Boring science books attacked

17th March 2000 at 00:00
Dull materials are killing children's interest, says author. Julie Henry reports

A DEARTH of good science books for primary children risks killing off interest in the subject, according to a best-selling author.

Speaking at the TES book awards last night, physicist Russell Stannard said the lack of good books was "a scandal". He said the need for imaginative approaches to the teaching of science had never been so pressing.

Only 23 entries had been put forward for the Primary Schoolbook Award section this year and the overall quality, said Professor Stannard, was so low that it was impossible to compile a shortlist - although he described the winner as outstanding.

Professor Stannard, whose Uncle Albert books introduced Einstein's theories to children said: "For too long, writers of science books in particular, have taken for granted that they are dealing with a captive audience - one that has an intrinsic interest in their subject or will have to study the book for an exam.

"This is no longer a valid assumption. It has been a salutary exprience for a physicist like myself to observe among the young, the drift away from physics and chemistry. We can no longer presume that there is a pre-existing interest."

He claimed much of the material available under-estimated what a primary child was capable of understanding.

"The dearth of good material of the younger reader is, in my opinion, nothing short of a scandal. Children in this age group have inquisitive, voracious minds."

The winner in the Primary Schoolbook Award for Science was Clare Eastland, from the Centre for Alternative Technology, in Machynlleth, north Wales, for Teaching About Energy.

Former teacher and science author Peter Riley took the Secondary Schoolbook Award with Physics Now! 11-14.

The Junior Information Book Award winner was Martin Jenkins, a conservation biologist, for The Emperor's Egg and the Senior Information section went to A Visitor's Guide to Ancient Rome by Lesley Simms, a writer with Usborne publishers.

The judging panel included teachers and education lecturers.

Opinion, 18

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