Like most primary teachers, I love a good book! Anyone who’s worked with me (or anywhere near me to be honest) will know I also love teaching science, and so combining these two in the classroom can only be a good thing! I’m planning to write a series of blog posts with science/story links for each year group, and as I currently work in Year 5, this feels like a good place to start!
Hidden Figures – Margot Shetterly
This picture book follows the stories of the four African-American mathematicians and their role in the space race at a time when being black and being a woman limited what people could do. The book does a really good job of telling the separate stories in a coherent way and directly references the difficulties faced by black women at the time. As well as the content being amazing (there’s even a timeline and mini biographies of all four women at the back), the illustrations are beautiful, and make it clear that this is a book aimed at older children.
The Darkest Dark – Chris Hadfield
I LOVE this story! Another great one to use when learning about space, it’s written by the Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, who became very familiar to my class thanks to his wonderful YouTube videos about everyday activities in space. In the story, young Chris faces his fear of the dark to become an astronaut. As well as being a really lovely story, it’s written in a way that makes it a really good one to read aloud. I can’t quite explain why, it just works!
Curiosity, the Story of a Mars Rover
I heard somewhere that scientists think the first person to walk on Mars is going to be someone who is alive today and is not too far off the age of a Year 5 child, which is a brilliant fact to share with the class when learning about space! Unlike the book above, I wouldn’t say this one is best suited to reading to the class (feel free to disagree!), it’s more the type of book that kids pick up themselves then incessantly share facts with you from for the next 20 minutes. The Nasa Education website has a great lesson on moon landers that I’ve used with Year 3 and Year 5 in the context of a Mars lander which went down an absolute treat! This book would be a really good one to share alongside that activity, or to lead into it.
This one is a favourite from my own childhood and so I love the opportunity to bring it out in the classroom! It might be intended for younger readers but personally, I don’t think you’re ever too old for picture books! It’s likely you’ve come across the story before, but in case you haven’t, it follows Little Bear and his fellow toys as they mount an expedition to rescue Old Bear from the attic. To get themselves back down from the attic, Little Bear and Old Bear use parachutes made of handkerchiefs and drift safely to the ground. In Year 5, this provides a good context for investigating parachute materials for teddies while learning about forces (with bonus links to properties of materials). I’d planned to do this in a lesson but of course things didn’t quite go to plan this year (thanks, global pandemic!) so it ended up being set as a home learning task instead. It went down really well with the children and, in general, we concluded that handkerchief fabric would not make the best parachute after all!
The Ugly Five – Julia Donaldson
A gang of unattractive animals form a club in this story, bonded by their shared ugliness, but there’s a lovely twist in the tale that shows actually, they’re quite lovely. The tale is told in Julia Donaldson’s usual rhyming style and there is a lot to look for in Axel Scheffler’s illustrations. Plus, the geek in me loves the extra safari animal info in the back (I learned what an ant lion was thanks to this book!) and will no doubt appeal to lots of children too. This book would be a great starter to learning about animal life cycles, and the ‘Ugly Five’ and others that appear across the pages would be great starting points to research mammal, bird and insect life cycles.
If you’re learning about insect life cycles, this would be a good book to read alongside. I’ll always remember it as the book that took me through the very first part of the UK Coronovirus lockdown! As well as a gripping story, there are detailed descriptions of lots of different kinds of beetles that could lead to some further research and will hopefully inspire a few future entomologists!
The Boy in the Tower – Polly Ho-Yen
I don’t want to give too much away about this story; it really kept me glued to the sofa! There’s a great link in there to plant reproduction though, which could lead into exploring how other plants reproduce and which are more successful than others and why. One of the girls in my other half’s Year 6 class enthusiastically told him recently that this was the best book she’s ever read; high praise indeed! (A word of caution, it may only be suitable for more mature Year 5 classes; make sure you read the whole thing first and decide if it’s right for your particular lovelies.)
Centrally Heated Knickers – Michael Rosen
I’ll be the first to admit, I probably don’t share as much poetry with my class as I should (if anyone has any really good poetry book suggestions by the way, sciency or otherwise, please do give me a shout!) but I have been known to dip in and out of this one! There are poems covering all areas of science, which means it may pop up in other blogs of this type, but some that particularly link to Year 5 science include ‘Chippy Breath’ which is about writing in ‘breath’ on a window (states of matter), ‘Acorn, Conker and Key’ which is about different types of seeds (plant reproduction) and ‘Night Time Kitchen’, in which different materials in the kitchen debate over which is most useful (properties of materials).
Who doesn’t love the Horrible Science books!? This is another one I have fond memories of when I was younger, as I graduated onto these from the Horrible Histories books. Their particular kind of humour will really appeal to children, including those who might be more reluctant readers, and snippets and sections from the book would make excellent guided reading texts when learning about properties and changes of materials.
Kaboom! Explosive Science to Blow Your Mind
This one’s a magazine rather than a book, which only makes it even more exciting! This particular issue will be really good to link to learning about changes of materials. To be honest though, there are a whole bunch of past issues of Whizz Pop Bang magazine that will be relevant to Year 5 science (as well as lots more which will be really interesting to children of this age, regardless of the science within!) so it’s worth having a click around on the website and maybe even subscribing. The shop on the website can helpfully be searched by topic, so if there’s something you’re looking for in particular, it’s really easy to find. As my old school, we sent out three of these each week per class along with a scrapbook for children to record their thoughts inside. They were encouraged to do whatever they wanted with the ‘homework’, whether that was just reading the magazine or going further by carrying out an investigation or doing some research of their own around something that inspired them. I really can’t speak highly enough of this magazine!
What are your favourite science-linked texts to use with Year 5? Let me know via the comments; I’m always looking to expand my library!
If you’re interested in other book links to science, check out this blog post exploring a science/maths link and my Science Story List with Enquiry Questions.
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