Educational. Also scholastic, instructional, didactic, informative, and illuminating. Educational books are a broad category simply because education itself is so vast. Learning Spanish is educational. Studying viruses is educational. Calculating the force needed to score a basket while playing basketball in the school yard is educational as well. So when it comes to educational children’s books, you’ll find quite a variety. Let’s look at some examples:
- One Story a Day for Science is a series of 365 short tales about different kinds of science. Here, we have the story itself (reading skills), definitions and grammatical concepts (vocabulary and writing skills), comprehension questions, and of course the science itself, for example a story about how volcanoes are formed followed by a science experiment to do at home.
- Recess in the Dark is a poetry book set in Northern Canada that dives into culture, tradition, geography, and natural sciences—the Northern Lights. This book could be used to teach about different cultures; about poetry, rhythm, and rhyme; and even about animals up North.
- Best Reading! Phonics comes with two sets, long vowels and short vowels, and teaches kids the basics of recognizing and writing letters, forming words, holding a pencil, making sounds… basically, learning to read and write. A more traditionally educational set of books!
- The Better Behaviour series not only improves early reading with its simple sentences and recognizable pattern, but also develops children’s social skills, addresses health and safety topics, and even works on establishing boundaries.
These are all totally different and are all super educational. While simply reading a book is informative in its own right, if the adult asks questions or encourages reflection, the kids get even more out of it. Often, books will include a “parent and teacher guide” portion that gives indications, like “Ask your kids what they think X character should do” or “Talk to your kids about X topic using these questions.” Using these and coming up with new questions will give your child’s (and your own) brain a workout.
The best didactic children’s books combine many types of learning. Here are a few possibilities:
- Reading and comprehension
- Writing and creativity
- Cultural exploration (discovering different traditions, religions, beliefs, etc.)
- Language learning
- Fostering curiosity
- Logic and critical thinking
- STEM skills and interest
- and so many more!
There are also different levels for each of these components. The Better Behaviour book When Your Monster Gets the Munchies, which is for ages 3-5, shows a negative behaviour, such as burping loudly at the table and not excusing yourself, and asks, Should a monster do this? Or could it try something new? before presenting a new behaviour, excusing yourself after burping. The One Story a Day for Science series, meanwhile, which is for ages 4-8, will follow a story with a more complex question, such as identifying four parts of the mouth after explaining the functions of the tonsils, teeth, uvula, and saliva during the story.
The more you incorporate into a children’s book, the more its readers will benefit. Some of these points are things a writer includes in the story itself. Others come from Q&As, reflection and discussion prompts, quizzes, and further supplementary resources. If you’re building such resources, in addition to looking at the level, use your imagination to think up innovative ways to teach a child something new. We never stop learning, even as adults. So the possibilities for kids’ educational books are endless!