Evolution Books for Kids

Charlie’s Playhouse, Games and Toys Inspired by Darwin, has published a PDF list of evolution books for children. (They have cool t-shirts, too). It includes books published in 2008, books coming out in 2009, books for kids of all ages, books in English, books in Spanish, inexpensive books…. and a Top 12 list, which includes:

  1. Our Family Tree: An Evolution Story By Lisa Westberg Peters and Lauren Stringer, Harcourt Children’s Books, 2003. 
  2. Optical Allusions By Jay Hosler, Active Synapse, 2008.
  3. The Dawn of Life (Cartoon History of the Earth Series) By Jacqui Bailey and Matthew Lilly, Kids Can Press, 2001.
  4. The Day of the Dinosaurs (Cartoon History of the Earth Series) By Jacqui Bailey and Matthew Lilly, A & C Black Publishers Ltd., 2002
  5. Life on Earth: The Story of Evolution By Steve Jenkins, Houghton Mifflin, 2002.
  6. The Sandwalk Adventures: An Adventure in Evolution Told in Five Chapters By Jay Hosler, Active Synapse, 2003. 
  7. When Bugs Were Big, Plants Were Strange, and Tetrapods Stalked the Earth: A Cartoon Prehistory of Life Long Before Dinosaurs By Hannah Bonner, National Geographic Children’s Books, 2004. 
  8. When Fish Got Feet, Sharks Got Teeth, and Bugs Began to Swarm: A Cartoon Prehistory of Life Long Before Dinosaurs By Hannah Bonner, National Geographic Children’s Books, 2007.
  9. The Beast in You!: Activities & Questions to Explore Evolution By Marc McCutcheon, Williamson Publishing Company, 1999.
  10. Prehistoric World By Fiona Chandler, Jane Bingham and Sam Taplin, Usborne Books, 2000.
  11. Eyewitness: Evolution By Linda Gamlin, DK Children, 2000.
  12. The Kingfisher Book of Evolution By Stephen Webster, Kingfisher Books Ltd, 2000.

It’s not just a list of books though, there’s a summary, a review, and age recommendations. A terrific resource for parents and teachers.

By way of


Donna Druchunas is a freelance technical writer and editor and a knitwear designer. When she's not working, she blogs, studies Lithuanian, reads science and sci-fi books, mouths off on atheist forums, and checks her email every three minutes. (She does that when she's working, too.) Although she loves to chat, she can't keep an IM program open or she'd never get anything else done.

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  1. I’m curious what skepchicks think about age appropriateness for evolution books. The topic of evolution always encounters such controversy in today’s society.

    Personally, I feel sick whenever I see a book aimed at, say, a 5 year old with a strong religious message. 5 is just too young to be able to think critically about the information being presented. Kids at that age are far more likely to be led into a belief system without the mental skills to question. To me, that’s one of the worst things about religion, watching children raised in an environment where they are essentially brainwashed with a particular view, to think in a particular way.

    Now, I’m raising a child (now 7), and I’m a fond advocate of evolution. But am I making the same mistake by feeding her books on evolution before she’s old enough to think critically about it for herself? Or is evolution different because it’s science, it’s strongly supported by evidence, and really there is no debate contrary to what some segments of the population claim. What about other topics? Atheism, for example.

  2. @TJ: Evolution is science. The only requirement is that it should be brought down to the appropriate age level so that the child understands. Otherwise, evolution is NOT the same as religion.

    You wouldn’t say, “I wonder if teaching children math is controversial and maybe we shouldn’t teach them math until they are old enough to decide for themselves if algebra is real.”

    I’m fine with religious being *taught* to children, in a mythology and literary sense, but that is different than telling them It Is The Truth and Nothing But The Truth.

  3. @TJ: Last time I checked you can teach your children anything you damn well please, I think your thinking about this too much. People “brainwash” kids all the time by telling them something know or teaching anything without explaining why. If anything early expositor to evolution is good because I assume they explain “why” we know evolution is real in the books. Far better than creationism
    “How do we know God made everything 6,000 years ago?”
    “Because the bible tells us it’s true”.
    “How do we know the bible is the truth?”
    “You have to have faith, and those that lack faith go to a firey pit of hell and will suffer for all eternity, any more questions Jimmy?”

  4. Too often I think liberal open-minded parents feel they don’t want to impose their own beliefs on there children because they feel that’s “brainwashing”, well you have to put something in your kids head or else someone else will. Not all your kid’s teachers, youth activity leaders, or the parents of your children share your beliefs, and without knowing how you believe they may pick up other people’s beliefs. Children look to adults and tend to belief just about everything they say as truth, UNLESS, you have placed another idea there. Many of the religious ilk think they get brownie points in the afterlife for conversion. Also many beliefs you don’t believe in take on very simplistic logic which may be appealing to your children. Sure you can teach your children to “have an open mind”, but what happens when they have an open mind and come to conclusions you disagree with greatly or you feel lack critical insight, “Dad/Mom, if decided to be a neo-con because, well, Rush Limbaugh makes such a good case.”

  5. @skepticalhippie: I guess I’m concerned about how that idea is put in there. If I preach evolution and atheism to my child as The Truth and Nothing but The Truth, that’s brainwashing. I don’t want to force my child to believe what I believe. I want her to evaluate the options and come to her own conclusion. Yes, there’s the possibility (risk?) that she could come to a conclusion I strongly disagree with. The alternative, though, is that she believes what daddy says because daddy says so. That’s exactly what I don’t want.

  6. I have a book called “Life: Evolution Explained” by Phillip Whitfield on a coffee table, prominently displayed. And when the neighborhood kids come over I’ll often flip through it and point out pictures (it has gorgeous pictures, and even better for kids, some gnarly ones) of a whale and its scary-looking land ancestor. Included are illustrations of the process leading from one to the other. It gets their attention.

    You’d be astonished how many kids are being taught that evolution is a “controversy” at home, even by religiously relaxed parents … just because the creationist movement has done so much work to undermine the idea. AND because scientists have been doing such a bad job explaining it. It’s really vital we talk about evolution as much as we can, *especially* to kids.

    My own kids are not being taught evolution per se in school, at least not by name. I think this is because teachers are either a) ignorant about it or b) petrified it will cause problems. It is a requirement locally to teach it. I haven’t raised a stink about it yet, but if any ID shit gets into my kids’ school … ugh. Better not happen. How many of you know what’s going on in your local schools regarding the teaching of evolution? You might be appalled.

    My dad is an atheist but never really talked to me about what he thought, or how he thought. I had no alternative worldview, and was ripe for religious picking in my teens. I’ll not make this mistake with my kids. While I’ve told them they must make up their own minds about religion, science, and politics, we speak on a daily basis about these things, walk them through our own thought processes, and hope we are teaching them the basics of critical thinking and skepticism.

  7. @TJ: “If I preach evolution and atheism to my child as The Truth and Nothing but The Truth, that’s brainwashing.”

    Atheism is one thing, because it’s about something we *don’t* know (same with fairies and mermaids, and I’ll get back to that), but evolution is another — it’s about something we *do* know. We’ve seen bacteria evolving before our eyes in the lab. You don’t need to present it as true because daddy said so — that would be silly and wouldn’t teach critical thinking. You’d present the ideas, walk the kid through the logical process.

    The deal with a-theism is that it’s really no different than a-fairyism or a-trollism or a-leprechaunism. If your child was convinced by a friend that fairies were whispering in his or her ear, you might be willing to tolerate that for a bit when she’s wee, but at some point you’d want to get that notion out of her head. This wouldn’t be brainwashing. Believing fairies are talking to you and guiding you is clearly false and perhaps dangerous. Believing in gods? Same thing.

    So we can agree that you shouldn’t approach teaching your child as “this is the truth because I said so.” Instead, what you do is teach the child the difference between superstition and science. Talking about the scientific process every time you can (i.e., watching Mythbusters together and discussing what they’re doing) will get you much further than “God isn’t true and that’s that!”

  8. Now, I’m raising a child (now 7), and I’m a fond advocate of evolution. But am I making the same mistake by feeding her books on evolution before she’s old enough to think critically about it for herself?

    Don’t worry too much: when your daughter hits the teenage years, a whole new phase of development will occur, and her slavishly following your dictates will not be among your problems.

    (This point was made much better by Dale McGowan, the author of Parenting Beyond Belief, at the talk which Rebecca, Expatria and I attended several weeks ago.)

  9. Secretly, these books are actually meant for fundies. Hopefully, if a 5-year-old can understand the ideas and the logic behind it, perhaps they can too :D

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