Guest Post By: Erin Twamley
From the #ownvoices to #readyourworld to specific trends like #WomeninSTEM, book creators and readers are hungry for the production and consumption of diverse literature.
As an author and an educator myself of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math or STEM publications, I have found that especially in the nonfiction children’s book world our biggest challenge may be us as creatives. We shape not only the words, illustrations but the accolades around diverse literature. We have the power to do so much more in driving that diversity, especially in the creation of STEM works. I am sharing four observations for creators of books, whether you are a writer, illustrator, reviewer or publisher, and even a reader to consider.
STEM Diversity in Multicultural Books
- Diversity is NOT monolithic. Look up or ask a reader, publisher or another author how they define diversity and you will be surprised at the spectrum of answers. In the book world, research, readers and creators have focused on what the characters look like, #representation matters. We as creators need to ensure that our characters embody the cultural nuances, from language, beliefs, abilities, gender, and age, beyond just how they appear. All of these shape experiences and connections with our readers. My point, it is not enough to just have a diverse character on the page, but we must authentically tell or share their story.
- Not all scientists are dead or old. It may seem obvious and don’t get me wrong, I love all the recognition and push for nonfiction children’s books autobiographies (I have written one myself). But I keep asking who are the scientists of today? We forget about #ActualLivingScientists. As a young reader, don’t you want to know who is leading efforts to revitalize our coral reefs or creating the spacesuits that will fit our women astronauts? Our readers need to see that it is not always just “ancient” scientists making discoveries and shaping our future.
- Think about how you depict and write about technology!
Many of our readers (children’s book) are digital natives. Our readers use technology and don’t know a world without it from videogames to cell phones to artificial intelligence. Instead of using illustrations that depict magic or sentences that overlook the function of technology — share about it! WiFi or computers, for example, don’t just STOP working! Share a plot twist, a fact or an illustration that explains how or why the WiFI might have been interrupted (e.g., a power outage from a storm) or where the satellite actually flies (e.g. Outerspace or near-Earth?) You can help readers see and learn about the technology they and the characters you write about using.
- Out of the lab! Where do stories happen? A house, a school, a library, a yard or a nearby forest. If talking about science, we see characters in a lab or dreaming of outer space. So much of our science happens in everyday scenes. Use renewable energy (e.g., solar panels on a house), a doctor’s office with the latest equipment (e.g., a robotic surgery machine) or the inside of a rocket ship to show where STEM happens. Kids need to imagine and SEE where science happens, most of it is outside of a lab and not in a white lab coat.
About Erin Twamley
Erin Twamley is working to create a new generation of Everyday STEM Superheroes. As an author and educator, her hands-on STEM encounters, nonfiction children’s books, and related publications engage the next generation of learners in protecting and creating a sustainable planet. In 2018 she established ErinEDU, an educational consulting group with a mission to cultivate curiosity and asking questions by sharing the adventures of diverse professionals in STEM Careers and their STEM Superpowers.
Ms. Twamley loves to travel the world and has lived on three continents. You will find Erin in the European Union hosting interactive author and STEM encounters for US military children and adults of all ages. Learn more about her writings and encounters by visiting her website at www.erinedu.org or join STEM Superheroes on social media!
Facebook link @STEMSuperhero
Twitter Link: @STEMsuperheros
Instagram Link @everydaystemsuperheroes