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Start with a Book

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Books and activities for summer reading and learning from Reading Rockets

Start With a Book: Books and activities for summer reading and summer learning

Space Rangers! A Book-Based Science Adventure

Our STEAM-focused DIY summer program is all about stars, our solar system, and space exploration!

  mosaic of kids doing space-related activities

Welcome to Space Rangers!

Where do stars come from?

Why does the moon change shape?

What is the solar system and why is the sun at its center?

How big are all the planets? What is gravity, and is there gravity on the moon and the planets?

What’s it like for astronauts to live and work in space?

Questions around space seem to be as infinite as the night sky itself! 

Space Rangers gives kids a chance to learn more about space, the solar system, and space exploration through thoughtful and fun activities like making a foil night sky to study the refraction of stars, writing and illustrating an original constellation myth, putting on a planet puppet show about the solar system, creating a homemade lunar landscape, designing a moon mission patch, creating a Martian who could survive on Mars and more.

Space Rangers combines hands-on activities with great fiction, poetry, and picture book biographies — books such as Hidden Figures and Pluto Is Peeved: An Ex-Planet Searches for Answers — inspiring kids to learn all about the complex world in and beyond the night sky.

Our free, 5-day toolkit for educators, summer program leaders, and parents includes dozens of carefully chosen fiction and nonfiction books, hands-on activities, writing ideas, and apps and websites to deepen a child's learning plus tips on reading aloud and building fluency skills.

Join us … to explore, create, read, write, and learn — all about space. Here's what kids will learn about, day by day:

  • Day 1: Stars and Constellations
  • Day 2: The Solar System
  • Day 3: The Moon and Apollo II
  • Day 4: Mars: The Red Planet
  • Day 5: Space Exploration

A 5-day program that fits your schedule

Space Rangers is adaptable! Use the materials each day for five days in a row, or once a week for five weeks (or any other way you like) to add hands-on learning to your summer programming. The materials are designed for elementary-aged children, but can be adapted for older or younger kids.

Get your free Space Rangers toolkit

The toolkit includes 5 topics for exploration through fiction and nonfiction books, hands-on activities, new vocabulary, and fun writing prompts. Each topic also includes recommendations for kid-friendly — websites, apps, and video. A space exploration timeline, a list of inventions from space, complete book and vocabulary lists, as well as printable name tags, journal covers, certificates, and Growing Readers tip sheets are included in the Appendix.

Complete toolkit

Day by day

Printables

All of these resources are available in the Space Rangers toolkit, but we've made the PDFs available here for easy access and printing.

Note: Be sure to view and print from Adobe Reader (or an alternative PDF reader), not your web browser.​

Books about space

children's books about space

Looking for great kids’ books about space? Our Space Rangers toolkit includes dozens of recommended fiction, nonfiction, and poetry books. You can also browse our complete library of children's books about Stars, Planets, and the Night Sky.

Getting ready: tips for using the Space Rangers toolkit

  • You’ll find an introduction to the concepts covered and recommended books for each day, as well as a list of questions to guide explorations and experiments, and a list of "space words" that kids might not be familiar with.
  • Start by gathering books from the list provided from your library.
  • Choose fiction and nonfiction books from the list provided.
  • Read them through before you read them to the kids so you know what happens, and can spot any unfamiliar words or concepts you’ll need to explain. Also, look for places to ask questions while you're reading to engage listeners.
  • Think about which other parts of the program you’d like to do after reading the book(s).
  • An activity is always a good idea, but you may also want to include writing, exploring related websites and apps, and going on a field trip, too.

Learning with the kids

  • Introduce the theme for the day and ask kids what they know about it. 
  • Read one or more of the books aloud and ask questions. Listen carefully to the kids’ answers. By reading to them and asking questions, you’ll get them thinking about the topic, and what they want to learn. You’ll also increase their understanding and excitement. Read another book and repeat.
  • Choose a hands-on activity to let kids explore theme. By doing an activity, the kids get to use the concepts and new words they have learned.
  • Look for a local connection. How can you connect the ideas in the books or the activities with the kids’ personal experience? Think about stargazing on a summer night.
  • Keep asking questions throughout and listening carefully to your kids’ answers.
  • Encourage kids to write about what they are learning or curious about by using one of the writing prompts in the toolkit.
  • Provide access to books about the topic for kids to look at on their own.
  • Show kids websites and apps that they can use to learn more about the topic and give kids time to try them out.
  • Take a field trip to further explore your topic for the day or theme for the week.

You can choose any of the components, all of them, or just one or two, but we recommend that you always Start With a Book!

Space Rangers toolkit authors

Tina Chovanec
Tina is the director of Reading Rockets, an award-winning national literacy initiative from WETA, Washington, DC's flagship public broadcasting station. She also created and manages Start with a Book, a summer reading and learning project.

Rachael Walker
Rachael has more than 20 years of experience developing partnerships with nonprofit organizations, corporations, and public agencies to benefit at-risk children and families. She launches national campaigns, coordinates special events, and develops original content for the National Education Association, Random House Children’s Books, PBS, and WETA’s Learning Media initiatives (Reading Rockets, Colorín Colorado, and AdLit.org). Visit Rachael at Belle of the Book.

Eileen Hanning
Eileen has more than 20 years of experience designing and implementing reading and hands-on-learning programs for at-risk children and training adults to help kids learn. She currently applies her curriculum design and children's book knowledge creating content, coordinating special events, and designing and implementing training as an independent consultant. Some of her clients include Reading Is Fundamental, Girls on the Run of Northern Virginia, Random House, and the American Psychological Association. Eileen holds a master's degree of education in curriculum and instruction from Trinity University in Washington, DC. Visit Eileen at Read Learn Reach.

The development of the Space Rangers toolkit was made possible by a generous grant from the Park Foundation.