The following is the third part in a series of blogs from Capital City Press featured writer Joan Marie Galat. You can read part one called Satisfy Your Curiosity with Children's Non-Fiction and the second part, Pathways to Science Writing for Kids.
You may associate children’s nonfiction with the dry textbooks of long ago but it would be an unfortunate misstep to assume contemporary titles are the same. Today’s children’s non-fiction is rich with writing that inspires curiosity.
As a children’s author, one of my roles, as I work through the process of explaining concepts and defining vocabulary, is to avoid presuming prior knowledge. With enormous care, I dissect complicated content and put it back together in approachable parts. My job is to serve as a translator for scientists. Publishers help by investing in top-quality design and imagery to ensure young readers enjoy a positive reading experience.
Writing a book can be a lonely sport but authors overcome this by accepting invitations to speak. We want to share the exciting things our research uncovers. Authors who write science for young readers are uniquely able to support curriculum and learning standards that promote STEM and STEAM topics (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math).
In Part 3 of this blog series on Canadian science writers for young readers, I invite you to eavesdrop on my final question with a group of Canadian science authors. Discover what we bring to the classroom and how we promote both science and literacy.
Science-themed Author Visits
(Meet the authors in Part 1 and see Becoming a Science Writer in Part 2.)
How do you use your books to engage children when you visit a classroom?
Claire Eamer: I use the books illustrations to bring animals to life and props like a stuffed sloth and measuring chain to show their size. My goal is to make these animals real and solid, not just a scientific fairy tale.
Etta Kaner: After talking about the writing and book publishing process, I organize a class into groups who do experiments then report back to the rest of the class. Or, we do experiments as a class, using volunteers. If it's a very young children’s book, I involve them in chanting the book’s patterned parts.
Jacob Berkowitz: I love engaging kids in science through theatre and laughter. For both of my books I’ve developed related shows that involve lots of audience participation. I play Chief Bottom, Dung Detective, in The Mysterious Case of Who Dung It? The Lost Alien involves a one-eyed alien puppet. The audience helps her find her way home, and learns about planets around other stars and what makes a living planet like Earth.
Joan Marie Galat: My presentations begin with “the big reveal”—how to find the North Star and identify constellations. Performing as a storyteller, I share ancient myths about the night sky. I also aim to encourage young writers by explaining how I came to be published in grade eight. My grand finale—juggling star-shaped beanbags—allows me to illustrate gravity and discuss falling stars. It also reinforces literacy, once I explain I learned to juggle from reading a book!
Watch for Joan Marie Galat’s next blog post, How to Host a Successful Author Visit.
EPL Featured Writer, Joan Marie Galat is the author of more than 20 books. Her titles include Solve This! Wild and Wacky Challenges for the Genius Engineer in You (National Geographic Kids), the Dot to Dot in the Sky series (Whitecap Books), and Dark Matters—Nature’s Reaction to Light Pollution (Red Deer Press). She writes from Parkland County, near Edmonton.