Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Chickens and Eggs

Last week (or a little longer), one of our readers asked for any books that might accompany the installation of a school chicken coop, so we've been doing a little digging. We haven't found a whole lot of what we would call high-quality picture books for kids that relate specifically to raising chickens, but chickens and eggs in general...well, we do have some suggestions for addressing those topics.

In the "Oldies but Goodies" category, we want to highlight two books in particular: Ruth Heller's Chickens Aren't the Only Ones and Chicken an Egg, by Christine Back & Jens Olesen. I'm going to date myself a bit by saying that I used both of these in my own 2nd grade classroom each spring when we studied oviparous animals ...and hatched chickens with the support of our local agricultural  extension (who provided the incubators and eggs!).

My favorite for showing the development of a chicken was Chicken and Egg, with its full-color photographs and two layers of text. It appears to be out of print, but  is available in paperback through a number of venues (including Amazon, linked above). Chicks & Chickens, by Gail Gibbons and From Egg to Chicken, by Anita Ganeri are newer (2005 & 2006, respectively) and also offer insights on chicken development. These two  include a great deal of extra information on chickens in general. Chicks & Chickens addresses their physical characteristics and behavior in addition to their life cycle and egg development. In this book, Gibbons follows her typical style of including a lot of information supported by detailed illustrations in bold colors that tend to extend the text though the use of diagrams. From Egg to Chicken is a more traditional non-narrative informational text, including a table of contents, bolded key words, a glossary, suggested resources, and even an index. It would engage kids through the vivid photographs of chickens and the accompanying captions. Both Chicken and Egg and Egg to Chicken could be used with younger students, and while the book by Gibbons could be read aloud to just about anyone, the text is probably most appropriate for 3rd graders. 


Chickens Aren't the Only Ones appears to remain a popular despite its age. It, however, goes beyond chickens to mention all sorts of animals that lay eggs. Birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish...snails, spiders, and all sorts of insects are addressed, though not in any detail, making it a great introduction to the concept of oviparous animals. Another great addition to a lesson on egg-layers is a 2007 NSTA Oustanding Science Trade Book winner, Guess What is Growing Inside this Egg, by Mia Posada. This book is illustrated so that the reader gets clues (in verse) about the kind of animal growing in the egg, and when the page is turned, the full illustration reveals the animal, accompanied by a detailed description (not in verse) about the newly hatched animal. An Egg is Quiet, by Dianna Aston would be a great companion book to use with Guess What's Growing Inside this Egg, though Aston's book focuses just on the eggs themselves. The only tricky part of An Egg is Quiet is that its primary layer of text is written in cursive, making it tough for kids to read independently. However, the illustrations are all labeled in more typical printed text, and so a lot of information can be gleaned without paying attention to the lines written in script. Aston compares the shape, size, colors, texture, and markings of eggs, and takes a page or two to highlight the in-egg development of chickens, salmon, and grasshoppers. Sylvia Long's stunning illustrations make this book a work of art as well as a means of obtaining both textual and visual information.

Finally, I couldn't let the chicken and egg topic go without mentioning One Hen: How one Small Loan Made a Big Difference, by Katie Smith Milway. This book is geared a little more toward social studies in general and economics in particular. But, it tells the story of Kojo, a youngster living in the Ashanti region of Ghana, in Africa, and how he uses a few coins to buy a hen...and then sells the extra eggs at market...and then buys more hens...and then a farm (after he goes to school of course!)...and eventually chages the lives of his family, community, and town. Best of all, it's based on the true story of Kwabena Darko; check out this related video on YouTube!

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