Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Debut author Mariela Kleiner introduces preschoolers to Einstein

Einstein's birthday is March 14th and what better way to celebrate than by introducing preschoolers to the concepts of science with the new children's book, Meet Einstein?

Mariela Kleiner was inspired to write Meet Einstein when her daughter Hailey chose a grown-up book for her bedtime story, which happened to be Einstein's book, "Relativity." Hailey was a persistent two-year old, so Mariela improvised the story of Albert Einstein so that her daughter could understand it. Starting with "Meet Albert Einstein. He is a scientist," the story for this book was born. This is Mariela's first children's book publication. She currently lives in Northern California with her husband and two children.

I had the fortunate opportunity to learn more about Mariela Kleiner and her inspiration for Meet Einstein...

Meet EinsteinWhat inspired you to write a science book for preschoolers? Can they truly learn science that young?
Yes! Preschoolers can learn about science! It’s easy to teach them these concepts and then watch as they apply it to everything they see. At this age, they’re asking so many questions about our world and trying to make connections about everything around them (I get about 30 “why?”s a day from my two preschoolers!). If you give them the knowledge, they will absorb it and apply it in a much more comprehensive way than any grown-up would expect from them. They really are little scientists at this age, and I help them make that connection in the book, so they can see themselves as scientists and perhaps see that as an option of what they want to be when they grow up (apart from princesses and superheroes, of course).

I was inspired to write this book by my daughter, Hailey. When she was 2, she picked up my husband’s copy of Einstein's book, Relativity, and demanded we read it to her as a bedtime story. After a few back and forths with my husband (him explaining it’s not a kids book, and her still insisting that he read it), I intercepted and grabbed the book, and started telling her about Albert Einstein in a way that she could understand it. After I improvised the story, explaining what a scientist does, and some things that Einstein worked on – light, and gravity, Hailey said “read it again, mommy!” I loved that she was so excited to learn about science, and thought “why can’t I teach all kids her age about these concepts?” And that's how I started writing Meet Einstein.

What was your favorite science experiment as a child? Do you conduct any with your children?
My brother and I used to love to play with a chemistry set growing up.

Our kids love watching caterpillars become butterflies and we set them free when their wings are ready. We also experiment with ice trays (filling them with all kinds of edible goodies), and have lots of magnets around for the kids to play with. Making rainbows, bubbles, and art projects are also common activities we do with the kids. For me, science at this age is about letting them play around with something and experiment so they can make their own discoveries!

Your book was named the best children's picture book for the 2010 National Indie Excellence Awards! How does it feel to have your hard work recognized in such a great way?
It’s very rewarding for me to hear the response for Meet Einstein. I have gotten wonderful feedback from book store owners, parents and preschool teachers. They all say that it’s amazing to see such young kids talking about Einstein, scientists, light, and gravity. And many of their kids are saying they want to be scientists, too, when they grow up. I love hearing that!

The photos in the book are captivating and a perfect match for the story you tell about Einstein. How did you come to partner with the illustrator?
This story is amazing, because it really came together beautifully. I was searching for an illustrator, and actually spoke to a few, but didn’t quite click with anyone on the style I was searching for and personality. So, I put my search on hold for a few months. Then, my mom (aka Grandma) brought a book over for the kids called Wheels on the Bus illustrated by Viviana Garofoli, with just the song playing as you turn the pages. I looked at the book and immediately I realized this is the style of illustrations I was looking to do for my book. So I looked up Viviana and found out she lives in Argentina, which is where I am from originally. It was such a huge coincidence, I thought it was just meant to be. We talked on the phone, hit it off immediately, and that was it. Luckily, my Spanish is still pretty good, so I was able to talk to her in Spanish throughout the illustration process.

Why is a science book for young children so important?
I think at this age kids are actively trying to learn – about everything! We can use this opportunity to give them some basic science knowledge that they will carry with them forever. It can help them build a foundation so they can grasp tougher concepts later on. And they really CAN learn these concepts! It’s an amazing thing to hear a 3-year-old saying the word “gravity” and actually using it to explain something that just happened.

To learn more about Mariela Kleiner and her debut book, please visit Meet Einstein's official website.

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