Richard S. T Gilliam harps on the importance of STEM subjects in new children’s book

TNR: What inspired your recently published children’s book, “Diversed in STEM: When We Believe, We Achieve”?

R: I was inspired to write my book based on my life. Being from the inner city of Philadelphia, I grew up in an area where I lacked drive and motivation. I really didn’t believe in myself and my capabilities as I got older and in college. I struggled growing up with self-confidence growing up and didn’t realize that personality qualities I had can be used to my advantage. So I wanted to create content to help children that might be feeling the same way. I also want to advocate the STEM field for children in a way where they can use their personality traits to their advantage no matter what they are and show how that can transfer to areas of STEM. Currently, as an engineer, I see the lack of diversity in the STEM field and all the opportunities that will come in the future for the next generation. I think it’s important for children from all backgrounds to see themselves in fields, especially minorities which we lack in the STEM field.

TNR: What are the perceived benefits when children are introduced to STEM subjects early in life?

R: The perceived benefits of children being introduced to STEM early in life are just helping children build their confidence that they are good enough. When teaching children STEM subjects to children early in life, it’s important to not only teach the children but also let them think critically. STEM teaches children important skills like teamwork and innovation.

TNR: What are the limitations people of color encounter in STEM subjects and how do you think introducing young children to books like yours can bridge this gap?

R: I think the limitations that people of color experience in STEM subjects are just the lack of confidence. Many times children are just taught in school about a subject but are not taught how to think critically. By books like “Diversed In STEM” we see children that are built up by the teacher because she recognizes their personality qualities no matter what they are and amplifies them to build their confidence and help them succeed. Strategy like this actually allows a child to be comfortable with themselves and build upon their personality.

TNR: When did you start writing and which writers inspired you on your journey?

R: I have been writing for four to five years now but I have sat on my content for years. I just decided to pursue publishing my book in early 2021. Through different life experiences, I decided it was time that I pursued getting my book out to the world. Joanna Cole, the writer of the magic school bus, was a writer that inspired me. I’ve always been a fan of the series of how the series helps children explore their imagination and explore different areas of STEM.

TNR: What books have you read this year that left you wowed?

R: Some books that I have read that have left me wowed are the Magic of thinking big and starting with why. These books remind me to remember that you are as big as you think and to always go back to your why when you experience downfalls.

TNR: How do you view diversity in our educational settings and what role can literature play in enhancing equal opportunities for all?

R: I view diversity in our educational settings as a lack of seeing a teacher like Ms. Joy in my book that leads a class of all diverse children. I wanted to just show the impact of having diversity in an educational system can have on children. Literature can play a role in enhancing opportunities by showing diversity in illustrations and having characters from Diversed backgrounds to show that anything is possible no matter what background you come from.

TNR: Are there any events from your childhood that made it into this book or shaped your worldview about opportunities in STEM?

R: Actually one of the characters in “Diversed In STEM” was me as a child. As a child, I struggled with self-belief in myself. So I wanted to create a book that can help children that might be like me and struggle with self-belief in themselves too. As a child, I had an enormous imagination but didn’t know I could use it to my advantage. Growing up, I did not realize the opportunity that there was in STEM, but I want children to have that and know what is in the world for them.

TNR: In what way can your book help children from under-represented backgrounds find positivity amid negativity?

R: “Diversed In STEM” shows backgrounds and personality traits I feel that children around the world can relate to. The characters in this book have personality qualities that might lead to self-confidence issues and lead to children not believing in their self. But their teacher highlights their personality and actually makes the children realize they are unique and how their specific personality can help them achieve through life. “Diversed In STEM”

TNR: How has the reception been for your new book?

R: The reception for my book has been unbelievable. I have been contacted by people that I haven’t spoken to in years to tell me how proud that are and also how me publishing my book has inspired them. I have had a few people that have told me they have had publishing ambitions for years. So seeing someone they know who does it helps them see that’s its possible. I have been contacted by educators as well to let me know the impact that they think “Diversed In STEM” can have on children from all backgrounds.

TNR: What should we be expecting from you next?

R: I will continue to share the Story of “Diversed In STEM” with the world. I feel children all around the world can relate to the personalities of the characters in Diversed In STEM. You can expect me to release more stem related content through my brand STEM Plug. I plan to create more content in the future that will follow “Diversed In STEM”. I also plan to create opportunities for people already in STEM to connect with each other and collaborate.

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