Friday, August 24, 2012

Thinking Thursdays: Books on dinos (and why study them)

Initially, I had planned to start the boy on books related to our Brussels trip.  However, kid lit (at least in English!) on Belgium seems to be rather limited, and we ended up reading a book on how chocolate is made ("From Cocoa Bean to Chocolate"), as well as a book on the Belgium artist Rene Magritte ("Rene Magritte: Now You See It, Now You Don't").  Unfortunately, the boy wasn't too taken with the first book.  And I must admit I'm not very fond of surrealists, and found it a little hard to engage him on a book with strange paintings.  We did talk a little about how certain artists painted differently from what was seen in the real world, but I decided not to pursue those topics further, and just moved on to something the boy loved: dinosaurs!

For a topic that involves extinct animals that don't seem to be furry or cuddly, dinosaurs are certainly one of the big hits with kids.  At least, I know they are a huge hit with Junior J.  He asks to read about them all the time.  He carries his toy dinos with him everywhere, to the playground (where he buries them, ever since we tried those excavation activities), to bed, and on trips, where he chooses which friend goes along.  He composes songs about them.  He invents new dinosaurs with names like "blackie-curra-saurus", and calls his brother a "spoonosaurus" (because baby J chomps on the spoon during meals).  He manages to arm-twist his papa into letting him watch youtube videos of these terrible lizards roaring at each other, but shows his preference for the herbivores by dreaming up scenarios where all the herbivores escape while the carnivores meet with rather unfortunate fates.

All in all, this is one topic that I do not need to consciously teach him about.  He just soaks up everything dino-related.  I did try to hunt for good books on dinos for him, but most of the available titles usually involve stories where the dinosaurs stomp about and roar, and then a couple of dinosaur names are introduced, and that is that.  We did find three books by Aliki that looked promising: "Digging for Dinosaurs", "My Visit to the Dinosaurs", and "Fossils Tell of Long Ago".  However I purchased preloved copies off Amazon, so they are still on their way.

Other than those titles, we did read "Katie and the Dinosaurs", by James Mayhew, which was probably the book that started the dino craze off (do note that Mayhew uses the name "Brontosaurus" for the Apatosaurus, which is no longer used now).  And we also read one of the books from the Harry and the Dinosaurs series:  

Pages from "Harry and the Dinosaurs at the Musuem"

And this was one book that Junior J particularly enjoyed, Tyrannosaurus Math, which was about a number-crunching dinosaur.  The book introduces various math concepts briefly, for example, skip counting, addition and division:

Finally, we had two reference books that I found were more useful in letting Junior J learn about the dinosaurs.  The first, "The Big Book of Dinosaurs", is a pretty good introductory book for kids.  The second was "Scholastic Dinosaurs A to Z", which is a useful reference guide.  The book arranges the dinosaurs alphabetically (which makes it easier when you want to look up a certain dinosaur!), and includes many details about each.  Ours was a second-hand steal at less than 4 Euros!

Anyway, I do know that some wonder if there's any use in letting children learn about dinosaurs.  After all, they are extinct, and most definitely not test material in the school curriculum in the future.  So why bother to read or learn about them at all?

:: Firstly, those long dino names are pretty good for handwriting practice.  At least in our case!  (And you can get our handwriting printable here.)

:: Learning about these creatures, and how they went extinct introduces various aspects of physical geography to kids.  They get to learn about sedimentation and volcanic eruptions.  They also see how the physical forces actually affect living organisms.

:: Exploring the features of those skeletons allow us to appreciate form and function.  Sharp teeth of the T-Rex indicate he was a predator.  The spiky thumbs of the iguanodon might have been for defense.  All these structures were made to perform a function.  You see this concept running through biology, from the way the leaf cells are structured and arranged to maximize photosynthesis, to how the lining of our intestines are folded and have tiny projections to increase the surface area to absorb nutrients.  As kids study dinosaur structures, they are picking up a key skill of making inferences and forming connections between form and function.

:: Finally, just for the sake of appreciating creation around us.  Whenever I stand before these enormous skeletons, I cannot help but marvel at how great those creatures must have been when they were alive.  And how amazing God must have been to have created them!

What about you?  Do you have any favourite dinosaur reads?  Do you think dinosaurs are worth your kid's time and attention?


  1. I chanced upon a dino book with the biblical perspective incorporated, from Shalom media, which is a ministry of Shalom (reformed) Baptist church. Bought a copy for another friend too. I'm still not very sure myself if I agree with how they characterised it (guess I'm a literal 7 day creationist) but I guess it's something. I can go check up the exact title for you if you're interested. :)

  2. Littlebluebottle: That really sounds like a good book! Yes please, the title would be nice if its not too much trouble, thanks so much!

  3. Hi there,

    My son (3yo) is absolutely NUTS about these monsters and his collection of Schleich dinos could give your boy's a run for its money ;)

    Our favourite dino books are mostly in German. The 'Wieso? Weshalb? Warum?' series from Ravensburger is a classical favourite and we've also read the Harry series of books too (albeit badly translated). we also really like children encyclopedias with big colourful pictures (Dorling Kindersley etc).

    I love it that my son is so passionate about dinos and to be really honest I don't care if its dinos or insects or if its just a phase. I find it so important to support them in any way we can. Even if it means knowing the dietary intake of a Quetzalcoatlus.

    BTW, I really like your home-schooling concept - does you son visit a kindergarten here too?


    mom from freiburg

  4. Hi Jus,

    The book title is "Dinosaurs Starts of the Show" by Amie Zordel. It refers to Genesis 1, Job 40:15 and its premise is basically that behemoths existed alongside man, and from Luke 3's geneology, "6000 yrs is the actual span between now and when the world began". Nice rhyme throughout the book too. :)

  5. Mom from Freiburg: Schon Tag! Thank you for leaving a comment! And yes, I know what you mean, our collection of Schleich is growing, slowly. Thank you for the recommendations! :) And no, the boy is not attending kindergarten, hence the "home-schooling". We've had to travel quite abit so we thought it would be disruptive to have him go to school one week and then go off for another week!

  6. Littlebluebottle: Thanks for the title! Will try to find the book for the boy. :)



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