer, and absorbed it all: if they’re similarly inclined, just point them at my long book list with many recommendations, and let them pick something out.
There are two that I could recommend for teenagers because they have a good narrative and might engage the reader a little more than a textbook-style recitation. Carl Zimmer’s book, At the Water’s Edge: Fish With Fingers, Whales With Legs, and How Life Came Ashore but Then Went Back to Sea(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll) is very readable, it’s got a great story, and it’s not polemical at all: it simply tells the tale and explains how we understand the evolution of tetrapods. It’s perfect for some bright teenagers — it’s fairly free of jargon, and yet explains some important concepts well. Richard Fortey is also a very lively writer, and Trilobite: Eyewitness to Evolution(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll) was fun to read; it might also get them interested in paleontology.
Another possibility is to pick up any of the collections of SJ Gould’s essays, especially one of the older books (he got more and more long-winded later, but his early essays are nice and crisp). They’re short and he covers a lot of different topics, so it’s a good match to the shorter attention spans of kids in the summer. All they have to do is find one that they like in a collection for it to be a good experience.
If they’re into the outdoors, you could try coupling a book to some activity. I’m reading Souder’s biography of Audubon, Under a Wild Sky : John James Audubon and the Making of The Birds of America (amzn/b&n/abe/pwll), for instance, and it would be a good lead-in to birding. Getting kids to tromp around with binoculars and a bird guide is really an excellent way to ease them into science. Especially in the summer, it’s often too much to ask a kid to sit and read, but if you can join it with some good healthy activities you might be able to make some headway.
Anyone else got any suggestions?