Learn together with ‘Women in Science’

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We love a good bedtime story at our house.

After our children were born, my husband and I made a point to have the kids bathed and dressed for bed early enough to enjoy a good book or two with them. We follow that same tradition with our 9-year-old granddaughter, Sora.

When Sora is at our house, we always read together before kissing her goodnight and turning out the lights. Sometimes it’s a book from our own collection; other times, it’s a book from the library. Sometimes she reads to us, but I usually read to her because that’s the tradition.

Right now, we are reading from a book Sora’s daddy gave her for Christmas, “Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World.”

The book, which has been on the New York Times Bestseller list for more than 50 weeks, is a compilation of short stories about women in science and technology. Each woman has a two-page spread. The left side is a colorful, whimsical drawing by author and illustrator Rachel Ignotofsky. The right side of the spread tells the woman’s story in a concise and easy-to-follow narrative. Both sides are framed by smaller illustrations and pertinent tidbits of information about the woman.

The three of us are loving the time we are spending each night reading and talking about paleontologists, chemists and mathematicians, whose names we had never heard before.

My husband and I recognize a few of the women featured, including primatologist and anthropologist Jane Goodall and inventor and film actress Hedy Lamarr. But Reggie and I have never heard of most of the 50 women in this book. And what a shame that is.

We loved hearing the story of Maria Sibylla Merian, for instance. Merian was a 17th century scientific illustrator and entomologist. After reading her brief story, we pulled out my iPhone and read more about the woman and saw some of her beautiful illustrations that are still used to educate people today.

We were fascinated by the story of Mary Anning, a fossil collector and paleontologist in the 18th century. Anning’s findings were ground-breaking, including her work proving that extinction does occur. Anning was a brilliant woman, but she was not permitted to publish her work because she was a woman.

Elizabeth Blackwell’s story has been my favorite so far. Blackwell was the first female medical doctor in the country. In one of the facts printed alongside her story, it’s stated that the student body at the medical school voted to accept her as a practical joke. The joke was on them. She showed up and graduated top in her class.

I love this book for many reasons. The stories are interesting and fun to read, but they are also educational. Sora is learning about strong women who helped shape the future. Maybe she will be inspired. 

Buy this book for the girls in your life, and buy it for the boys as well. Then take time to read and learn together. 

I’ve also purchased “Women in Sports: 50 Women Athletes Who Played to Win.” But don’t tell Sora; it will be a Valentine’s Day gift!

“Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World,” written and illustrated by Rachel Ignotofsky; Ten Speed Press. List price is $16.99; cheaper at online sites.

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