Nick’s Picks: Passion and Purpose

The Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy recognize the importance of reading across all content areas, on all grade levels. In this post we highlight the contributions of award-winning scientists—and science authors. Share these videos, audio recordings, book trailers, and other resources to invigorate classroom instruction and conversations while introducing a variety of texts, formats, and perspectives.

For All Grades:

Nonfiction author Sy Montgomery exudes enthusiasm for the observation of animals in their natural habitats. Learn more about her research in this original video.


For Grades K­–1

In this audio introduction to and reading of an excerpt from her book I Face the Wind (HarperCollins, 2003; Julia Gorton, illus.), Vicki Cobb advocates for texts that incorporate interactivity and intellectual challenges, noting “kids are natural scientists.”

Explore lesson plans here.


For Grades 2–3

Walter Wick, author and illustrator of A Drop of Water: A Book of Science and Wonder (Scholastic, 1997), explains how an unheated barn and a feather allowed him to capture a stunning close-up image of a snowflake.

Explore lesson plans here.


For Grades 4–5

Turning “abstract ideas into characters” helps children understand concepts, remarks illustrator Simon Basher in this audio description of his work on The Periodic Table: Elements with Style! (Kingfisher, 2007) by Adrian Dingle.

Explore lesson plans here.


For Grades 6–8

As he explains in this audio introduction to his graphic novel Clan Apis (Active Synapse, 2000), biologist, author, and graphic artist Jay Hosler’s research for his book paralleled his investigations in the laboratory.

Explore a lesson plan and interview here.


For Grades 9–10

In this audio recording, Deborah Heiligman reveals how her National Book Award-recognized title, Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith (Holt, 2009), was “a love letter” to her husband. In her book, Heiligman explores the Darwins’ marriage and their worldviews.

Explore a lesson plan, book trailers, and interviews here.


For Grades 11­–12

In this Meet-the-Author video, MacArthur fellow David Macaulay shares his sketchbooks and celebrates the “beautiful logic” of the human body as presented in The Way We Work (Houghton, 2008).

Explore a lesson plan and interviews here.


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