Children in schools should read brilliant science writing. They should have access to the best scientific ideas through excellent science texts; it should hit them both ways.
But these texts are hard to write; just ask Dr Seuss:
Writing for children is murder. A chapter has to be boiled down to a paragraph. Every word has to count.
I have been looking for great children’s science writing, but it falls short. The ideas are there, but the the writers seem more interested in clarity than quality. I don’t see why they can’t have both.
Instead of waiting for someone else to do it, I want to start writing today. I want science teachers and communicators to join me in a science writers’ circle: a group to work on texts together; to read each other’s work and to give each other feedback.
So do away with the colourful double-pages, the cartoons, the “hard stuff” in little boxes to skip if you want; it is apologetic, weak and insulting. Instead give them strong texts with strong ideas and give them the credit to stick with it.
Send me an email if you’re in. It’s not a circle yet!
I think children’s writing needs to look towards the digital era. A lot of kids today have very short attention spans.. By giving kids tasks and rewards during reading could improve engagement.
Thanks for commenting Carla. I could not agree less! I have been teaching for twenty years and simply do not see this alleged lack of attention. I also feel strongly that understanding is the reward for reading – and it’s a good reward. Ben
A seriously hard challenge. “Science writers” find it hard enough to talk to the “general public”. whatever that is, let alone school kids.
By talking of science writers you may be skewing the response. Writing for this audience is not the domain of science writers as they are usually recognised.
Start by asking people to give examples of good stuff that works for them. Then home in on the issues. Don’t just throw out vague cris de cours.
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Thank you Michael. You are right – it is a serious challenge, and you also make a true point about “science writers” – this requires people who understand how children read AND know about science. No surprise that so much science non-fiction misses the mark.
Hopefully this isn’t just a vague plea – I am serious about developing my own writing and I could use some help. Ben
I like the idea and I’d be in (If I can find time)
I’d love to be a part of this. I agree that science writing needs to be challenging and exciting and have a flow and poetry of its own, which helps the reader engage, whatever age. I’ll email you.
Hi Ben, I’m up for joining you in this challenge. I love the way children think, question and make sense of the world around them. I also agree with you, there are so many excellent children’s books out there but relatively few science-based ones. Will email you.
You should get in touch with Tiffany Taylor at Reading Uni, who’s written a book about evolution called Little Changes and also Fran Balkwill at Barts who has written a few science books for children and also runs the Centre of the Cell.
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Here’s Tiffany’s book: http://www.rinkidinks.co.uk/GB/lc/
I’ve recently written and published three illustrated, rhyming books for young children, covering subjects of oral health, vitamin D and obesity. The first title was launched by Hammersmith & Fulham council, who distributed 5,000 copies across the borough. I have great reviews from teachers in the borough and in the Sun, Books Monthly and the Mail on Sunday. The trouble, I find, is not writing the books but making schools (outside the borough) aware that the books exist. I can send you pdfs and a press release. Any suggestions re spreading the word would be great.
Hi Heather – this project has made me realise that there are excellent texts available, just that they are not easy to find. Perhaps we should create an on-line archive/pdf shop? That might take more ICT skills than I have at present! Ben
An on-line information page with recommended texts for different age-groups and details about where to purchase the books would be great.
Re pdfs, that is a different question, which probably involves licensing. It’s something I’m about to look into.
If any one is looking for Early Years texts covering Health and Self-Care for 4 – 6 year olds, please take a look at my website: http://www.dinosaurdouglas.com and email me direct if you would like to purchase some books. Many thanks. Heather