New book finds engaging way to explain data science to young readers

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Data analysis has been critical to tracking and understanding the spread of COVID-19. Data science has become a fast-growing field few people can describe.

A new children's book is trying to demystify data for young people and maybe even some adults. Education is part of Building a Better Bay Area.

Marketing executive Ryan Kelly has a 17-month-old daughter, Bea. He works at a data analytics company but realized he didn't know how to describe data science to her.

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"How many actual data scientists can't describe what they do to their friends and colleagues as well? So that's where the idea came from," said Kelly.

Over a seven-month period, he wrote this children's book, titled "Florence the Data Scientist and Her Magical Bookmobile." The idea emerged from a hackathon session at San Francisco-based Domino Data Lab.

In the book, Florence the librarian asks strategic questions to find out what kind of things the book's characters like to read about. Then she can suggest just the right book. The illustrations provide visual interest. Reading it out loud provides engagement.

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"The dragon peeked out licking her cheek, smiling and laughing and making her shriek," read Kelly to his daughter Bea, sitting on the floor of their living room.

The book is aimed at young readers, ages five to nine. A lesson plan to go with the book was developed for classroom use with help from the National Science Teaching Association.

"It's really about getting kids passionate about STEM and problem solving because this world is full of problems, as you know David, and we need the next generation equipped and willing to help us solve them," Kelly said.

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The e-book version can be downloaded for free during April, which is Math & Statistics Awareness Month on their website. The paperback version can be purchased on Amazon.

Young Bea is giving her dad's book a favorable review.

"There's a rhyming pattern that pops up again and again, and she gets excited every time that I read that to her," said Kelly, beaming.

See more stories and videos about Building a Better Bay Area here.

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