STEAM education starts early with the right books

STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) is one of the best educational initiatives in a long while. Its purpose is to educate children for the future in which they’ll live. When Maria Hitt from The Orange County Partnership for Young Children contacted me to co-present on the subject, I had my doubts. “Really,” I asked, “Technology and engineering for children that young?”

She quickly convinced me speaking of preschool technology tools (crayons, scissors, shovels, brooms, hoes, egg beaters …) and engineering that happens in block corners and sand boxes. I know the importance of nurturing the innate curiosity of young children, so Hitt and I composed a workshop to nourish STEAM in preschools. She presented a slew of educational STEAM resources. I focused on the books – some of which I share below.

Science has factual and lyrical representation in Jennifer Ward’s “Feathers and Hair” (Beach Lane, ages 2-6). “Some animals wear feathers. Some animals wear hair. Some animals wear prickly spines and roam without a care.” Jing Jing Tsong’s pictures are as inviting and clear as Ward’s words. Pages are filled with large illustrations of birds, monkeys, porcupines and 16 other creatures.

Technology is a natural for young children who are vehicle fans. Popular author-illustrator team Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld have composed a sequel for their best-selling, “Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site.” The rhyming, rhythmic “Mighty, Mighty Construction Site” (Chronicle, ages 1-6) is a bouncy wonder of words that will please babies and gives older children information about specific vehicles and how they can combine forces on a project.

Author-illustrator Irene Dickson’s “Blocks” (Candlewick, ages 2-5) gives a realistic picture of beginning engineering and more. Two focused preschoolers work alongside each building. Benji, working with blue blocks, grabs one of Ruby’s red blocks. “Mine,” they both cry, setting off an “uh-oh” avalanche. This leads to their learning that collaboration yields more colors, and larger and better design possibilities. A guy strolls in with green blocks at the book’s end, increasing the diversity of colors and characters.

Adam Lehrhaupt’s “I Don’t Draw, I Color!” (Simon and Schuster, ages 3-5) is for young children intimidated by art. The hero criticizes his own work – his puppies “look like mush” and his cars “look like lumps.” But he is brave and bold with colors with which he can “express myself without drawing anything.” Felicita Sala’s broad, swaths of color and texture sing across pages to accent the feeling tone of the book.

Math has lovely graphic representation in Andy Mansfield and Thomas Flintham’s “One Lonely Fish” (Bloomsbury, ages 1-5). “One lonely fish” is gobbled by a bigger fish and the page shows two fish to count. The pattern continues until 10 fish are snarfed by a gigantic flounder who then becomes the new “One lonely fish.” Counting, the circular ending and feeling identification are all possible in this book that can serve as an introduction to food chains.

Editor’s note: If you’d like the full packet designed by Hitt and Wilde, contact Susie through her website,