National Space Day is on 7th May. The day aims to encourage everybody – adults and children alike – to find out more about space and space exploration.
Most of us are fascinated by the night sky and what lies beyond our planet. Fascination with space has recently been fuelled by Perseverance rover landing on Mars and NASA’s successful Mars helicopter flight.
Here we share 6 books that will spark your child’s curiosity about space and at the same time encourage their love of learning through books.
Best space books for early years and key stage 1
Lucy M George and Ando Twin, QED Publishing, 2016
This is a wonderful glimpse into the life of astronauts. Children join astronauts Jenny, Chen and Kim as they blast off into space and board the space station. The book is likely to provoke interesting questions, such as why a space shuttle releases its rockets when it reaches deep, dark space. Children discover the jobs astronauts do on board the space station and the difficulties they face and overcome each day.
At the end of the book there are labelled pictures of Jenny’s equipment. There are also short, illustrated paragraphs about the other people who work with astronauts and the jobs they do.
Peep Inside Space
Anna Milbourne and Simona Dimitri, Usborne, 2016
This interactive lift-the-flap book is a brilliant introduction to space exploration. Children explore the ‘dusty’, ‘quiet’ Moon and the space around our planet with a friendly astronaut.
They lift the flaps of the space station to see what’s going on inside. They find out how astronauts keep safe in space and what stops them floating away. They discover that the Sun is a ‘fiery ball’ and that the Earth travels around it in circles.
Children are introduced to a range of space vocabulary: ‘craters’, ‘air tank’, ‘space station’, ‘Jupiter’ and more!
Best space books for key stage 1, key stage 2 and beyond…
Little Kids First Big Book of Space
Catherine D Hughes and David A Aguilar, National Geographic Kids, 2012
If you want to teach your child about our solar system, then this is the book! Although it’s aimed at young children, it’s actually suitable for children of all ages (and adults too) because it’s packed with incredible information.
Real photographs and clear, attractive diagrams make this book engaging for everyone. Explanations are succinct and accompanied by quick fact boxes. As well as learning about our neighbouring planets, children will find out about the asteroid belt, lesser-known dwarf planets such as Ceres and Haumea, what galaxies, nebulas and black holes are, how space rockets work – and that’s just a sample!
Solar System: 3D Explorer
Ian Graham, Sebastian Quigley and Nicholas Forders, Baker and Taylor (UK) Ltd, 2018
This book is most suitable for older children as it’s packed with detailed information and complex vocabulary (‘nuclear fusion’ for example).
Our solar system is brought to life in 3D with real life photographs and graphic illustrations. Children learn what rocky worlds are made of, why satellites are important, how our Earth is structured and why we have different seasons. They find out about gas giants, comet strikes on Jupiter – a whole wealth of facts.
Stars Before Bedtime
Claire Grace and Dr Jessamy Hibberd, Quarto Publishing, 2020
Is your child interested in the constellations? If so, they will enjoy this book. Although it is primarily intended to help children get to sleep through mindfulness exercises linked to the shapes of the constellations, it is also a great for identifying the constellations.
Your child might follow the constellations in the book with their finger and identify some of the patterns in the night sky. Each constellation has inspired mythology and the book tells some of these stories. Draco the Dragon, for instance, is a constellation with lots of tales associated with him. One is the story of Hercules, a great hero who fought Draco as part of twelve tasks he had to perform.
The Darkest Dark
Chris Hadfield and Kate Fillion, Macmillan, 2016
This picture book is the real-life story of astronaut, Chris Hadfield. The story starts in 1969, when Chris is a little boy playing inside a huge cardboard rocket. All day Chris plays space games and dreams of a life in space. However, at bedtime he can’t sleep because he’s afraid of the dark. One day Chris’ parents tell him if he doesn’t sleep he will be too tired to watch the Moon landing at his neighbour’s house the next day. That night Chris sleeps well and dreams of exploring the Moon.
After watching Neil Armstrong land on the Moon Chris is no longer afraid of the dark. He realises for the first time ‘the power and mystery and velvety black of the dark’ and because we have our dreams we’re ‘never really alone there’.
One day Chris’ dreams come true. The book ends with a full-page illustration of Chris as a real-life astronaut floating above our beautiful Earth.
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