Nineteen Year Old Author Raises STEM Awareness With Children’s Book
By the time children reach the second grade, they begin to identify and make sense of the cultural stereotypes surrounding them. Society has help subliminally push the notion of tying math and science courses to males more so than females. This became evident during a study by University of Washington researchers that showed that second grade “boys identified themselves with math whereas girls did not.” With gender differentiation attributing to the problem, this damaging philosophy further solidifies its implant in the minds of young girls as they progress and grow older.
Unfortunately, the end result is girls become women who decide to steer clear of a future in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math).
This lack of representation inspired 19-year-old Washington D.C. native, Sasha Ariel Alston, to address the issue head on by authoring a children’s book. During her junior year of high school, she participated in an internship at Microsoft and was able to make the revelation of mixing technology and business. After the internship, Alston continued to participate in a few interviews for jobs with various other companies and began to take notice that a lot of minorities, both children and adults, “didn’t know what STEM or coding was.” This is where Alston’s mother, who is also an author, encouraged and inspired her to create and construct the children’s book, Sasha Savvy Loves to Code.
“I want to see more girls interested in technology because by the time girls are in high school only 1 percent are interested in computer science or tech related degrees.” –Sasha Alston
The semi-autobiographical story which is written for early readers, ages 7-10, follows Sasha Savvy and a few of her friends who are trying to decide what to do for the summer. She is encouraged by her mother who is a software developer and gives her the idea to go to a coding camp. She gives Sasha and her friends a few basic skills about coding and they ultimately learn more as they go through their camp experience.
On why she chose to display the main character for this book series, Alston stated that she definitely “wanted to make the main character African-American and a girl” because she noticed that her internships “had a lack of diversity with gender and race.”
Although this book’s first iteration is geared towards the early reader audience, to spark interest with those students, Alston anticipates extending the book’s audience appeal by creating future adaptations for middle and eventually high school aged readers with more resources.
“I want to see more girls interested in technology because by the time girls are in high school only 1 percent are interested in a computer science or tech related degrees.” Wanting to give girls another idea on what they could do in the broad STEM field, Alston ultimately wants to host her own summer camp teaching girls how to code.
Although Alston has received various interview requests for her book, she openly admitted that this reception did not initially come easy. The message that she wanted to promote is to “never give up” and this message rings true as her book’s manuscript was rejected by several agents who she was attempting to publish with. The rejections did not stop her and resulted in her looking towards crowdfunding on Kickstarter to make this book a reality. After publishing the campaign, Kickstarter took notice and immediately added her book to the Projects We Love list. She was also interviewed and showcased on both Kickstarter’s newsletter and Twitter page. Although the campaign started with a goal of $5,000, she not only met her goal in 4 days but collected a total of $17,602 from supporters. Since then, various publishing companies have reached out to work with Alston – including some who weren’t previously interested.
TheNapoleon Hill quote, “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve”, resonates with Alston and is the mantra behind her drive and persistence. Continuing on the path to pursue an active role in the STEM market, Alston is currently majoring in information systems at Pace University.
Follow this link to her Kickstarter page for more information on Sasha, her project, and links to her online profiles.