Hey everyone! Welcome to my second discussion post!
Here’s a little interesting fact about me…I am a science geek. I love love my science. As difficiult and annoying as they get, I love learning about it. I love biology, chemistry, anatomy, physiology, etc. Branching out of those amazing (and hard) classes, comes most science majors! Biomedical Engineering, Biochemistry, Organic Chemistry, etc. Jobs in science are EXTREMELY important. You all may or may not have heard of the acronym STEM, which stands for SCIENCE | TECHNOLOGY | ENGINEERING | MATHEMATICS. There’s a substantial amount of work being put into schools getting kids to want to pick them as future careers.
Now, what the HECK does this have to do with reading? A lot of kids turn to books to escape their reality and experience a whole new world. From reading, a child’s imagination can go anywhere. If they see a character enjoying what they’re learning/studying/doing, chances are they’ll want to try it out and see for their selves if it’s fit for them. So many writers are writers because they read books as kids and wanted to write for others. It may have taken a while, but it planted that career seed.
Now from my experience, I know that there’s a huge weight on kids to do well in science classes at young ages. And many museums encourage kids to learn more about science to increase their chances of pursuing it. I work at a science museum, so I have first hand experience of this. I personally don’t attribute my love for science to my childhood reading because the books that I did read as a child didn’t feature eager scientists or mathematicians.
A lot of times, in contemporaries, we’ll get a character yearning to get accepted into Harvard or Yale or Cornell, but they’re such a well rounded student. Don’t get me wrong, being a college freshman, and undecided at the moment, I still know I want to pursue science. SOME kids should have a sense of what field they want to study. So, why aren’t we seeing more STEM interest in books? Like I said, it’s needed SO much in the industry and so many jobs are requiring science and technological background. And if reading can possibly affect a child or teenager’s interests, shouldn’t we include STEM interest? Not to say that writers should be forcing it in their writing.
I personally haven’t read a ton of books with characters interested in STEM, but there are a few out there! I know Kady from Illuminae is a computer genius. GO KADY!!! I loved seeing a girl interested in computers and kick butt at the same time. There’s also Mercedes from Firsts which wants to study Chemistry! (Very hard, but STILL – amazing!) Besides those two characters, we have Joanna from Salt to the Sea which had experience in medical field which is AMAZING. Can you tell how amazing I think STEM interests are? They’re pretty amazing. A few other characters that have been brought to my attention are characters within Code Name Verity (that feature careers within engineering), James from The Countess Conspiracy who is a scientist, Gottie from The Square Root of Summer who is interested in math and physics and Lyssa from the Razia series who is a sceintist. Basically, just a bunch of kick butt jobs and interests.
Isabel Bandeira, a mechanical engineer and author of Bookishly Ever After really has great things to say about this problem. We may not realize it, but mention of STEM can do wondrous things for children and teenagers alike. And STEM interest is needed. Bandeira talks about how “Careers aren’t the center of a story. Sometimes,they’re just tiny mentions… but mentions that can still carry an unconscious bias. When we write, we have a chance to subtly tell that girl who is interested in science ‘yes, you exist. And you can do amazing things.'” She then goes on to say “Inspire. Lead. Guide. Don’t forget the non-traditional as a career option. Make the mom an engineer, computer scientist, astronaut, mathematician. Let your female characters love science class. The subtle can be more important than we realize.”
So authors, think about it. You may have hated science and math, but your character might love it. And you might spark the love for science in a 14 year old girl or boy yearning to explore the field. I’m not saying there’s something wrong with other professions, but STEM holds both a special place in my heart, Bandeira’s, and many others. So think about it. We desperately need more of these loved characters.