Posts Tagged children’s books

STEM Tuesday — STEM in Sports — Writing Tips & Resources


Title Talk

A good title can do a lot of work for both the reader and the writer. Of course the title conveys the subject of the book but it has many more jobs to do. It conveys the tone of the book. It gives clues to the scope of the book. Most importantly, it must hook a reader. All of that in just 1-5 words (and sometimes a subtitle).

Our STEM Tuesday book lists are a great place to study what titles can do. Take a look at just the titles of this month’s STEM in sports books:

Sports Science & Technology in the Real World

Super Gear: Nanotechnology and Sports Team Up

The 12 Biggest Breakthroughs in Sports Technology

STEM in Sports: Engineering

Learning STEM From Baseball: How Does A Curveball Curve? And Other Amazing Answers for Kids!

STEM In Sports

Science Behind Sports

The Secret Science of Sports: The Math, Physics, and Mechanical Engineering Behind Every Grand Slam, Triple Axel, and Penalty Kick

STEM Jobs in Sports

Sports Medicine: Science, Technology, Engineering

The Book of Wildly Spectacular Sports Science: 54 All-Star Experiments

Start asking questions: Why were those specific words chosen? The word “sport” is used frequently but in different positions. How does word placement matter? Who chooses the titles? Surprisingly, in many cases the title/subtitle are developed by the marketing team, not the author. Why might that be?

Here are a few ways you can look at what titles can do.  In the nonfiction area of the library, sit down in front of one shelf. Find a section of 5-10 books that are all on a closely related topic. (For this exercise it is best to not use a series of books). Write down all of the titles and subtitles in a list.

A Reader’s Reaction

  • Which titles draw you in? Why? Is it the subject or some other element?
  • Looking at your title list, are there any particular words that hook you?
  • Skim the books. For each book ask: Did the title/subtitle give you an accurate idea of what was inside the cover?

More than The Subject

Search for how the titles  subtly or not-so-subtly convey more than the basic subject. Consider these elements (and add your own):

  • Subtopic: Does the book focus on one specific topic within the subject?
  • Angle: Has the author selected a unique angle from which to approach the topic? Can you determine that from the title?
  • Tone: Is this book humorous? Academic? Lyrical? Does the title convey that?

Make it Visual

Upload your title list into a word cloud generator and see what other discoveries you can make.

  • Do one or more words dominate the titles?
  • If so, are there any titles that do not rely on those words? How are those titles unique? How are those books unique?

Compare and Contrast

  • Do the titles on your list vary drastically or are they all fairly similar? Some things to analyze: content, length, specific words, presence of a subtitle, etc.
  • In a new section of the library, pick a subject area which is very different (for example if your first list is about space, maybe go to the art section).
    • Create a new title list. Repeat one or more of the above exercises.
    • In what way is your new list similar to/different from your previous list? How much do you think the book’s subject affects that?
    • Separate your books into two piles based on main purpose: to entertain or to inform. In what ways might that impact the choice of title?

Titles can do a lot of work for the reader and the writer.  Enjoy taking a closer look at all the titles in your future!


Heather L. Montgomery writes for kids who are wild about animals. Studying titles and subtitles in the library helped her create a few fun ones of her own:  BUGS DON’T HUG, SURPRISING SCIENCE FROM ONE END TO THE OTHER, and SOMETHING ROTTEN. You can learn more about here wacky titles at


Here are some ways to add some STEAM into your work with titles:

  • Pick one book from your list and create at least 3 alternate titles.
  • Using your stack of books, create a spine poem. Feel free to add other books to your pile as needed.
  • Using your title list(s), create a blackout poem. Is it easier to do with one list than the other? Why might that be?

New to spine or blackout poems? Kristen W. Larson explains how in this post:

Indy Spotlight: A Children’s Place, Portland OR

It’s always a treat to feature an independent bookstore devoted to children’s books, especially one that has been in continuous operation for years. Today we’re talking with Pam Lewis, owner of A Children’s Place in Portland, Oregon (

MUF: Portlanders love books. It would be hard to find another town with so many good independent bookstores, and yet some have folded recently. During the COVID challenge, what have your strategies been?
Pam: Well,  it’s been a lot more work and procedure to get books out the door. We’ve relied on face-timing and phone orders and delivering at the curb or sometimes directly to cars.

MUF Have you had good community support during this time?
Pam: Oh yes, that’s why we’re still here! Our community made a good effort to buy from us rather than from Amazon, even during the shutdown.

MUF: Have you been able to resume live events?
PAM: No. We will not have live events here again until all children can get vaccinated!

MUF: What kind of atmosphere do you aim to create in A Children’s Place?
PAM: Welcoming to all. We greet everyone, parents and kids, and offer to help them find their next best book. Our staff reads the books and talks about them with customers. The store has a little stage and colorful posters all around. Customers who have been coming to the store since they were babies are now in college and still coming.

MUF: How do you choose the titles to carry in your store?
Pam: We talk with book reps about what books are “hot,” and we order books from authors we know and like. We listen to the interests of the children who come into the store. In addition to fiction, our customers look for books about birds, nature books, and guides to Oregon trails.

MUF: As middle-grade authors we’re curious to know: what are some books, new or old that you find yourselves recommending to readers 8-12 these days? That they ask for?
Pam: Dragons and dragon stories are always in demand, as well as unicorns and dinosaurs. Series are big with this age group: Tui Sutherland’s The Wings of Fire (dragon epic), Shannon Messenger’s Keeper of the Lost Cities (a telepathic girl in a strange world), Chris Colfer’s Land of Stories (fairytale adventures). In graphic series there’s Kazu Kibuishi’s Amulet .
We’re finding, too, that parents who buy the books are looking back to the classics, books they read as children and want to share with their own.

MUF: Tell us about how your store pursues its mission of raising readers, including your relationships with teachers and with homeless students in the Community Transitional School?
Pam: We give discounts to teachers and work closely with them to help build classroom and student libraries. We’ve been active with the Community Transitional School from the beginning. This welcoming school provides a stable education for homeless children pre-school to 8th grade. It even provides transportation to the site, something that is often difficult for the homeless to manage. Every Christmas, we have a Giving Tree with book requests on it that our customers can purchase. This means we can deliver a new book to every child in the school each year.

MUF: Describe an ideal day for you at The Childrens Place.
Pam: It’s kids coming in and finding the next book they want to read. We get to know our customers, who the advanced readers are who are the reluctant readers. Helping them find good sci-fi or graphic novels or whatever their interests are is what we like to do.

MUF: If a family from out of town visited your store, would they find family-friendly places nearby to get a meal or snack after shopping and browsing? And if they could stay longer, are there some especially unique or interesting sites or activities nearby youd recommend for a family to see?
Pam: Yes. There’s Caffe Destino, Grain Gristle, and Lucca (Italian). There are so many sites of interest in the area, including The Rose Garden, the Japanese Garden, Mt. Hood, and numerous hiking trails.

Thank you, Pam, for taking the time to talk with us today. Readers, if you haven’t been to A Children’s Place, be sure to visit next time you’re in Portland. 1423 NE Fremont Street.

STEM Tuesday — STEM in Sports — In the Classroom

While school may be out, there are plenty of sports science activities that kids can try at home. After reading the books on this month’s list, try some of these activities (or ones found in the books) or check out the list of resources to learn about drag, body fat, torque, sports medicine, and much more!


Super Gear: Nanotechnology and Sports Team Up by Jennifer Swanson

Nanotechnology and sports? Using a fun voice, easily understood analogies, and great graphics, this book explores the molecular properties of nanoparticles and the amazing developments that scientists have made in using harnessing them to improve the clothing, shoes, and equipment of athletes. Side bars and “Science in Action!” experiments help demonstrate and explain this cutting-edge science.


Do some historical research on sports equipment of the past versus modern equipment. Look at the first footballs, old tennis rackets, and tennis balls. See if you can find some old sports equipment at an antique or thrift store, or check out an online museum gallery (such as the National Museum of American History Sports &. Leisure collection: Make an evolution timeline of a certain piece of sports equipment, noting how the materials have changed and why. Use images to illustrate how much that piece of gear has changed over time.

Check this out!

Super Gear Discussion and activity guide:


Sports Science & Technology in the Real World by Janet Slingerland

Discover how scientists, engineers, and mathematicians are using science to help athletes – and how this same technology is being used in everyday applications. This book provides a peek into the cutting-edge technology being developed and includes primary source sidebars and discussion questions.



Technology is designing better gear to protect athlete’s bodies. You can try too–design a better bike helmet! Analyze your bike helmet: what kind of padding does it have? How is it shaped? How do you think it could be better? Read about how bike helmets work too (try this article: Draw your dream bike helmet, labeling all the ways it can better protect your head.

Check this out!

ABDO Booklinks, Sports Science & Technology:


Learning STEM From Baseball: How Does A Curveball Curve? And Other Amazing Answers for Kids! by Marne Ventura

Numerous sciences play a role in baseball. From physics to virtual reality, engineering to woodworking this book does a great job of introducing many of the ways science, math, and technology have interacted throughout baseball’s history. The in-depth endnotes offer great resources for further exploration.



Baseball is all about physics—with the right force, you can get motion—a fast pitch or a home run hit! But gravity is always pulling down, so angle matters too. Try seeing how far you can throw a baseball by adjusting the angle you throw it. You need a baseball, objects to mark where the ball lands, a measuring tape, and a notebook/pencil. First throw the ball straight forward as hard as you can three times. Mark where it lands and measure the distance. Record the results and average the distances. Then try this with a slight angle upward three times. And then with a steep upward angle three times. Why method of throwing made the ball go the farthest? Why do you think that method worked best? How do you think that gravity affected the ball with the different kinds of throws?

Check this out!

Exploratorium, Science of Baseball:

Further Resources

Check out these sites for more fascinating and fun STEM sports resources:


author Karen Latchana KenneyKaren Latchana Kenney loves to write books about animals, and looks for them wherever she goes—from leafcutter ants trailing through the Amazon rain forest in Guyana, where she was born, to puffins in cliff-side burrows on the Irish island of Skellig Michael. She especially enjoys creating books about nature, biodiversity, conservation, and groundbreaking scientific discoveries—but also writes about civil rights, astronomy, historical moments, and many other topics. She lives in Minnesota with her husband and son, and bikes, hikes, and gazes at the night sky in northern Minnesota any moment she can. Visit her at