Note from Alex:
This is a guest post from Thomai Dion, PharmD. I first met her months ago thru her website, performed an interview with her on my podcast Pharmacy Life Radio and learned about she quit pharmacy to spend time with her family and pursue her dream of becoming a published author. She recently told me how she published multiple books on Amazon and her website, and knew others would be interested how to publish their own books. My recommendation, take notes!
My name is Thomai and I’m a mom and pharmacist with many interests. I enjoy participating in a slew of activities, from writing to gardening, running to painting. One of the things that I enjoy doing the most (although admittedly never anticipated embarking on before having kids) is creating children’s science books. Since becoming a mom and discovering how inspiring it is to witness my own little one’s natural inclination to learn, I’ve created my “Think-A-Lot-Tots” science book series for babies, toddlers and kids, all of which can be found on Amazon. These books began as a way to teach my child about the world around him and have since expanded into an entire collection revolving around biology, chemistry and medicine. How does one even approach trying to teach biology to a baby, though? Aren’t topics like chemistry all about molecular structures, complicated facts and an onslaught of numbers? I would argue that although this is perhaps the perception of “science”, it is not actually its definition.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines science as “the state of knowing” and a “department of systematized knowledge as an object of study.” In other words, science isn’t strictly limited to numbers, facts and figures; rather, it’s a process by which we learn. Childhood in and of itself can also be considered a learning process; every teachable moment, each experienced one at a time, allows us to understand our world. What’s more is that the beautifully one-worded inquiry of “Why” that is so often asked by the youngest of children is actually the foundation to all learning and, in turn, all of science. Children are perfectly positioned to learn, submerged in the process of science and education throughout their growing years and overall childhood. With this in mind, it is not about “if” we can teach science to babies, toddlers and children, but rather, “how”. Understanding this makes the idea of creating a children’s science book much less intimidating and also highlights how valuable a resource like my Think-A-Lot-Tots collection can be.
If you have an interest in creatively sharing your science background in hopes of exciting and inspiring a little one out there then you’ll enjoy the rest of this post! Here I outline the 5 steps I’ve developed and routinely apply while writing my “Think-A-Lot-Tots” series. I’m going to use my recently released book “Counting Atoms and Elements 1 Through 10” as an example. First and foremost, let’s start with the most important aspect of wanting to write a book for kids:
1. Write because you like to write.
When we envision ourselves as an author, there’s always the inkling of hope that perhaps everyone in the history of everyone will be absolutely smitten with our work because, clearly, it is amazing. And your work may truly be amazing, but the possibility of stardom should not be why you start writing and cannot be why you continue. The best way to embark on writing (or with any project) is because you simply enjoy doing it. Do it because you are passionate about it. Do it because of the difference it could make for a family, for the impact it could have on a child’s willingness and curiosity to learn. Whatever you do though, don’t do it just for the money.
2. Identify a foundational topic of learning that all children are taught.
And I don’t mean one that is necessarily science-related. Children learn about basic concepts first such as colors, shapes and numbers. For my “Counting Atoms and Elements” book, I chose to focus on numbers and counting as my foundation.
3. Draw a connection between that foundational topic of learning and a scientific concept.
You have a basic idea of what you’d like your book to focus on! Great! How do we tie that to science, though? We’ll have to think about how concepts are introduced to children and, in turn, how they are taught. For example, children learn to recognize articles of clothing through pictures, vocabulary and the experience of dressing (shirt, pants, socks, shoes, etc.). A similar strategy is also employed when teaching about, say, shapes. We identify shapes within our everyday objects alongside pictures and words (circle, square, triangle, etc.). We may also playfully “search” for them during our daily routines, (a circle sign, a triangle roof) allowing the child to “experience” the concept of shapes too. In both of these examples, the overarching teaching strategy is drawing connections! Make the scientific concept you have in mind relatable to what the child may already be experiencing and learning. For “Counting Atoms and Elements”, I decided to correlate each of the numbers 1 through 10 with the quantity of protons, neutrons and electrons found within an atom. I use simple pictures, basic scientific vocabulary and allow the child to “experience” the topic of numbers / concept of atoms by counting each and every proton, neutron and electron throughout my book.
4. Repeat, repeat, repeat!
You’ve identified your book’s foundational topic and you’ve drawn a connection between said topic and the science you’d like to further teach. Excellent! Now do it again. And again. And again. Splice out examples throughout your book so that the same connection is made over and over for the reader. In my “Think-A-Lot-Tots: The Animal Cell” book as well as “The Neuron”, I name each and every part of the cell in a similar way while drawing analogies between that “part” and an item the child may already be familiar with. (The dendrites within a neuron look like little trees; the myelin sheath is like a necklace). For “Counting Atoms and Elements”, I repeat the same cadence with each number introduced. “This atom has 1 proton, 1 neutron, and 1 electron. It is Hydrogen! This atom has 2 protons, 2 neutrons, and 2 electrons.” Etc.
5. Simple sentences and colorful illustrations.
Just because I may be writing about something scientifically complex does not mean it must be taught in a complicated way. To clarify further – My “Think-A-Lot-Tots” books do not strive to make an expert of the reader; rather, they work to introduce an idea and potentially spark an interest for more learning as the child grows. As a result, my books are a starting point to learning and my writing is simple. My sentences are succinct with only one or two present per page. I still make a point to include scientific vocabulary, though. My toddler learned the word “mitochondria” at 3-years-old through my books and I couldn’t have been more proud as he exclaimed it repeatedly while running through our kitchen. (We are still working on “inside voices”, but at the same time I won’t argue if he wants to loudly sing about the endoplasmic reticulum or nucleus). For “Counting Atoms and Elements”, I name each element within the periodic table from 1 to 10 (Hydrogen, Helium, etc.). It’s important to keep concepts as basic and understandable as possible, but it’s also important to include key scientific vocabulary and build upon that learning whenever the opportunity presents itself.
And there you have it! My 5 key takeaways to effectively writing your own children’s science book!
Thomai Dion is a pharmacist and mother to (soon-to-be) two inquisitive and analytical thinkers. She obtained her doctorate from the University of Rhode Island and believes it is never too early to start learning.
“Think-A-Lot-Tots: Counting Atoms and Elements 1 Through 10”
is now available online at Amazon.com along with her
other books within her collection. To learn more about Thomai’s work and to stay updated on the latest news, you can
visit her website
and sign up for her newsletter. You can also reach out to Thomai at tdthesciencemom[at]gmail[dot]com and follow with her through social media:
Alex is the Founder of The Happy PharmD. He loves anime, his family, and video games, but not in that order.