Reading Ideas: Science & Nature for Older Kids

This month, I'm joining several other bloggers to share fun kids activities and learning ideas for this summer. You can find the full series here, along with a $100 gift card giveaway (ending May 31st). 

My post for this series, Picture Perfect Fun & Learning,  shares some of my favorite children's books series and authors for learning about nature and science topics.

But . . .

All of the books in that list are picture books, great for younger kids from preschool through early elementary ages. I didn't have space to include some of my favorite STEM resources for older kids and independent readers, so here's a second list with those books! 

My kids are still younger, so we’re just starting to read chapter books and longer books that would appeal more to older readers. However, we've still found a number of amazing chapter books and other, browsable books that explore science topics in more depth.

This post includes affiliate links--I may earn a small commission for purchases made through these links. If you prefer to avoid Amazon, I recommend checking for these books on

Take Along Guides, by Mel Boring, Diana Burns, Laura Evert, and others: These books are fun, easy-to-read nature guides that cover a wide variety of topics. A book on caterpillars, butterflies, and moths, for example, introduces children to some of the most common North American butterflies and moths, while explaining their lifecycles, food sources, and much more. Unfortunately, this is an older series, and it can be hard to all of the books, but this site has a set with most of the books

Strange and Wonderful, by Laurence Pringle: This is one of my go-to series for slightly-longer picture books about nature topics. Want to read about spiders? Or octopuses? Or snakes? There's a book for that in this series! The books are fun, and easy-to-read, thorough, yet simple. They're a bit long for my youngest, but still shorter than a chapter book, so we can read through one in an evening.

One Small Square, by Donald Silver: This is a fantastic series that takes a close-up look at a number of different ecosystems. Each book starts by marking out one small plot of land, and then looks at different sections of that plot in detail. Cave, for example, examines different kinds of plant and animal life found near the cave entrance, in the twilight zone, and deep inside the cave, while Woods explores its square vertically from the forest floor to the tree tops.

National Geographic Kids: A brand, rather than a series, these books introduce kids to nature, science, history, and geography through magazine-style stories and browsable nonfiction blurbs. The National Geographic Readers series explores different topics through a set of leveled readers, while the Little Kids First Big Book series explores questions like "who?" and "where?" and "how?," covering topics that range from historical figures to insects and oceans.

Welcome to the Museum: This series features eight oversized guides to plants, planets, dinosaurs, animals, history, and anatomy. Unlike most of my other favorites on this list, these books don’t work well as a read-aloud book. However, they can act as museum visits for independent readers. Each spread has a detailed illustration or museum “exhibit,” paired basic information and key facts for that “exhibit.” This makes them a fun tool for browsing a new topic.

Scientist in the Field: Written by several different authors, these books present an on-the-spot look at a wide variety of topics. They’re essentially chapter books, simple enough that my first grader enjoys them, while still being detailed and thorough. Along with a number of books about marine animals, these books explore how scientists study tornadoes, honeybees, bears, crows, and much more.

DK Books: A publisher, rather than a series, these books have something for every topic, complete with gorgeous photographs and detailed explanations. DK Book's Eyewitness Book series, along with their newer Smithsonian series, make fantastic browsable encyclopedias for older elementary and middle school kids. Even as an adult, if I want to find a simple, thorough overview of a topic, I'll often check one of these books.

Still looking for more ideas?

 Look for book lists online! Many bloggers share lists with their favorite books—I sometimes put together lists on science topics here on my own blog, while other bloggers may share lists for art or history topics.