Thank you to ABC 7 and reporter Ross DiMattei for telling our story and raising awareness of the need to encourage girls in STEM!
Story originally aired on ABC 7 June 20, 2017. Visit ABC 7 to watch the video.
Kristi Grigsby used to write stories for her daughters when they were growing up in Naples. After taking a break from her books, she was recently inspired to pick up the pen again after reading reports about little girls falling behind in the fields of science, engineering, technology, and math.
"There is nothing available to introduce STEM fields in a way that's exciting and fun to girls at this age," Grigsby said.
Recent reports show women are lagging behind men in the fields of math and science. Kristi Grigsby says the problem starts at an early age.
"STEM resources for girls are not readily available until they get to school," she said. "High schools are doing a better job of introducing these fields. Middle schools are starting to introduce these, but when you look at the research and it shows the girls at the age of six are already doubting their intelligence at times, middle school is too late."
Now, Grigsby is preparing to publish her three children's stories, all about young girls interested in a career in STEM.
"So we have 'Sophie and the Airplane' which focuses on the aerospace industry. We have 'Zelda the Curious,' which is focused on engineering. And we have 'Chelsea Discovers Chemistry,' which of course is chemistry and the sciences."
The books will also feature interviews with real women who have been successful in STEM fields over the course of their careers.
"Parents often times don't know the possibilities, so that's why we interview real women in STEM and put those interviews out there," she said. "They know that these fields are exciting and the future and they want, more than anyone, to see young girls take an interest in this and learn from their experiences. Women in the sciences are discovering cures for terrible diseases. Women in aerospace are dreaming of flying to the moon."
Sarah Kuba is the young illustrator bringing Grigsby's character, Sophie, to life.
"The character's name is Sophie, and I was interested in the book because when I was young, I remember when I went on the airplane for the first time, it was an exciting experience, and it was just magical," Kuba said. "I wanted to kind of make her look like a pilot so I gave her those aviator goggles, and she just has a very big and bright and bold personality, so I gave her very bright warm colors to make her look inviting. I think the young girls will catch on with her after seeing how bright and happy and confident she is she's not afraid to ask questions and she's very excited."
Picture books about young girls chasing their dreams is something many moms can get behind.
"When you have a child who is so interested in something that so needed in this world and knowing that they're gonna be taking care of us when we're old and I want my child to be part of it being a benefit and not a hindrance," said Nancy Jeffers.
"My hope is that these books can ignite excitement in little girls and that they will see the possibilities and see that curiosity and their creativity can lead to really exciting things and that they are not afraid to dream," Grigsby said.
Kristi Grigsby is publishing these books on her own. She doesn't have a set publishing date yet, but she hopes they will be available on Amazon by the end of the summer. They're aimed at kids ages 3 through 8.
Thanks to the Naples Daily News and reporter Laura Layden for this great article on STEM Girls Books, our mission and our team.
Story originally published in Naples Daily News, June 16, 2017
Years ago Kristi Grigsby's daughter asked her a question she struggled to answer.
"What is an engineer?" her then-little girl, Jennifer, wanted to know.
"I didn't know," Grigsby said. "I couldn't explain it to her."
Grigsby knows a lot more now — and she is making sure other parents and little girls do too through her new STEM Girls Books series. That's STEM as in science, technology, engineering and math.
Her first three picture books are expected to be out by summer's end thanks to a successful campaign on Kickstarter, an online funding platform for creative projects.
Her 30-day campaign raised nearly $7,800, more than twice what she asked for in pledges to get her first books launched. Her campaign even caught the eye of Inc. magazine, leading it to include Grigsby on a list of "15 Female Entrepreneurs to Watch Out For in 2017."
The idea for the book series came to Grigsby in January. After doing a little research, she found it takes most writers years to get their first book published. She'll have the trio of books published within seven months.
"It was a God thing," she said. "I mean it all came together. It was just too great of an idea. It couldn't have come from me."
The first books are centered around engineering, aerospace and chemistry. They'll be available in paperback and digital formats.
"I've got probably six more books waiting that could go through illustration as I get funding to put back in the business," Grigsby said.
Future subjects will include technology, biology, civil engineering and math.
The book series is designed for girls from the age of 3 to 8. Grigsby said she wishes she had them for her daughters when they were younger. Fortunately, her girls are still both interested in pursuing STEM careers after getting encouragement from their parents early on, who did some exploring of their own to better explain job opportunities in those fields to keep up their children's intrigue.
The books send this message, Grigsby said:
"It is cool to be curious. It is fun to be good at math. I can tinker with what has traditionally been known as a boy's toy and have fun with it."
Grigsby's daughter, Jennifer, is studying to be an engineer at Georgia Tech.
"There are so many girls that don't know what exciting careers are available," Grigsby said. "They still think of engineering as building bridges and that doesn't always sound so exciting to them."
The books are designed to tap into little girls' natural curiosity and talents.
"In this way we can introduce careers that they may not have otherwise considered," she said. "For example, a passion for cooking and playing 'dress up' with makeup is an ideal opportunity to introduce chemistry."
At the end of every book, a real woman working in a STEM job tells her story and gives insight into her career. More in depth interviews with women working in these fields are shared on the website for the series, which can be a valuable resource for parents and teachers alike.
As part of the Kickstarter campaign, 330 books have been claimed. Donors who pledged $45 or more will receive printed copies of all three books.
The books are self-published and will be sold on amazon.com.
Grigsby is working with three illustrators, two of them students. She's also getting assistance from her younger daughter Dayna, who has helped with marketing and promotion, but will soon head off to Georgia Tech, where she plans to study technology and entrepreneurship.
Brian Maikisch, the illustrator for "Zelda the Curious," the book on engineering, said as a father of two boys he's learned from his involvement in the book project that some STEM occupations aren't pushed as much with girls as with boys — and for no good reason.
He hopes to illustrate future books in the series.
"It has been really fun, to more or less be a kid again," he said.
Meghan Schimmel, an elementary school teacher at Seacrest Country Day School in East Naples, said what's great about the books is that they get kids thinking about STEM fields at such a young age, something her private school promotes.
"We allow our youngest learners to question how things work and how things are made, through STEM and education activities," she said. "We set up the path for our youngest learners who are naturally curious to develop a scientific inquiry process at an early age."