20 Jun 2011

Unlocking the Science Writer Within...

If I am to tell the truth, I would report that never in my wildest imagination did I dream I would become a science writer.

When I was in elementary school, science was my most dreaded subject. It was tedious and achingly boring. In my memory, our lessons were mainly composed of flipping through worn textbooks full of line drawings showing how the earth revolved around the sun, and how the moon revolved around the earth. (Or were they rotating?) I never could quite figure out how night and day and the four seasons resulted from all this spinning. Nor could I figure out how any of this related to me.

I’m glad to say that I eventually sorted it all out and have now developed a lasting appreciation for science, both in books and in my everyday life.

Where did my appreciation come from? I owe it all to the kids.

Here’s what happened. One day, long before I knew I’d be a writer, I became a teacher and spent more than a decade in a primary classroom. There’s no better place to get a firsthand view of the delight children experience from nature and the living world.

Kids know there’s nothing more wonderful than peering into the tall grass to see a tiny ant scurry by, or watch busy squirrels chase each other along the branches of a tree. They love to tell you which wild animal is the biggest, the strongest, the fastest or the most fierce. Kids see the magic in the garden as they plant a seed and watch it grow. They find joy in every detail of a changing season.

When I moved from teaching to writing, I never forgot my students. I made it my goal to write books that they would enjoy — books on nature, wild animals, gardens and growing — all for the youngest readers.

I didn’t really think of these as science books, nor did I think of myself as a science writer. I only knew that I was trying create books that reflected the world the way a young child sees it — books that captured an appreciation of the wonders of nature, and answered some of the questions that kids have about the earth and its living creatures.

These books weren’t much like the serious science books of my school years — so I wasn’t sure I qualified as a science writer.

But, as I look around in schools and bookstores today, I understand that I need to expand my idea of what science writing is. Gone are the stiff and formal books of yesteryear. Replacing them is an explosion of bright, colourful books, full of engaging information for modern kids. What an amazing transformation!

I’ve had to shift my thinking to entertain the possibility that what I write may indeed fall under the banner of science writing.

Me, a science writer. Who knew?

I’m thrilled to be included!

Deborah Hodge

Deborah Hodge is the author of Up We Grow! A Year in the Life of a Small Local Farm and 25 other books for children.


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