Great Readers Become Great Scientists

Great readers become great scientists. I have been a science teacher for 18 years. My highest attaining science students are always my best readers. The real stars in my classes are science readers. They read a bit beyond everyone else and their questions can take control of the lesson. You respect and admire them – but wish they’d save it for break! My hypothesis is: great readers become great scientists.

I asked a question to every science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) professional I have met over the past year, both in real life and on Twitter “What percentage of your working week is spent reading?” Here are the results:

Percentage of work time spent reading by STEM professionals.
Percentage of work time spent reading by STEM professionals.

I expected it would be quite a lot, but I was surprised at the outcome. Reading accounts for around 50% of many STEM professional’s time. Experiments and making cool stuff accounts for far less time – except for rocket scientists who can always prioritise tinker-time. Scientists read a lot. However, it isn’t necessarily the kind of reading we do at school – more on this in a later blog.

So, do STEM professionals become great technical readers, or do great technical readers become STEM professionals? My classroom experience suggests that the great science readers propel themselves into STEM careers. My worry is that there are students who would love a career in the STEM industries, but whose reading holds them back.

I believe science teachers should be prioritising STEM reading – despite all of the other curriculum pressures we face.

In my next three blogs, I describe what i did wrong as a secondary teacher, how I assess my students’ STEM reading skills now and how i support them to overcome their barriers.


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