Bears | Short Reads

Imagine sticking your nose in the air and sniffing the smell of a hamburger cooking a mile away. Some bears can do just that. Bears have a keen sense of smell. They use this sense to help them find food. Bears are meat eaters, or carnivores. But most bears also eat fruits, nuts, and other foods. Bears live in North America, South America, Europe, and Asia. They do not live in Africa, Australia, or Antarctica.


Bears are powerful animals with lots of thick fur and a short, stumpy tail. They have big heads with a long snout (nose and mouth) and small ears and eyes. They have four short legs that end in paws, each with five sharp claws. They use their claws to climb trees, dig up roots, or catch prey. Male bears are much bigger than female bears.


Bears usually live alone unless they are mothers with cubs. Each bear claims an area, or territory, as its own. It chases other bears away. A bear stands up on its hind legs to look frightening. It uses its claws to slash at enemies.

Bears roam over large areas looking for food. They need to eat a lot of food for energy. Most bears can climb trees to find honey in a bee’s nest or other food. Polar bears and brown bears are too heavy to climb trees. These bears are the biggest of all the bears. They can weigh up to 1,760 pounds (800 kilograms).


Bears that live in cold places go into dens and sleep through most of the winter. They make their dens in caves, trees trunks, and other hollow places. They eat plenty of food during the summer to store up body fat. Their body fat gives them energy to sleep through the cold winter.


Bears mate in the spring after they wake up from winter sleep. The cubs are born the next winter in the mother’s den. Females usually have between one and three cubs at a time. The newborn cubs are tiny, blind, and helpless. They have no teeth or hair. But they are warm and safe in the mother bear’s den. They feed on their mother’s milk. The milk is rich and helps the baby bears grow quickly. When they are three months old, the cubs are ready to go outside the den and look for food. The cubs stay close by their mother, however.

Cubs live with their mother until they are two or three years old. During this time, they learn what to eat and where to find food. Then they go off and find their own territory. When females are between four and seven years old, they are ready to have cubs of their own. Bears in the wild may live to be from 25 to 40 years old, but scientists do not know for sure.


There are eight major kinds, or species, of bears. These species are giant panda, spectacled bear, sun bear, sloth bear, Asiatic black bear, American black bear, brown bear, and polar bear. The best-known bears are giant pandas, American black bears, brown bears, and polar bears.


The giant panda has shaggy white fur with a black patch around each eye and a ring of black around the shoulders, front legs, and chest. The biggest giant pandas are about 5 feet (1.5 meters) long and weigh up to 220 pounds (100 kilograms).

The giant panda lives in the mountains of south central China. It eats the leaves and stems of bamboo trees. The giant panda is an endangered species. There may only be about 1,000 of these animals left in the wild.


Most American black bears have black fur. But some have reddish or yellowish fur. Males can be 6 feet (1.8 meters) long and weigh up to 660 pounds (300 kilograms).

American black bears live in Canada, the United States, and northern Mexico. Scientists think there may be as many as 700,000 black bears in the United States. American black bears eat grasses, berries, acorns, and walnuts.


Brown bears have fur that is light or dark brown. They also have a big hump on their shoulders. Their snout is turned upward. Brown bears live in Asia, Europe, and North America. Grizzly bears are a kind of brown bear.

Brown bears are among the largest bears. Large males weigh up to 1,760 pounds (800 kilograms). The Alaskan brown bear and other brown bears that live along seacoasts eat salmon. Brown bears that live inland eat plants and insects. There are more than 120,000 brown bears in Russia and about 32,000 in Alaska.


Polar bears have white fur. They live in the Arctic near the North Pole. Their fur blends in with the ice and snow all around them. Polar bears are huge. Big males can be 7 feet (2 meters) long and weigh as much as a big brown bear.

Polar bears eat mostly meat. Their favorite foods are seal and walrus. Polar bears can hunt for food on land or in the icy water. Polar bears are very good swimmers. Their thick fur keeps them warm and dry.


People have hunted bears since prehistoric times. They ate bear meat and used bear fur as robes or blankets to keep warm. Once there were many bears all over the world. Today, there are few. People destroyed the places where bears lived when they cleared land for farms and towns. Governments and conservation groups are working to save the bears that are left.

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Penguins | Short Reads

Penguins | Short Reads

Would you put on your bathing suit and jump into icy water? Would you slide down a snowy hill on your bare stomach? Imagine how cold that would feel! You would freeze. Penguins, however, do this all the time. Penguins swim in cold water. They slide on their bellies over ice and snow.

Bicycles | Short Reads

Bicycles | Short Reads

Riding a bicycle is a great way to get around. Bicycles are quiet, fun to ride, and you don’t need gas or electricity to make them go. You just use the power of your legs!
Bicycles have two wheels. One wheel is in front of the other. You swing your leg over the bike, sit down, and start pedaling.

Mississippi River | Short Reads

Mississippi River | Short Reads

The Mississippi River is the most important river in North America. It provided a major highway for early explorers of North America. Many cities grew up along it. Furs and farm goods traveled from these settlements down the river to markets. Today, more freight travels on the Mississippi than on any other waterway within the continent.

Geronimo | Short Reads

Geronimo | Short Reads

Geronimo was a leader of the Apache Indians. He belonged to an Apache group known as the Chiricahua. In the 1870s, the United States government tried to force the Chiricahua off their homelands and onto reservations. Geronimo fought back.

Plate Tectonics | Short Reads

Plate Tectonics | Short Reads

Stand very still. You may think you are not moving, but the ground may be moving ever so slightly under your feet. The ground you are standing on is part of Earth’s crust. The crust is the solid surface or outer, rocky layer of Earth. Pieces of Earth’s crust are always slowly slipping and sliding around. The idea that pieces of Earth’s crust move is called the theory of plate tectonics.

Orchestra | Short Reads

Orchestra | Short Reads

The sound of an orchestra playing is a thrilling experience. An orchestra is a group of musicians who play musical instruments. Some orchestras have more than 100 musicians. Yet when they play together, the orchestra sounds like one mighty musical instrument.

Gravity | Short Reads

Gravity | Short Reads

Try to jump as high as you can. Bend your knees. Now jump! No matter how hard you try, or how high you jump, you always come back down again.
Something called gravity pulls you back down. Gravity holds you down on Earth. Without gravity, you would fly off into space. You would jump up and just keep on going. That might sound like fun, but you could not live very high up. For one thing, you need to breathe air. The higher you go, the less air there is. You need gravity to keep you down on Earth.

Sheep | Short Reads

Sheep | Short Reads

Remember Mary’s little lamb? It followed her everywhere. Lambs follow their mothers. If a newborn lamb loses its mother, it will form a bond with a human being who adopts it. Just like Mary’s lamb, it will try to tag after its human parent. Lambs are baby sheep.

Socrates | Short Reads

Socrates | Short Reads

What is love? What is truth? What is justice? Socrates, a philosopher in ancient Greece, asked big questions like these and tried to make people think.
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Golf | Short Reads

Golf | Short Reads

A woman grips a long, slender club and stares down at a small, white ball on the ground. She swings the club back and then forward, striking the ball with a loud CRACK! The ball launches into the distance and comes to rest down a narrow stretch of grass.

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