Our Best Books, Films and Software lists are published annually in the January/February issue of SB&F. Each section is comprehensive list of highly recommended resources from the previous year. Our readers have come to rely on these lists as a definitive guide to the best science resources available. Our best lists are broken in to four sections:
Best Books for Children
Each year the editorial staff at SB&F looks forward to compiling and publishing our annual Best Science Books for Children list. The reasons for this are threefold: First, because we believe that identifying high-quality books in the sciences for librarians, teachers, parents, and others who work with children is important; second, it brings back to mind the many good titles we have had a chance to read and to put to our reviewers' test; and third, we have a stake in this arena, too. We have children our own or work with them in out-of-school programs, in schools and libraries, and in other community-based activities. We hope that these children will benefit from the good acquisitions and selections that our readers will make in the upcoming year.
As many readers know, SB&F believes that many of the same components that make a good children's book make a good children's science book: the presentation, the organization, the language, and the quality of illustrations. In addition, high-quality science books must also be accurate and present scientific processes in a way that can be understood by a child without misleading oversimplification. Finally, good children's science books should encourage an interest in science by prompting young readers to know more.
Best Books for Junior High and High School Readers
Junior high and high school students are a varied group of readers with many different needs. Some of this is due to the structure of schools and hence libraries. Many school districts include grades 5 through 8 in middle schools, the current term for what once was grades 7 and 8 in a separate school building. Some districts include grades 6 through 8, or sometimes 9, in middle schools. High schools have almost as many variations in their groupings, but most include at least students in grades 10 through 12. The students in these schools, and their needs and interests, are by far more varied. Their interests, abilities, academic needs, are wide ranging indeed. An 8th grader may be as likely to select a Garfield cartoon book as a book on the paranormal or ancient Egypt. The science of sports, the chemistry of everyday materials, or a rock and mineral identification guide may also interest those who usually select biographies of athletes, celebrities, or rock stars.
High school libraries need reference books, supplemental materials, and pleasure reading for students taking general science or business math courses, as well as for those taking advanced placement courses. Because the needs and interests of these young adults are so varied, this listing of highly recommended books is also. Books included here will be of interest to readers from grades 5 and 6 through high school. Some materials are also appropriate for older readers, and many of the books here make great reading for general adult audiences, too.
Best Videos and Software
Videos and software are important supplementary teaching and learning tools. While nothing replaces actual experience, videos and software programs can open a world not otherwise available to students. But how do you decide which programs are best? The criteria used for selecting video and software programs are different than for choosing books. Not only do you need to consider the accuracy and organization of the content, with video you also have to ask if the images and narration are clear. Is the sound quality acceptable? What interesting optical techniques are used to grab a viewer's attention? Yet, as with books, is the story focused? Do the images overpower the message?
SB&F has been reviewing science films since 1975. SB&F reviewers are professionals in their fields, and often point out errors of fact that most lay people would overlook. Reviewers are asked to evaluate materials based on accuracy; clarity of purpose; organization; scope; presentation of the processes of science; quality of photography, videography, and animation; optical techniques used; and the value of supplements. With so many opportunities for children, young adults, and general audiences to learn about the sciences visually through educational television and newscasts, selecting videos and software that contain accurate information in an appropriate manner is important for librarians, teachers, parents, and others.
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