GUEST POSTS: NSTA Linking Literacy, NSTA National Convention, Boston, MA. 9 am – 3 pm, April 4, 2020.
The National Science Teacher’s Association has invited authors of Outstanding Science Trade Books and Best Stem Books to discuss literacy and children’s books at a special Literacy Event. 14 of these authors have contributed guest posts to run from January 7 – April 2, 2020.
See the full author list and the date on which they’ll post at Linking Literacy 2020.
Guest post by Alexandra Siy
Everyone knows that picture books aren’t just for kids! Older children and adults love them, but does it work the other way? Can early elementary students learn from science nonfiction chapter books? The answer is yes, when we read out loud and use the valuable information provided in the back matter, and on the author’s website to make the science accessible. Reaching, and reading, for the stars builds confidence and interest in science, and introduces topics that generally aren’t covered in early picture books.
Even if early elementary students can’t fully grasp all of the scientific details, they will be enriched by listening to the story of the Voyagers and the people who dreamed them up. They’ll want to see pictures of interstellar space, and gas giants, and magnetic fields. And they’ll want to listen to the Golden Record and then come-up with the songs, sounds, and images that they’d include on their “Golden Record” to send to the stars.
I reached for the stars when I decided to write about the twin Voyagers—the spacecraft that have been flying through space for over forty years. I was drawn to their story because they each carried a “Golden Record” of music, sounds, greetings, and electronic pictures from Earth. A record album flying through space…so cool!
It was fun thinking about the aliens who billions of years from now might discover Earth by playing the Golden Record. But I also had to grapple with concepts such as gravity assist, plasma waves, termination shock, and the magnetic highway. How do you explain this stuff to 12-year olds who haven’t had a semester of physics? I discovered the answers in the stories behind the science, about the thinkers whose imaginations made the Voyager mission possible. From Galileo and his telescope, to Carl Sagan who convinced NASA to photograph the Earth from 3.7 billion miles away, to Candy Hansen who found the “pale blue dot” in a sunbeam—stories are what connect us to science.
I encourage teachers and parents to help their elementary students reach for the stars by reading a chapter of science nonfiction out loud to them everyday. Supplement with images and videos from the author’s website and back pages, and you’ll be fueling the imaginations of our next generation of scientists!
Alexandra Siy is an award-winning science writer for children. Her recent title, Voyager’s Greatest Hits: The Epic Trek to Interstellar Space was an NSTA BEST STEM book. All of her titles explore science as art by using primary source imagery to reveal the extreme—from outer space to the microscopic world. Her innovative text structures include narrative nonfiction and expository literature with an emphasis on design. The co-creator of the Nonfiction Minute, a project of iNK Think Tank, Alexandra has combined her academic training in science (she has a BA in biology and an MA in science education) with her passion for story-telling and photography. She also holds an Advanced Graduate Certificate in Children’s Literature from SUNY Stony Brook Southampton’s MFA in Creative Writing. Alexandra has lived in many states, including Alaska. She currently lives in New York State’s Hudson Valley with her teenage son and their cat.
Please visit Alexandra Siy’s website for more information about her work.