ASK A LIBRARIAN: Books to Teach 3rd Graders About Adaptation & Natural Selection

TODAY, we kick off our #askalibrarian series! Are you a teacher or librarian looking for books to help teach students about a particular topic? Submit your query below for a chance to have it answered here at The Curious Kid’s Librarian!


What books would you recommend to teach 3rd graders about adaptation and natural selection?

Learning Objective:

“Construct an explanation using evidence from various sources for how the variations in characteristics among individuals of the same species may provide advantages in surviving, finding mates, and reproducing.”

Minnesota Academic Standards in Science 3L.3.2.1.1 (2019)


NUMEROUS children’s books describe adaptations that help plants and animals survive and reproduce. A few notable books about adaptation are What Do You Do With a Tail Like This? by Steven Jenkins & Robin Page, Hidden Wildlife and Look at Me! by Jim Arnosky and Survival at 40 Below by Debbie S. Miller and Jon Van Zyle.

Very few children’s books delve into the nitty gritty of how adaptations arise and how variation in characteristics among individuals of the same species impact survival and reproduction. Here are two books that do just that!

Island: A Story of the Galapagos by Jason Chin

  • Interest level: 2nd grade & up
  • Reading level: 4th grade & up
    • lexile: 900
    • guided reading: Q

In Island: A Story of the Galapagos, Jason Chin describes the life of an island, majestically unfolding over millions of years. Chin explains how finches on the island had beaks that varied in size from one individual to the next and how these finches’ beak size influenced their likelihood of surviving and reproducing. Chin then explains that similar processes occurred with seagulls, tortoises, boobies, snails and cormorants.

After reading Island, each student could choose one of the species described by Chin and — per Minnesota’s 3rd grade learning benchmark — “construct an explanation” for how natural selection may have occurred in that species.

How the Piloses Evolved Skinny Noses by Deborah Kelemen and The Child Cognition Lab

  • Interest level: 2nd grade & up
  • Reading level: 3rd grade & up
    • lexile: 710
    • guided reading: O

In How the Piloses Evolved Skinny Noses, author Deborah Kelemen describes how variation in a trait (nose shape) of a single, fictional species (piloses) impacts individual piloses’ ability to find food, survive and reproduce. While not an award-worthy title, Kelemen’s description of the process of natural selection is clear and accurate.

Ask a Librarian

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s