Frequently Asked Questions
Why are the illustrations and format so low key?
Our book may not seem like a lot of other commercial picture storybooks: the pilosas are cute, the colors are bright, but overall, the illustrations are plainer, pretty realistic, and they tend to depict nothing more than the events described in the text. There are two big reasons for this.
One is that research with kids suggests that when picture books have extra attention-grabbing features --or when they look less realistic-- young children don't learn as much from them. It was important to us to design our book so that children would learn about natural selection from it (and research findings suggest that they do!)
Another reason for keeping the illustrations un-flashy is that it reduces the chance that children will develop misunderstandings about what is happening on each page. Natural selection is a complicated idea - so everything in the book is kept simple. This is so that when an adult reads the book with a child, kids can follow why the animals begin to look different over time.
How do I use the book?
The book was designed for parents, caregivers and educators to read aloud to children. This is because young kids generally learn best when looking at something with an adult who is paying attention to the same thing. Point out what is happening in the pictures as you read the story! Respond to questions when you have read it! Educators, If you would like to use the book in your classroom, we have free learning activities above on our website (https://www.evolvingmindsproject.org/teaching-materials).
What kind of research studies were run with this book?
We have conducted many scientific studies with this book, to explore whether kids learn from it. They do!! Kids as young as 5- or 6-years of age learn a lot about living things from the book. By 7- to 8-years of age, they are amazing at learning natural selection from it and using it to explain why all sorts of other animals have special body parts! You can find more about our research findings here: https://www.evolvingmindsproject.org/research
What does it mean that this book was developed through research?
This book was designed, scientifically tested with kids, re-edited, and tested again, until we arrived something that accurately explained the basic mechanism of natural selection to children. Once we were confident that we had developed a book that would not mislead kids (people often misunderstand natural selection without realizing it!), we then conducted scientific studies with hundreds of children to see if they really learned and for how long. The kids were amazing!! The book that you see here today is the version from which children learned the most. You can find more about the scientific research behind the book here: https://www.evolvingmindsproject.org/research
Why not use a real animal?
Kids already have a lot of ideas about animals that they already know ("Everyone knows why giraffes have long necks! They stretched them so that they could reach to the top of those yummy trees!"). These preconceptions can sometimes get in the way of learning something new and complicated. By using a realistic but unfamiliar animal, we made it easier for children to really hear the scientific explanation of how animals change over time without interference from other preconceived ideas .
Your book only covers adaptation (how animals evolve specialized body parts). Why not cover really big or controversial evolutionary ideas (e.g. where new species or people come from?)
How the Pilosas Evolved Skinny Noses is the first book in a series of books on evolution for young children. It focuses on the basic mechanism of adaptation by natural selection because scientific research suggests people often misunderstand it. The mechanism is also the building block to understanding even bigger evolutionary ideas like where new species come from and why humans and chimpanzees are related. Later books in the series focus on these ideas but if children don't understand the basic idea then they will have trouble understanding them.
Are there any other books in the sequence available?
We're glad you asked! How the Dormits Evolved Long Backs is a companion to How the Piloses Evolved Skinny Noses and is currently available on Amazon. We are also currently developing and scientifically testing new books in the sequence!
Do young children actually understand the book?
YES! We were very excited to see that 5-8 year old children understood the logic of natural selection after being read our book. 5- and 6-year-olds were able to accurately answer questions about what happened to the pilosas and learned a great deal about living things. 7- and 8-year-olds not only understood the book but were able to accurately apply the logic to new scenarios with different animals! Read more about our research here: (https://www.evolvingmindsproject.org/research)
Do 8 year olds understand more of the language used in the book compared to a 5 year old? Or is it just as understandable to a 5 year old?
The language in the book is kept simple. We do not use any technical terms. However, How the Piloses Evolved Skinny Noses was designed so that an adult could read along with a 5- to 8-year-old and explain any words that seem hard to understand. The goal of the book was to provide an accurate explanation of basic natural selection for children. As a result, we do not use any of the "short-cut" words or ideas that authors sometimes use in books on evolution for kids. Those "short-cuts" can backfire and lead to life-long mistakes in the way people think about evolution.
Who designed this book?
The book was developed by a small team of developmental psychology experts who have talked to thousands of children over the years (and have our own kids!) In designing the book, we applied principles from research on young children's thinking and learning. We also drew on studies that examine why evolution is so hard to understand so that we could avoid some pitfalls. Once the book was designed, we read it to hundreds of children to see if they learned about natural selection from it. Our studies found that they do. The team was lead by Professor Deb Kelemen who is a developmental psychologist and Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Boston University.