For Parents

BKAF 2

Welcome and hello! My name is Ben Young Landis, and I’m a professional science writer by day, working for a federal government science agency.

By night, I write regularly on the Better Know a Fish blog, which I started in spring 2013 to keep up with my personal passion for fish biology and all things fish. As I write in the introduction to the blog:

I love fish. I eat them. I cook them. I catch them. I like looking at them in aquariums. In museum pickle jars. Swimming with them underwater. I think baby ones are cute. Big ones with sharp teeth scare the daylights out of me. The sudden jolt of one at the end of your fishing line is an electrifying and somber connection to a living creature.

Maybe you don’t feel that way about fish. But certainly, there are many things you might come to appreciate about these marvelous animals.

What I hope to do here is to help everyone explore and learn about the amazing diversity of fish out there. They come in so many surprising shapes, colors, sizes and with unbelievable behaviors — like parental care — to incredible physical structures. And they are one of the few wild creatures where we can keep in our homes with little or no domestication, and one of the few animal meats we still harvest directly from nature and eat in surprising varieties — unlike the mundanely singular categories of chicken/pig/cow.

Fish, indeed, are our friends. They have been a critical part of human nutrition, economies, cultures and knowledge since our start.

Why Write For Kids?

This blog is written with new readers in mind, from ages 4 to 7.

Writing about fish has been a learning-filled — and tasty — adventure, and a fun way to share my experiences and knowledge with my friends. Enough so that a good friend of mine asked me, “Can you write a kids version of your blog, so I can get my four-year-old to read more?”

During my college years, I completed a six-month internship as a teacher’s assistant in a kindergarten class as part of my coursework in Education. While ultimately I never pursued a teaching career, those weekly visits were some of the most rewarding and influential memories in my life.

I often wonder at what age we start losing the wonder and innocence for learning that comes so organically to children. At some point, we stop asking “why” and “what” about the little details of our world. Maybe it’s because our brains start being filled up with Really Important Information like student loans and retirement planning. I don’t know.

But spending time with kindergarten-age kids was a hoot. Why’s and what’s zipped through the air like tennis balls at Wimbledon. Everything is new to them, and to get down to their level, you physically have to kneel and crouch down to their level (the recent AT&T advertising campaign is pretty spot-on).

There is no fun in towering over little ones and preaching grown-up knowledge. Plus, when you start spending time three feet off the ground, your perspective changes. You are much closer to the ground, so you notice all the nooks and crannies and creepy crawlies much more. And when you look up, everything looks so much bigger and more spectacular — and sometimes, more scary.

Most importantly, there is no pretense when talking with little kids. There’s no sales pitch, no messaging needed. Kids will think even the most basic fact is mind-blowing, and love you for it. Everything is cool — just teach me and show me more.

As someone whose day job now is to communicate science in the fast-paced, grown-up world of news media and government bureaucracy, that is mind-blowing. And a pleasant dream.

So, it is equally my pleasure to practice writing for children. Thanks, Hsien and Erin, for the idea, and here it is:  Better Know a Fish — For Kids!

How to Contact Me

If you have a question about this blog, then please shoot me a tweet at @younglandis or email me at younglandis at gmail dot com. I would love to hear your feedback on how to write better for your child.

I also take requests for fish species, and try to write them up as I am able!

— Ben Young Landis

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