There’s plenty of books about robots. Some are definitely better than others!
Robots by Inventors Of Tomorrow. I wrote my own book that I use in my in-person STEM Enrichment class, and it also forms the foundation for my online class your child could take on Outschool. It addresses all the key concepts of robotics at a level for 3 – 6 year olds, and includes a special emphasis on bio-mimicry – how roboticists take inspiration from nature to inform their designs. To get a free printable copy, just click here.
- Zoobots: Wild Robots Inspired by Real Animals. It’s much too long to read aloud in a preschool class… we just show the pictures and do brief verbal summaries of each page. (Here’s my short text version of the book.) But I really like how this illustrate the key concepts of: scientists take ideas from nature to create robots to do things humans can’t or don’t want to do… here’s a sample of my short text: “Scientists wanted to develop a robot that could fight forest fires. It needed armor to protect itself from heat, and it needed to have lots of flexible legs so it could move across rough ground. They used a roley-poley bug as the inspiration for the exoskeleton armor and its legs, and it carries a tank of water or fire extinguishing chemicals to spray at a fire.”
- Robots Slither by Hunter. The main story line is preschool appropriate language for our little ones “Robots slither, creep and crawl. Robots inch along the wall.” Then there are illustrations of imagined animal-inspired robots, and sidebars with information about real robots and the work they do.
- National Geographic Readers: Robots; Robots at Home by Zuchora-Walske, and Helper Robots by Furstinger. All for ages 6 – 9, good overviews.
The fiction books we like are:
Clink by DiPucchio and Myers. Age 4 – 7. Sweet story with great text: “The problem that made Clink’s dials drop and his circuits short out was nobody wanted an old robot. He didn’t have cool retractable arms, like Zippy. He didn’t have fancy attachments, like Blade. And he didn’t know the first thing about doing homework and baking chocolate chip cookies, like Penny. The world, it seemed, was no longer interested in a robot who had been programmed to play music and make toast.” Eventually, of course, just the right boy arrives in the robot shop and falls in love and takes Clink home. I personally don’t like the illustration style, but what I do like about the illustrations is that they’re very emotionally expressive. On the page where it has that line about Clink’s dials dropping and his circuits shorting out, we can tell by looking at his expression that this meant he was a very sad, discouraged little robot. At the end, he’s clearly delighted and content in his new home.
Awesome Dawson tells the story of a boy inventor who builds great robots, then one rampages out of control and he builds other robots to defeat it. (Wendel’s Workshop has basically the exact same plot. Neither are overly scary.) Age 4 – 7.
Rolie Polie Olie is a delightful little book about a family that happens to be robots. It’s not educational about robots. But it does provide a nice little lesson about misbehavior and forgiveness. (Rolie gets wild and pops his sister’s bubble, and she’s sad and his parents are mad, and he feels bad, but then it’s all resolved by bedtime.) age 2 – 6.
Boy and Bot is also a cute book. A boy and robot find each other and become friends. But the robot gets switched off – the boy tries to cure him by feeding him applesauce, reading him a story and tucking him in to bed. The robot switches back on in the night and finds a sleeping boy. He tries to “fix” him with oil, an instruction manual and a spare battery. It’s a nice story for explaining that different people/creatures/machines need different things to do well. (This blog has a nice activity plan to go along with the book.) 3 – 6.
If you’re reading to kids and parents, another entertaining option is The Trouble with Dad. “The trouble with Dad is his boring job. If he didn’t have such a boring job he wouldn’t spend all his spare time in the shed making robots.” Age 5 – 7
One I can’t recommend for a group read is Oh No! (Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World). A girl built a robot for a science fair project and its on a rampage and she sends a giant toad to defeat it who then goes on a rampage. My 5 year old loved this book when we read it at home, but a 4 year old from class was quite disturbed by it after a teacher read it in class, spending the next week worrying about robots. I MAY use it as a resource in the future, but cautiously. When we talk about the process of designing robots, I want to cover that a human being needs to decide what all capabilities their robot needs. In this book, as the girl tries to stop her robot, she yells at it to stop, then says “I should have given it ears.” Then she writes a sign saying “cut it out” and then says “I should have taught it how to read.” Then she hits it with a hammer and says “I should have programmed it to feel pain.” I may read just these pages, and share it in a conversation with the kids, but not read the full story.
Click here for LOTS of ideas for hands-on STEM activities to learn about Robots.