Over the last two years, Spark!Lab has been building up its library to include more inspiring stories about inventors, innovators, fun ideas, and problem solving for all ages. We select books that match our themes (currently, inventing for your “HOME”), highlight a diversity of inventors and inventions, and address more technical aspects and challenges (and don't miss our complete list of books to encourage inventive thinking).
Last fall, our Spark!Lab intern prototyped a new series of bookmarks for the library to engage kids and families in close reading, looking for the language of invention, and helping them think about connections between the stories and their everyday lives. We love seeing kids explore these ideas and begin to see themselves thinking like inventors—asking questions, noticing things that can be improved, solving problems, helping others, and testing prototypes at the Spark!Lab activity tables.
Our newest addition to the library, however, connects Spark!Lab and a real, live inventor who the Lemelson Center featured in our Innovative Lives program series last February. The story Whoosh! by Chris Barton follows Lonnie Johnson’s life from a curious young kid who loved to tinker to the inventor of the Super-Soaker, one of the most popular summertime toys.
Lonnie overcomes lots of obstacles and challenges throughout the book, through perseverance and some great partnerships. It is a fun read to share with kids about an invention they are probably familiar with, but may not think about the inventor or story behind it. Imagine all the other inventions you use in your life, and the countless stories of inspiration, problem solving, grit, and failed prototypes it took to make them a reality!
For more on Lonnie Johnson’s story, check out this blog post by Monica Smith: Meet Lonnie Johnson, the Man behind the Super Soaker.
To hear from Lonnie Johnson himself, watch his Innovative Lives talk from February 2017.