Since the beginning of time (okay, don’t quote us on that), education has been divided into subjects. And more often than not, every kid has their favorites. Some perform well in the humanities, like English and history, while others excel in science and math. If you’ve got an avid young reader at home—first of all, congratulations—you may notice a struggle or apprehension when it comes to grasping the mathematical or scientific stuff.
Dissecting frogs or crazy calculations might not be everybody’s digs, but we can’t deny that science, technology, engineering, and math are some of the most valuable skills to have today. These innovative fields are driving the future of the universe, and your child could one day be behind the wheel. No pressure. For now, let’s see if we can let their love of reading branch out into subjects like science, math, and technology.
Books are the magic bridge to every type of learning. STEM is no exception. In fact, studies show that children are able to achieve some comprehension of these subjects before they’re even one year old. So it’s never too early. Here are a few ways to encourage little bookworms to dream big. Like, building-the-universe big.
Why spark STEM learning?
If your child doesn’t seem naturally drawn to these subjects, maybe you’re hesitant to push it. Fair enough. Education systems are stressing the importance of early STEM learning in order to stimulate innovation in society, but there are also some big benefits for your kid.
For one, job opportunities. We know, it’s a little early to start thinking about their career when they’ve yet to master the skill of putting shoes on. But—we want what’s best for them in the long run. Shoes or no shoes, your kid could be the next Einstein. And a little encouragement at a young age could help their left brains truly blossom.
Second, equality. Early education can help make these fields more diverse, which is incredibly important for everyone. Female, Black, and Hispanic workers have been underrepresented in STEM fields, and it’s time we change that. It starts, like everything else, with books.
Choose right, and the stories will do the work for you. If you’re a Literati member, we do some of that choosing for you. When you’re selecting the next story for their shelf and you’re aiming for STEM, here are a few things to keep in mind.
- Non-fiction, non-fiction, non-fiction. This is a good rule of thumb. Start with non-fiction, and chances are there’s some science or engineering hidden in those pages.
- Simple machines. Or, not so simple ones. Planes, trains, and automobiles are fun for kids to read about, plus they’ll learn about how things operate. Look for stories that focus a little bit on the mechanics: yes, the wheels go round and round, but how? Start small, and then build up to spaceships and computers as they grow.
- Fun with numbers! With babies, it starts with counting and there are plenty of great books that teach our 123’s. As they grow, look for stories that get into simple addition, subtraction, or even multiplication and division. Mathematics is made fun when we’re dividing cookies and adding elephants.
- Biographies. Let them see the world through the eyes of some of the people that helped create it. True stories inspire the notion that anything is possible, and one dedicated person can change the world. (Plus, a childhood obsession with Galileo or Bill Gates would be pretty cute.)
- Building blocks. For younger minds, books that teach different shapes, how they form, and how they fit together can develop a deeper understanding of engineering concepts at a young age. For older readers, think literal builders. Look for characters with hard hats, or plotlines that follow the creation of something.
- Lastly—go for the obvious. Sometimes, STEM is in the title. As our emphasis on this type of education keeps expanding, there are more and more children’s books about little inventors, solar-powered experiments, space adventures, and powerful problem solving. Especially if your kids are a little older, there’s no harm in going all out.
As always, don’t stress over choosing the perfect book. Every story is going to ignite their imagination and instill a lifelong love of learning. Following these suggestions and choosing books that inspire an interest in STEM will match all the creative and artistic benefits of reading with logical, analytical ones. Left brain meets right brain… meets baby genius.
What else can help?
To kick the learning up a notch, go beyond the books to bring their lessons to life. There are a few simple ways to do this.
Get crafty. When a book teaches shapes, break out the paper and scissors to recreate those shapes. Simple as it seems, scissors can actually help to teach mechanics, precision, and design skills.
Rebuild the story. Use blocks, Legos, or any simple toys you have and encourage your child to reconstruct a certain scene or a particular building from their favorite book. Replication exercises ignite an early understanding of technology.
Dress the part. Let their own reflection inspire them. Try to occasionally swap out the superman and princess costumes with lab coats, scrubs, goggles, and toy tech. After all, STEM professionals are often the real heroes of tomorrow.
Make a fort. Ah, an old favorite childhood pastime. Challenge your kids to use household things to build the coolest fort possible. Just maybe remove the antique lamp before construction starts.
Get outside. If the story is surrounded by nature science, you should be, too. Point out the animals and trees around you to help them make that crucial connection between illustrated pages and the real-life, amazing world around them.
Most importantly, have fun.
Just like everything else, the educational benefits of reading work best when they’re loving every second of it. First comes a love of reading. From there, perhaps, a love of STEM. And then… they change the world.