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."