Want to get little thinkers interested in STEM, especially little girls? Write an amazing story about it! Andrea Beaty, best-selling author of Iggy Peck, Architect and Rosie Revere, Engineer shares her thoughts on creating picture books that inspire young minds.
What inspired Rosie Revere, Engineer?
I wrote Rosie after Iggy Peck, Architect. My editor and I had talked about doing another story with Iggy, but I felt that he had told his story and I didn’t want to do the same thing again. Then, we struck on the idea of exploring the other kids in Miss Lila Greer’s class. I spent many weeks looking at the kids in the class and what they do in the book and I hunted for clues about their personalities. I stuck upon the obviously shy girl with the hair swooping over her eye. I asked what her story might be. I decided that I wanted her to be an engineer because David Roberts would create something wild and wonderful for her. The book came together when I added Great-Great-Aunt Rose as a way to thank my Aunt Emaline who was a Rosie the Riveter during WWII. Writing this book was a process of discovery for me and a completely surprising joy ride. I’m glad that readers feel like that as well.
Your website is chock-full of resources to support the book. What objectives (educational or other) did you have in creating this?
I think that Rosie Revere, Engineer taps into some very important themes like perseverance, history, girl empowerment, engineering, fun, and others. I always like to include resources that let teachers use my books in the classroom. Some of the resources, I developed, but many more have been shared by educators and literacy specialists and even social scientists as they have used the story with their students. I have been delighted by the connections this book makes with people everywhere. I am striving to expand the links and resources and welcome them from anyone who would like to share!
What has response been like, from children, parents and educators? Any surprises?
Response to Rosie Revere, Engineer has been astonishing. It debuted on the New York Times best sellers list and spent 63 weeks on the list over the next two years which great. It had lots of critical recognition and was an iTunes Top 15 books selection and included in many of state reading award lists. But the best recognition, for me, has come from parents who send me letters about their kids—especially their daughters—who have decided they want to be engineers and start building things. Even very young girls run around their houses yelling “We can do it!” That is very satisfying! I hope that one day, I might meet a young woman engineer inspired by Rosie. That would be the best thing of all!
Of course, the very coolest surprise of all was having Rosie Revere, Engineer selected for the Story Time From Space program. This amazing new program sends picture books to the International Space Station. Astronauts then video themselves reading the stories and make the videos available to kids, families, and educators worldwide. Soon, they will also include experiments that accompany the books and make those videos available for educators. Rosie Revere, Engineer was one of seven books launched to the ISS on December 6, 2015! In the coming months astronauts will read the book and when videos are available, I will be shouting from the mountain top! You will also be able to learn about them at StoryTimeFromSpace or my website.
Here are some links about the launch:
- Video of rocket launch from Kennedy Space Center to the International Space Center. The rocket contains a copy of Rosie Revere, Engineer for Story Time From Space!
- Sample of books read by Story Time From Space – Rosie will be read and recorded some time during the coming months and made available on the STFS website for everyone to enjoy:
Many educators and advocates talk of rebranding STEM so that it encourages and supports a wider variety of learners. What’s your take on this shift? How do you see your work fitting into it?
Every effort we can make to bring new people into STEM is a good thing. Currently, too many people feel that STEM is not something they can or should be a part of. As a result, we are missing out of an enormous knowledge pool which could be helping solve the daunting problems we face on this planet. People feel excluded for lots of reasons, but it’s not the way it has to be. I believe that the key is getting kids into STEM from very young ages. Parents must play a big role in encouraging young kids to become comfortable with STEM. The problem is that many do not feel comfortable with STEM themselves. They look at themselves as “not” engineers or scientists instead of as “new” engineers and scientists. If parents are willing to share the journey of exploring STEM with their kids, it will help their young ones engage thoroughly with STEM. I believe that if that happens, we will stop seeing the drop in STEM engagement by girls in middle school. Currently, many of them who might have enjoyed STEM activities in elementary school, feel uncomfortable continuing their pursuits. Peer pressure is a part of that. I want girls (and all students) to feel so comfortable with science and engineering by the time they get to grade school that they would never be able to lose interest. Doing so would be like ripping away part of their DNA. Unimaginable. The key is starting early and teaching kids that science and engineering are processes. They are not about answers, but about questions. Nobody has more questions that kids. That should be celebrated. One of the delightful things about Rosie Revere, Engineer and Iggy Peck, Architect, is how they encourage kids and their families and educators to begin that process of discovery.
What’s next for you? Any more STEM-related projects on the horizon?
AHA! A big surprise is on the horizon. In fact, we will be revealing the next character from Miss Lila Greer’s classroom at the American Library Association Midwinter Conference in January! I’m thrilled about the next character’s adventure and think other people will be too. The book will be out in September 2016 and I will be making appearances at festivals and conferences during the summer and fall to promote the story! Also, I am working on an activity book for Rosie and one for Iggy! They are so much fun to create. Further down the pike, I will have a new book called One Girl about the importance of educating girls around the world and the power of books to bring light to the darkest places.