Thomas Edison once said, “To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.” Supplying children with junk in the library is easy to do, but how can the library inspire children to invent something interesting and useful? Why not start with some of these picture books?
Six Dots: A Story of Young Louis Braille by Jen Bryant
Summary: Louis Braille tragically lost his eyesight as a young boy when he mishandled a tool in his father’s workshop. While attending the Royal Institute for Blind Youth, Braille learned how to read by tracing individual letters with his fingers. This tedious method compelled Braille to invent a faster way to read. Children will enjoy this book about a determined young man who created a tactile alphabet using only six dots.
- Pair Six Dots with The Black Book of Colors by Menena Cottin. Cottin creatively describes different colors using only white text, braille, and raised images on solid black pages. Children will want to spend time with this book as they touch each page and decode the words written in braille. Set out black paper and white chalk for children to write descriptive sentences about their favorite color.
- Visit “The Name Game” created by the American Foundation for the Blind. Ask children to type their name in the search box and discover what their name looks like when written with braille.
- Invite children to make braille signs for important rooms in the building. Children can use a printed copy of the Braille Alphabet to write the names of the rooms with a pencil. To make the signs tactile, use a thick piece of paper or thin cardboard to glue lentil beans over their penciled marks. Choose a student to explain the significance of the signs during a morning announcement. Have them stress the importance of leaving the beans on the signs.
Mr. Ferris and His Wheel by Katherine Gibbs Davis
Summary: The story of the first Ferris Wheel is a fascinating story, and Katherine Gibbs Davis does a marvelous job telling it! Mr. Ferris and His Wheel captivates readers with an intriguing storyline, gorgeous illustrations, and factual notations. Mr. Ferris invented his massive Ferris Wheel as a challenge to build something bigger and better than the Eiffel Tower. With his engineering background and persistent attitude, Ferris built a massive, tall ride for the Chicago’s World Fair.
- Use K’nex to make a Ferris Wheel. Send notes home asking families to donate any extra K’nex parts.
- Study images of the original Ferris Wheel that was designed for the World’s Fair. What do students notice? Have students draw their own Ferris Wheel using a ruler and a pencil.
Ada’s Ideas: The Story of Ada Lovelace, the World’s First Computer Programmer by Fiona Robinson
Summary: This beautifully illustrated picture book tells the story of Ada Lovelace, an imaginative person who was adept at math and fascinated by machinery. She grew up during the Industrial Revolution and found inspiration from touring factories. Lovelace was asked by an inventor to develop a program to make his machines perform mathematical computations. She is known as the world’s first computer programmer for her mathematical accomplishments.
- Play Scratch, a programming game that children love! Set up a table with laptops and iPads so children can access Scratch with an online link or app.
- Ada Lovelace had quite an imagination. She dreamed of inventing a flying horse powered by steam. Ask children to study the illustration of the flying horse. Does the illustration inspire them to draw an inventive creation? Learn more about how the illustrations were created and enjoy the book trailer. Supply the children with colored pencils, paper, scissors, glue, and Lego pieces to draw an invention of their own!
Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World by Rachel Ignotofsky
Summary: This remarkable book should have a special place in your library. Each biography is presented with a work of art that will engage young girls to explore studies in STEAM. The interesting graphic design uses common elements with every page that unifies the women presented in the book.
- Use the SeeSaw app to share thoughts and ideas after reading about great women inventors.
- Try one of the “6 Tools to Spark a Love of Story” from ISTE Connects. Students can write and create reviews about the book to share with other children from around the world.
Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions by Chris Barton
Summary: Lonnie Johnson solves problems by taking things apart and working them with other parts to create great inventions. As a child, he made a robot that won recognition at a school function. As an adult, he invented the Super Soaker water gun.
- Use the BookCreator App to publish a book about African American Inventors. Scholastic offers an online resource to learn about 14 different inventors.
Please share pictures and feedback if you try any of these ideas in your library!
Author: Maureen Schlosser
I am a school librarian who curates picture books to support current events in education.