October 30, 2019 3 min read
Raise your hand if you’ve ever been personally inspired by your own child—I know I have.
Since the day she was born, my daughter Laina has been a catalyst for awesome in my life. Like many parents, she’s brought out the best in me personally; however, she has also energized my professional work, as well.
She is the inspiration behind the children’s science book series I launched this summer known as Science With Scarlett, which invites readers to follow Scarlett—a precocious young scientist—and her charming teddy bear assistant, Mr. Bear, who do experiments with the reader. Science With Scarlett is written in clever rhymes and rollicking verse, teaching actual science, and striving to get young thinkers wondering and young wonderers thinking.
As a science educator, books were a natural way for me to share my love of science with Laina, especially when she was really young. But despite my best efforts to find kid-friendly books that taught science, there just were not a lot of children’s storybooks about science out there.
Don’t get me wrong, I found great science books, but they were largely non-fiction. And while there were a few fictional stories about characters doing “sciencey” things, I could not find much in the way of fun interaction, experimentation, and learning.
So, what’s a dad to do?
I set out to create something to fill this void by taking some of my favorite science experiments and turning them into children’s stories—and that was the start of Science With Scarlett. I worked with a Detroit-based artist, Liz Craft, who I met through a friend at church, to turn my manuscript into something awesome. Liz is a talented art teacher and illustrator, and she made my idea come to life!
I tested out the prototype with Laina and some of her preschool friends until we got it just right and submitted it to publishers. Eventually, the project was picked up and the first book—Science With Scarlett: What Color Will It Be?—was published this year. In it, readers will engage with Scarlett and Mr. Bear in fun and interactive experiments that teach the science of color vision and how colors of light mix to make all the shades of the rainbow appear before our eyes. Readers can purchase Science With Scarlett at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, as well as on Kindle or iTunes.
Many people ask why we chose the science of color vision for the topic of the first book. It was a natural fit, because I’m a double-cornea transplant recipient and vision is very important to me.
I had an eye disease growing up that took my sight when I was in college and required surgery. The operation went so well that I could see 20/20 after it, which allowed me to finish college, become an award-winning educator, and start a family.
Having my sight restored allowed me not only to use my teaching gifts to make science fun for kids, it motivated me to want to give back. That’s why we are donating 15% of the book proceeds to Eversight—the organization that makes vision-restoring cornea transplants possible—in order to help restore sight and prevent blindness for others.
So far, we’ve been able to donate $1,000 to Eversight in just our first few months since the book was released!
Now at the ripe old age of five, Laina enjoys science and engineering. She loves coding robots, testing her predictions in experiments, and building with Legos. And what’s more is she also likes riding horses, cooking, and dressing up (especially in her Princess Awesome wardrobe.) But it wasn’t always this way. Though she’s had a spunky, inquisitive spirit as long as I’ve known her, her precocious interests for science have stemmed from an early exposure to science, technology, engineering and math. (See what I did there?)
With Science With Scarlett, Laina has not only catalyzed an idea for a book that teaches about our incredible gift of sight, she’s sparked a project that makes a difference for others. And isn’t that what we hope our kids will use their awesomeness for in the end?