“Your brilliant first flop was a raging success! Come on, let’s get busy and on to the next!”
She handed a notebook to Rosie Revere, who smiled at her aunt as it all became clear. Life might have its failures, but this was not it. The only true failure can come if you quit.”
~~ Andrea Beaty in Rosie Revere, Engineer
( A version of this article was first published in Kingston Neighbours magazines, October, 2020.)
If you have school-aged kids, chances are you’ve heard the STEM acronym already! STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, but it goes beyond just those subjects to encompass an educational philosophy that is interdisciplinary, hands-on and inquiry-based, emphasizing problem-solving and critical thinking. It’s been a pedagogical focus for the past 2 decades, both in Canada and world-wide. It’s also the driving force behind the recent changes to the Ontario Math curriculum.
STEM is the way of the future. According to Let’s Talk Science, a Canadian non-profit providing evidence-based STEM programs, “STEM education is a crucial factor in preparing employees and citizens to navigate a more knowledge- and technologically-intensive world.”
Parents can do many things to foster an interest in STEM. Talk to your kids about the importance of STEM. Watch STEM TV shows, movies and documentaries together; Netflix, Hoopla and other streaming services have numerous titles! And encourage your kids to participate in STEM activities; most communities have no- or low-cost programs. Check our your local library or community recreation guides for ideas!
Importance of Books
And of course, read STEM books with your kids — lots of them! Some may erroneously assume there’s no role for “old-fashioned” books in STEM education.
Research demonstrates an integrated approach to science and literacy is best. Students who participate in hands-on STEM activities and read STEM books have:
- larger scientific vocabularies;
- better comprehension of STEM concepts;
- greater enjoyment of STEM topics.
Print and e-books are both great. Reading informational (non-fiction) texts is most strongly correlated with improved STEM performance, so follow your kids’ lead and grab any fact book they’re interested in: astronomy, robots, video games, animals, plants, structures, building and bridges, chemistry experiments, weather, rocks and minerals, sports statistics, anything!
STEM-themed Fiction Books
Narrative (fiction) texts also provide benefit, especially for pre-school and primary students who find the familiar story structure easier to access. Some of my favourites include:
- Ada Twist, Scientist, Andrea Beaty
- After the Fall: How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again, Dan Santat
- Iggy Peck, Architect, Andrea Beaty
- The Most Magnificent Thing, Ashley Spires
- Peg + Cat series, Jennifer Oxley & Billy Aronson
- Rosie Revere, Engineer, Andrea Beaty
- Sir Cumference series, Cindy Neuschwander
- Warlord’s series, Virginia Walton Pilegard
Chapter Books & Novels
- Girls Who Code series, Stacia Deutsch & others
- Goldie Blox Rules The School, Stacy McAnulty
- Jack and the Geniuses series, Bill Nye
- Nick and Tesla series, Bob Pflugfelder & Steve Hockensmith
- The Questioneer’s chapter book series, Andrea Beaty (Visit Beaty’s website for activity ideas and downloadables, https://www.andreabeaty.com/)
- Secret Coders graphic novel series, Gene Luan Yang
A solid foundation in STEM sets children up for success, no matter which career paths they choose. Books, along with parental encouragement, will help ensure kids enjoy the STEM process.
- The Role of Books and Reading in STEM: An Overview of the Benefits for Children and the Opportunities to Enhance the Field, 2017, University of San Diego USD, https://digital.sandiego.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1001&context=npi-youth
- The Evolution of Stem Education: A Review of Recent International and Canadian Policy Recommendations – Short Report, 2017, Let’s Talk Science, https://letstalkscience.ca/sites/default/files/2019-08/2017%20LTS_Evolution-of-STEM-short_0.pdf