Nowadays, we find Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) learning materials everywhere.
Whether it be games or activities, the mediums to introduce children to STEM are continuously evolving. But an untraditional, yet effective way, to expose children to STEM is through literature.
But why is literature an effective way to expose kids to STEM? Aren’t they better off doing hands-on activities?
I think literature is a great way to introduce STEM to children at an early age. One of the primarily reasons is this: Literature provides children with visuals. They are able to picture themselves as characters. For example, after reading Nancy Drew, children may feel confident to solve their own mysteries. The same can be done with STEM. When a book presents a character interested in STEM learning or pursuing a STEM field, this can spark interest in young readers to explore STEM subjects.
Literature also allows children to start a conversation around the book. After being engaged in a story, they form opinions and start asking questions centered around a book’s themes. These factors motivated me to use literature as a way to encourage children, especially those of color, to explore STEM.
After graduating with my bachelor’s in civil engineering in 2019, I found myself among the 2% of black women working in science and engineering occupations. This data was released by the National Science Foundation in 2013. I was curious how I could encourage young girls, especially those of color, to explore engineering and other male-dominated fields. In doing so, I needed a resource that is easily accessible and affordable. Gradually, I narrowed the possible mechanisms down to children’s books. By Spring 2021, I completed my first children’s book called, “Girls Can Be Engineers.” The cover is graced by a young girl of color, standing confidently with a hard hat on her head.
Books allow us to change and challenge conventional images. When asked to picture a STEM professional, girls and children of color can find it difficult because this image is rarely presented.
The book, “Girls Can Be Engineers,” stars a young girl named Hannah who is in search of a career for her school's upcoming Career Day. Each time she chooses a career, she becomes discouraged because her chosen careers seem to be only for boys. With the help of her mother, a structural engineer, she learns she can do anything. This storyline seemed fitting for a children’s book because this situation can be a child’s reality. It actually originates from a number of my childhood experiences, like when I was surprised to hear a male classmate wanted to be a nurse like his mom and another in which I focused on “female appropriate” careers for my own Career Day at school.
The responses from the book have confirmed the impact literature has on one's mindset. After a third-grade student read the book, she became motivated to learn more about engineering and consider becoming an engineer in the future. Other girls of color have even viewed themselves as the main character.
Next time you visit your local bookstore, be sure to ask about the books centered around STEM!
“Girls Can Be Engineers” is available at the following retailers:
Jamila H. Lindo was born in Jamaica and grew up in both London and New York City. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering with minors in Environmental Engineering and Religious Studies from Manhattan College. She is currently a graduate student at Columbia University studying Construction Administration. Jamila has a passion for encouraging young girls, especially those of color, to explore STEM fields. In the past month, Jamila has been able to donate over 150 copies of “Girls Can Be Engineers” to local after-school programs and organizations promoting children’s literacy across the United States and Africa.
A note from ThinkFun
At ThinkFun, we love it when learning and fun collide. It’s why we do what we do. Every game, puzzle and brainteaser we create is aimed at igniting a spark in a young mind. Still curious? Check us out on the web, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube or Instagram.