Luis Louro - Fotolia
Bright Little Labs has launched its first children’s book designed to encourage young people to take an interest in science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem).
The book is the first in the company’s Detective Dot series, featuring a nine-year-old detective who uses technology to assist her in her missions, which aims to use a diverse range of characters to make technology more accessible to girls and minority groups.
Sophie Deen, founder and CEO of Bright Little Labs, is famously critical of the diversity in children’s media, and highlighted the importance of diversity to ensure girls and children in ethnic minorities are not turned off of Stem careers by common tech stereotyping.
“Coding is one of the most important skills that children will need in the future, but girls and ethnic groups are being left out – 88% of the tech workforce are white men,” said Deen. “We need better role models as soon as possible in engineering, science, technology, arts and maths, so kids aspire to become coders, not Kardashians.”
In 2014, the UK introduced a new computing curriculum, making it mandatory for children between the ages of five and 16 to learn coding and computational thinking skills.
But research has found many girls perceive Stem subjects to be too difficult to study, and children’s media can play a huge part in forming kids’ opinions and ideas about their future.
Aimed at children aged eight and over, Detective Dot was tested on school children to ensure it appeals to both boys and girls of all ethnicities to inspire as many children as possible to pursue Stem.
Alongside a hardback book, children are admitted to the Bright Little Labs Children’s Intelligence Agency (CIA), a “secret” group providing children with on and offline materials to teach critical thinking skills in line with the school curriculum.
Deen explained Detective Dot aims to make coding and technology more accessible to all children through its use of diverse characters to encourage more children into the Stem industry and tackle the lack of female roles in Stem available to young girls.
“At the moment, young girls and ethnic groups children are not being encouraged to pursue Stem-related subjects effectively,” said Deen. “Women make up 18% of computer science degrees, and represent just 12.8% of the Stem workforce. This is partly due to a lack of positive role models for young children. By the time kids are 12, studies show that they’ve already decided subjects such as maths are ‘more for boys’.”
Although there is a skills gap in the technology industry, there is a wider digital skills gap in the UK in general, with many adults lacking the digital skills needed to participate in modern, everyday life.
Read more about digital skills
- The Science and Technology Committee says the UK is facing a digital skills crisis and calls on government to publish its digital strategy “without further delay”.
- Creative industries such as media, marketing, advertising and sales place more value on digital skills than IT and telecoms sector does.
Deen said there will be more jobs created in the next 10 years requiring digital skills than jobs that do not require them, making digital skills an important asset for anyone entering the workplace in the future.
“Digital literacy is something all kids need to learn to understand the world around them - similar to other literacies such as reading,” she said. “We don’t necessarily need our kids to grow up to be Shakespeare, but we do want them to read.”
Parents also have a huge influence over a child’s career choices from a young age, but research by Bright Little Labs found parents can often feel alienated by materials designed to help teach children about tech and coding.
Deen explained making coding materials in the form of a story book rather than a game or toy has helped to make it more accessible to parents as well as children.
“We’ve spoken to a lot of parents who have really appreciated reading Dot because it’s a very easy introduction to the computer science their kids are learning at school,” said Deen. “And for parents and kids who enjoy the coding elements, there’s a pathway to go further through the CIA.”
Detective Dot and CIA materials are available in paperback or digital copy through the Detective Dot online store.