Rocks and Minerals: Virtual Bookshelf

The Virtual Bookshelf provides a list of recommended children’s books that reflect the theme of the issue and offers ideas on how to integrate them across the curriculum.

We selected books for this issue’s topic that may prompt your students to stop and ask themselves questions about the rocks they find on their way to school or near their homes. Where did the rocks come from? What stories do they tell? From these books, students can learn how to identify the three types of rocks: igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary. In related activities, they will use language skills to describe the physical characteristics of rocks they find. They will also be asked to think about rocks and minerals in their daily lives…where did the graphite in their pencils come from?We often think of earth cycles only in terms of what we experience firsthand, such as the seasons or the water cycle. But the rock cycle is happening right now, too! Photographs and clearly labeled diagrams will help students begin to understand this ongoing, complex cycle.

We’ve divided the books into six categories: Rocks and Minerals, the Rock Cycle, Geologists, Descriptive Language, Hands-on Geology, and, of course, Penguins and Polar Bears. As always, we rely heavily on nonfiction books to expose your students to accurate scientific information and expository or informational text structure. These books, the ReadWriteThink lesson titled Talking About Books to Improve Comprehension, and the hands-on experiences in our science lessons will help students develop a rich understanding of the concepts involved.

Rocks and Minerals

Use these books to introduce the topics of rocks and minerals, accompany a textbook, or supplement the lessons and activities in “Hands-On Science and Literacy Activities About Rocks and Minerals.”

Rock_Basics book cover image Rock Basics. Carol K. Lindeen. 2008. Nonfiction easy reader. Recommended ages: Grades K-1.
This book does a great job of introducing the abundance of rocks around the earth, the people who study them, and the uses we have for rocks in everyday materials.
Lets_Look_At_Rocks_book cover image Let’s Look at Rocks. Jeri Cipriano. 2004. Nonfiction easy reader. Recommended ages: Grades K-1.
Photos show children with some of the rocks found all over the earth – on mountains, in streams, and as grains of sand. The last few pages show pictures of rocks being used in jewelry, statues, homes and classrooms.
Everybody_Needs_A_Rock book cover image Everybody Needs a Rock. Byrd Baylor. 1985. Picture book. Recommended ages: Grades K-2.
Baylor describes her rules for finding the perfect rock. A great introduction to rock hunting. This book is used in the Science NetLinks lesson Sampling Rocks.
Lets_Go_Rock_Collecting book cover image Let’s Go Rock Collecting (Let’s Read and Find Out About Science series). Roma Gans. 1997. Nonfiction book. Recommended ages: Grades 2-3.
A basic introduction to rocks and minerals, including the ways rocks form and how to identify them. The section on metamorphic rocks has photos of rocks “before” and “after” changes by heat and pressure.
Minerals book cover image Minerals (Science Matters series). Patricia Miller-Schroeder. 2005. Nonfiction book. Recommended ages: Grades 3-5.
This book provides an overview of minerals, their characteristics, classification, and uses. Full-color pictures accompany the straightforward text. A table of contents, a glossary, and an index provide opportunities for practice with these organizational features.
Rocks_Walker book cover image Rocks (Early Bird Earth Science series). Sally M. Walker. 2007. Nonfiction book. Recommended ages: Grades 3-5.
A clearly written, comprehensive introduction to the rock and mineral concepts covered in the elementary grades. Five chapters cover the definition of a rock, the three types of rocks, and the rock cycle. In each chapter, the author provides clear explanations that make these concepts accessible. For example, the chapter on metamorphic rocks includes simple descriptions of how the minerals in various rocks change. A note at the end of the book provides guidance for parents and other adults reading with students.
Rocks_and_Minerals_Squire book cover image Rocks and Minerals (A True Book). Ann O. Squire. 2002. Nonfiction book. Recommended ages: Grades 3-5.
This book provides basic information about rocks and minerals, the three types of rocks, the rock cycle, and common uses for rocks throughout history.

Rock Cycle

These books help students begin to visualize the rock cycle, a difficult topic that is covered in more detail in the middle school years. The lesson plan Rock Discovery can be used in conjunction with these titles.

The_Big_Rock book cover image The Big Rock. Bruce Hiscock. 1988. Nonfiction picture book. Recommended ages: Grades K-5.
A giant boulder sits on a hillside in New York state. How did it get there? Trace the formation of the rock from volcanoes to prehistoric oceans to mountaintop earthquakes, and finally a bulldozer glacier. This book can make children stop and think about the history behind a grain of sand, a pebble, or even the mountaintops on the horizon.
The_Rock_Cycle_Jakab book cover image The Rock Cycle (Earth’s Cycles series). Cheryl Jakab. 2008. Nonfiction. Recommended ages: Grades 3-5.
This book discusses the importance of rocks to both people and nature and how the rock cycle can be compared to other natural cycles. Each type of rock in the rock cycle is discussed – volcanic, sedimentary, and metamorphic. Photographs of landforms and rock specimens bring the text to life. Simple diagrams show how rocks are formed and how they change when exposed to heat and pressure. The rock cycle is then explored for its effect on soil, water, plants, and animals and people. There is also a brief discussion of mining and soil conservation.
How_Mountains_Are_Made book cover image How Mountains Are Made (Let’s Read and Find Out About Science series). Kathleen Weidner Zoefeld. 1995. Nonfiction book. Recommended ages: Grades 3-5.
How do fossils of shells end up in the mountains? The movement of the earth’s tectonic plates puts the rock cycle in motion. Different mountains are formed in different ways: Some are created when plates smash into each other (like the Himalayas); some are formed by volcanoes where magma seeps up to the surface to make underwater ridges. Diagrams show each type of mountain. A map of the United States on the last page shows where different kinds of mountains can be found. These advanced concepts are not typically part of the elementary curriculum but may be of interest to students needing more challenge.
The_Rock_Cycle_Ostopowich book cover image The Rock Cycle (Science Matters series). Melanie Ostopowich. 2005. Nonfiction. Recommended ages: Grades 4-5.
This book explains how the rock cycle can take millions of years to complete and is driven by plate tectonics. Each of the three types of rocks is discussed – sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic. Fun facts are highlighted on each topic.


Use these two books to introduce the discipline of geology. These titles would accompany this month’s Feature Story, “Reader of the Rocks.”

The_Rock_Cycle_Ostopowich book cover image Rocks In His Head. James Stevenson. 2001. Picture book. Recommended ages: Grades K-5.
Based on a true story of a boy whose hobby – collecting rocks – eventually became his career as a curator in a science museum.
Geologists_Scientists_at_Work book cover image Geologists (Scientists at Work series). Heather Hammonds. 2004. Nonfiction book. Recommended ages: Grades 4-5. 
Geologists study more than just how rocks are formed. Some work with paleontologists to try to date fossils, some study glaciers, and others look at the composition of moon rocks. The book describes the education, tools, and future of geology and has interviews with geologists in the field. A great way to encourage future geologists.

Descriptive Language

In all grades, studying rocks and minerals involves description. Use these books to help students become proficient in their use of descriptive language. The ReadWriteThink lesson Delicious, Tasty, Yummy: Enriching Writing with Adjectives and Synonyms provides instruction and support for students in this mode of writing.

On_My_Beach_There_Are_Many_Pebbles book cover image On My Beach There Are Many Pebbles. Leo Lionni. 1961. Picture book. Recommended ages: Grades K-1.
A simple book about some of the unusually formed pebbles a child has found on the beach. Pencil-sketched illustrations – an unusual medium for children’s books. A good discussion starter for children before describing their own rocks or pebbles in the classroom.
If_You_Find_a_Rock book cover image If You Find a Rock. Peggy Christian. 2000. Picture book. Recommended ages: Grades K-2.
Descriptive language and photographs show different uses for found rocks – flat, rounded skipping rocks and large, cold and mossy resting rocks. What other uses for rocks can your students find? They could contrast these “uses” for rocks with manufactured goods using rocks and minerals.
Earthshake_Poems_from_the_Ground_Up book cover image Earthshake: Poems from the Ground Up. Lisa Westberg Peters. 2003. Poetry book. Recommended ages: Grades 3-5.
Geology and descriptive language are married in this collection. “Plain Old Rock” describes the surprising beauty revealed inside a geode, and “Wyoming Layer Cake” describes the spectacular sedimentary layers in the western United States. Illustrations complement the poems.

Hands-on Geology

These two books are perfect for individual exploration, enrichment, or learning centers. Teachers of grades K-2 may be able to modify activities for their students.

Geology_Rocks book cover image Geology Rocks: 50 Hands-On Activities to Explore the Earth. Cindy Blobaum. 1999. Nonfiction book. Recommended ages: Grades 3-5.
Bring science to life with fun facts and demonstrations. Students use graham crackers and frosting to learn about plate tectonics, shake a jar of sediment to make layers, create a mini-glacier with a block of ice, and piece together a “paleopuzzle” of Popsicle sticks!
Rocks_and_Minerals_VanCleave book cover image Janice VanCleave’s Rocks and Minerals. Janice VanCleave. 1996. Nonfiction book. Recommended ages: Grades 3-5.
Rip copy paper to learn about fractures, scratch rocks with everyday objects to find their Mohs rating, grow your own crystals, and make a metamorphic sandwich and faux igneous rocks from paper. Have lots of fun using simple materials and bring classroom concepts to life.

Penguins and Polar Bears

Penguins book cover image Penguins. Seymour Simon. 2007. Nonfiction book. Recommended ages: Grades 3-5.
Simon is well known for his informational text for young readers. The first half of the book provides a general overview of penguin characteristics and life cycle, while the second half describes particular species (but not all 17) in more detail. Although the text is dense in places, color photographs provide balance. Perfect for studying informational text or as a springboard for a research project. Teachers of younger students may want to read selected passages aloud, as the entire book may be too long for one sitting.
Three_Snow_Bears book cover image The Three Snow Bears. Jan Brett. 2007. Picture book. Recommended ages: K-5.
An Arctic “Goldilocks” tale with polar bears and an Inuit girl named Aloo-ki, who stumbles upon three igloos – big, medium and small. She samples soup, tries on boots, and naps among furs. The artwork captures the Arctic landscape and Inuit culture. Although there is a misconception that Inuits sleep in igloos all the time (igloos are actually a temporary shelter), it works out well for these personified bears to live there.

This article was written by Kate Hastings. For more information, see the Contributors page. Email Kimberly Lightle, Principal Investigator, with any questions about the content of this site.

Copyright September 2008 – The Ohio State University. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0733024. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. This work is licensed under an Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported Creative Commons license.

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