5 Children’s Books That Will Teach You Something New, Too

National Book Lovers Day is August 9th, and what better way to celebrate than finding some new children’s books to read with your budding bibliophile?

Reading with adults is often the first way kids can learn and make sense of big concepts, but this reading isn’t just for kids—adults can get a lot out of children’s books, too! For instance, I learned how the human eye sees different colors at 10 p.m. while rocking my baby to sleep.

We had checked out the board book Baby Loves the Five Senses: Sight! by Ruth Spiro on a trip to the Johnson County Library last winter, and as we started to read, my mind was blown. I’m sure I learned about how colors “worked” at some point in school (probably–it seems like we talked about Lewis and Clark a lot, but not how retinas decode purple). Still, this board book really broke the science of colors down in a way that stuck with me more than elementary school clearly did. If you are also clinging onto dusty memories of a public education, allow me to refresh you: color is the result of the way light hits an object. Almost all the colors (really just wavelengths of light) are absorbed by an object, but one is reflected off, BAM, right into the cones of your eyeballs. And that’s why a banana is yellow.

I’m doing a terrible job explaining the science of colors, but you know who doesn’t do a terrible job explaining it? Baby Loves the Five Senses: Sight!

If you’re looking to expand your kiddo’s brain power (and learn a few things in the process yourself), here are some children’s books with pieces of useful knowledge to share:

Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World by Rachel Ignotofsky

Women in Science catalogues the stories of 50 brave female innovators in various scientific fields. The illustrations will make you want to redo your child’s walls with Rachel’s beautiful scientific portraits, and there are paragraphs full of fun facts detailing the lives of everyone from Ada Lovelace (one of the first people to recognize the power of computers) to Katherine Johnson (the NASA pioneer featured in the film Hidden Figures). As if you needed yet another reason to read, Rachel Ignotofsky wrote this book while living right here in Kansas City! After you finish, don’t forget to check out Rachel’s other books, Women in Sports and Women in Art, plus my favorite, The Wondrous Workings of Planet Earth.

How Do You Say Good Night? by Cindy Jin

This is a bedtime staple at our house. Featuring ways to say good night in ten different languages, this book breaks down each phrase phonetically so you don’t have to do the linguistic work. I love how the author incorporates rhymes or near-rhymes into the storytelling aspect of the book so you get yet another clue on how to pronounce the words inside. Once you master Good Night, try the companion book How Do You Say I Love You?

The 50 States: Explore the U.S.A. with 50 Fact-Filled Maps! by Gabrielle Balkan

This is a big one—both in terms of page count and an abundance of fun, interesting, and sometimes weird facts. Keep it in your car for road trips or pick a few states each night to learn something new. The pages describing each state are filled with detailed icons, notable residents, short histories, geographical tidbits, and more. Without this book, I would never have discovered the Idaho Potato Museum, Googled it, and found out it had “Free Taters for Out of Staters.” Friends, as KC Moms, I needn’t remind you we are all “Out of Staters”— what other free opportunities for root vegetables lie in the pages of a children’s book?

Breathe Like a Bear: 30 Mindful Moments for Kids to Feel Calm and Focused Anytime, Anywhere by Kira Wiley

As a kid, I had some very poorly managed anxiety about everything from tornadoes to an alligator eating our house. While a book called Alligators Do Not Live in Iowa, You Poor Child would have been equally helpful, this book about breathing techniques and mindfulness would have been an incredible resource to my mom and any parent of a worrier. Breathe Like a Bear breaks down mindfulness exercises for the early years, but adults will find themselves practicing the strategies in these pages during times of stress, too. It’s honestly just as good as a Calm app session.

Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi

If you’ve spent the last few months critically examining how to be a better ally to BIPOC, add this board book to your arsenal of tools. With fun, diverse illustrations and spirited writing, Antiracist Baby teaches both parents and kids the principles of racial justice. While other children’s books about racism can unintentionally foster the idea of “color-blindness,” Antiracist Baby encourages readers to celebrate diversity in their communities. Don’t be fooled by the title—this book provides plenty of good conversation starters for kids (and adults) of all ages.

Most nights at our house are spent with familiar, well-loved classics about purple crayons and lost buttons, but sometimes we come across real gems that have the potential to teach both kids and adults something new.

Have you found a children’s book that stuck with you or helped you learn? Share the title in the comments below!

 

Valerie Stark
A firm believer that the Midwest is all that and a tator tot casserole, Valerie moved to KC after graduating from Mizzou in 2013. She’s been married to her husband Josh since 2015, and together they’re raising an adorable, tiny human firework named Finnian (1). Valerie spends her workdays making funny greeting cards while Josh wins at the stay-at-home-dad game by teaching Finn words like “yee-haw” and helping him style his Snapchat filters. When she isn’t tracking down a new place to drag her family to, you can find her blasting showtunes, sharing (very poorly) wine with friends, reading, listening to true crime podcasts, or near cheese. You can’t find her playing kickball, so don’t even try. Valerie, Josh, and Finn shoot for put-together, but settle for put-on-pants—and they love every second of their reasonably-chaotic life.

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