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 Shana Keller

Tinkering? Forget it. If a toy broke, my mom threw it out. No matter how badly my siblings and I wanted to take our old Etch-a-Sketch apart—our gadgets and gizmos ended up in the trash. Always. What are you going to do with it? It’s broken! Don’t make a mess! —these were the common reactions to our requests.

It’s no wonder I grew up with the impression that ‘science’ was something other people did in a cold lab with petri dishes, or in a hidden office somewhere behind government walls and granite mountains. Over the years, the ‘science’ I was interested in, what I now know as reverse-engineering, was slowly pushed out of my reach.

So, when Ticktock Banneker’s Clock was nominated as a Best STEM book by the Children’s Book Council in 2017, my wonder came back in unexpected ways. I was excited to hear from teachers about their excitement to use my book, especially when I think back on how badly I wanted to build things and take them apart.

Thanks to the STEM/STEAM movement, there is a shift in how educators and parents view the world of science. The shift, even for myself and as a parent, is in realizing and remembering children have a “natural sense of wonder” and that it’s important to let them explore.

Parents and educators are seeing the value in what were once deemed silly games and hobbies. Games like twenty questions. Hobbies like collecting cicada exoskeletons, cloud counting, or, for lack of a better term, specie spying. I spent entire afternoons on a curb watching roly-polys roll, completely unaware my observations of these pill millipedes were scientific.

Rachel Carson, a renowned scientist said, “If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.”

As educators and parents, our biggest job is to share that wonder with them. To let them take apart their toys, to let them take pictures and draw sketches of what interests them, to encourage their observations and play. How fun would it be to show up in class and your teacher tells you, “Today, we’re dissecting toys.” Well, it’s happening.

These days, there are Maker Spaces and what I think of as Tinker Spots, found not only in schools, but libraries and children’s museums across the country. Last year, I had the honor of participating in a design challenge program that supported the Maker Movement in Pittsburgh. Those young inventors amazed me, not only with their products, but their fearless attitude towards science.

Science may have intimidated me as a child, but writing about it now, and in a way that inspires children to take their own actions, is simply amazing. I’ve seen how picture books can be used as launch pad to help children sift through their wonders. Take a look at the photo of a clock a young middle-schooler from south Florida created after reading Ticktock Banneker’s Clock!

There is no question that picture books can be used as a tool of research (but don’t call it that) to assist children when their natural curiosity takes over—even when and especially if they don’t have an adult that supports their interests.

To further this discussion, I will be a part of the Linking Literacy conversation at the NSTA National Conference in St. Louis, Missouri, April 12-13.  I look forward to meeting with educators, discussing ideas, and signing books!

Shana Keller writes books for children and young inventors. Entrenched in the world of STEM/STEAM, she is happy to share her experience filing a patent for her own invention. She serves on the Advisory Board for the Carter Center for K-12 Black History Education founded by Dr. LaGarrett J. King. In addition to Ticktock Banneker’s Clock (Sleeping Bear Press, 2017), Shana has two forth-coming picture book titles by Sleeping Bear Press. For more information, please visit her online at  

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