Writing STEM for Young Readers

For some reason, we adults frequently assume that young readers cannot handle complex scientific topics. Isn’t picture book STEM all about shape hunts and sprouting seeds? Not that there is anything wrong with those topics but there’s also a need for things that are deeper.

For an example of what I mean, check out Melissa Stewart’s Whale Fall. Here is the publisher’s description:

This fascinating nonfiction picture book filled with stunning illustrations details the end of life for a whale, also known as a whale fall, when its body sinks to the ocean floor and becomes an energy-rich food source for organisms living in the deep sea.

For some young readers, and some adults, this description would be more than enough. But Stewart writes a book for the science hungry child, eager for an up close view of what happens after.

And it isn’t a maudlin account in the least. It is simple, straightforward, and factual. “For the whale, it’s the end of a seventy year life.” First the hag fish arrive. Then come the sleeper sharks. And later it’s the snubnose eelpouts.

A snubnose eelpout! Is that not the best name ever?

Cold temperatures and high pressures on the sea bottom mean that it can take a whale 50 years to fully decompose. Steward lays in so many fascinating facts!

Again, this isn’t going to be the right book for every single child. But the science-minded child even at 4 would love it. And even if they don’t grow to be oceanographers, these science minded types will almost certain still adore science. It’s who they are.

And fortunately there are writers like Melissa Stewart crafting books just for them. STEM for preschoolers (this book is listed for ages 4 to 8-years-old) can take many different forms and tell incredibly complex stories. If your child is a junior scientist consider adding this to your reading list.