Gene genies

2nd July 2007 at 01:00

WHAT MAKES ME, ME? By Robert Winston. Dorling Kindersley pound;9.99

Victoria Neumark talks to Robert Winston about his new information book for young people

"I want them to come away from reading the book thinking that biology is interesting: that would be a big boost," says Robert Winston. "I think there is a growing realisation that we aren't approaching science in quite the right way in our society and schools. This is another way of engaging people."

Winston's first book for children and young teenagers is an information book with a twist. It tackles questions that young people might bat about - why are my eyes this colour? Why do I blush? How am I like my parents? - and answers them directly and accurately.

Biology is more than science, says Winston; genetics and reproduction lie deep at the heart of our thoughts and feelings about ourselves. Genes, nurture and life experience all work together; social and emotional factors intertwine with the physical. "We all depend on science, so it's intriguing for kids that there is a science of the body and they can engage with genetics themselves."

Practically every page sparkles with thought-provoking questions. Why does your mum love broccoli and your dad hate it? Why are you a marvel at maths, while your sister is terrific at tennis? Why do knuckles crack? Why do you get spots? Why are we attracted to each other? As Winston says, "Children generally as they grow are puzzled and curious about their bodies; I wanted to give helpful information which also stimulates their interest."

While What Makes Me, Me? covers essential human anatomy for key stages 2 and 3, its tone is much more positive and personal than most biology and health education books. Conceived as a book for parents to give children and for children to find themselves on the library shelves it could also be useful in PSE lessons. Tested on friends' children, the text is punctuated with interactive tests and quizzes to allow readers to test their genes and their brain power, and analyse their personality.

A genetics section explores how genes influence the way we develop, think and act. Robert Winston is perhaps proudest of this section, which will, he hopes, be of use to teachers who may not be aware of latest developments.

"People who teach kids at that age are hugely important," he says. "It needs to be embedded in teaching that our bodies are interesting, logical and mysterious, that there is so much to find out and that we are understanding more."

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