Books Can Help Nurture Young Inventors
Several years ago, while I was leading innovation work at my healthcare organization, I helped judge projects entered in a college incubator competition. The students were vying for funds to further develop their innovative ideas about public health interventions and disease treatments. It filled my heart with joy to see the creativity and passion of these students.
I’m a bit fascinated with inventors and their processes. And better still when it involves youth. I’ll take the click bait to read social media posts or news articles about children pursuing their creative ideas.
Children’s publishing is an important channel to nurture young inventors. I published an article in Boys’ Quest magazine titled Let’s Invent Something that focused on combining ideas or objects into something new. I have other related story ideas I hope to develop and I’ve started keeping a list of relevant children’s books (more below).
The good news? This topic has both fiction and non-fiction options for young readers. And the subject matter is getting more diverse.
Why it’s important to nurture young inventors
I am not addressing the pursuit of revenue or the business side of innovation here. I want to focus on nurturing young inventors for these reasons:
- Learning to experiment and try their ideas helps children learn to solve problems when usual approaches aren’t enough
- Creative problem-solving and innovation develop critical thinking skills that will serve them throughout their lives in school, work and home
- Innovation involves trying many ideas that won’t work; kids benefit from dissecting why an idea fails and how they can adjust to keep trying (or when to shift to the next idea)
- Seeing an idea pan out builds confidence and a sense of contribution
- The world is fueled by innovation and we practically need a cadre of career innovators to emerge in every generation
Also, traditionally many inventors in the past were white men with the means to fund their work. One academic paper I’ve read explores the impact of “lost Einsteins” due to disparities. We need to encourage more equitable invention training and funding within diverse communities. This provides more personal opportunities and better serves diverse community needs.
Young inventor examples
I encourage you to keyword search “young inventors” to boost your spirits and your own creativity. I especially love this 11-minute video featuring kid inventors.
There are great stories from history, of course, such as teenager Louis Braille perfecting the system for the visually impaired that still carries his name.
Here are just a few modern-day examples:
- Pennsylvania high school students pitched their prototyped ideas for helping parents and babies in neonatal ICUs
- Ann Makosinski was a teen when she won the Google Science Fair several years ago by inventing a flashlight powered by the warmth of hands instead of batteries
- Kaelyn McColl, who has a vision impairment, created a See Like Me app in the seventh grade that uses augmented reality helps others physically see how she sees the world
- Alissa Chavez, upset about children dying from being left in hot cars, invented the Hot Seat cushion with a sensor that connects to a smartphone to alert parents if they’ve accidentally moved away from their car without their child.
Luckily, various lists can get you started on books for the young readers in your lives. Here are some with fiction and non-fiction focused on creative problem-solving, inventing processes or real/fictional kid inventors:
- The Billy Sure Kid Entrepreneur series by author Luke Sharpe (14 middle grade books)
- A Scholastic list with 7 books to explore, including the Rose Revere, Engineer picture book
- A Barnes & Noble list of 10 books mainly about various inventors but it includes My Crazy Inventions Sketchbook: 50 Awesome Drawing Activities for Young Inventors
- A Read Brightly list that helped me discover new titles
- An Imagination Soup list that includes Jabari Tries featuring BIPOC characters and books featuring girls
- A Children’s Library Lady list with books highlighting problem-solving and related discussion questions adults can use in reading books with their children
- The Best Children’s Books list of books highlighting creativity, with useful notes by each cover image to help you sort the choices
- A What Do We Do All Day list of picture books for little inventors
- A list of older books that includes some about kid inventors
I’d love to hear from you if I’m missing a good list, especially if it includes books aimed at underrepresented groups. Please pass along the links or the titles.
In addition to children’s books and articles, the good news is there are many ways to nurture the young inventors in your lives. A few resources to highlight:
- Inviting your Children into a Creative Process recording from the Creative Education Foundation
- Project Invent, a nonprofit that promotes hands-on problem solving by challenging students to create technology that solves real-world problems
- National Inventors Hall of Fame, which includes programs for children and educators and this article on Why Children Need Creative Problem-Solving Skills
- National Kid Inventors Day is Jan. 17 (chosen for Benjamin Franklin’s birthday)
- Who Becomes an Inventor in America? The Importance of Exposure to Innovation paper that explores disparities in who becomes a successful inventor
Please share anything you’d add to this topic about nurturing young inventors. Good creative problem-solving books for kids? Inspirational kid inventions? Programs or other resources? I’d love to learn more!