Monday, April 14, 2014

Three ways to add real science to a picture book without putting kids to sleep


Guest post by an anonymous mom who just happens to be a neuroscientist.

Kids have a short attention span, and when it comes to factual stuff like science, it can sometimes be a challenge to truly engage their busy brains without inducing boredom. In order to keep a child’s attention, authors of children’s books must incorporate interesting and colorful content, and it always helps if humor is involved. Presenting the facts does not limit a writer’s creativity, nor should it ever prevent them from being silly – oftentimes a key characteristic for attracting and fascinating children.

Here’s How #1:  Color

Applying color does not necessarily need to be interpreted literally,

although it can. Depending on the targeted age of the publication, color could simply mean improving the written content and choosing vocabulary that is relatable and interesting. In the case of illustrations, the more vibrant, the better.

Be descriptive and use modifying terminology that is pertinent to the life of a child. Don’t be afraid to be gross – bathroom humor and generally disgusting stuff tend to enthrall the minds of little people. After all, when presenting scientific information, not everything is always glamorous or pleasant.

Here’s How #2:  Imagery

Choose images and depictions that are attractive. Let your words paint a vivid picture that is easy to imagine in your head.

Thankfully, modern technology has provided scientists with a plethora of amazing microscopic images (example) that have been digitally enhanced to produce stunning figures and realistic portrayals of scientific function beyond the average capacity of the human eye. Although many of these images are more appropriate for older children, young kids will still find great curiosity in the various shapes, colors, and textures.

Here’s How #3:  Personification

Implement various fictional characters and relatable comparisons so children can correlate certain processes with common experience. For example, our immune system responds to foreign invaders much like the characters from Modern Marvel’s recent movie, The Avengers. There is a clear battle of good versus evil, and children are much more likely to recognize this biologic purpose in terms of superhero combat.

Find ways to incorporate ideas like family, friendship, food, and playtime which are all things that children need and enjoy. Science is such a broad topic and there are so many interesting fields associated with this subject. If you can successfully find a way to relate and compare scientific data to the desires and preferences of a child, you have the potential of opening many doors for their intellectual future.

Hope you enjoyed this guest post!  I’ll have another one coming up next week to cover for me during the craziness of this season we call Passover… :-)

How do you write “boring” science in a way that kids won’t realize they’re learning???

Photo credit: Stefan Krause, Germany (License: FAL 1.3)


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