Picture Books to Break Stereotypes in STEM (and Beyond!)

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Picture books are a powerful way to begin addressing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) stereotypes with young children.  Reading and discussing stories provides young readers and their grownups with the opportunity to explore a range of foundational STEM concepts through captivating narratives while also countering stereotypes about who can successfully pursue the sciences.

Unfortunately, diverse representation in children’s literature continues to be an issue so it can be hard for educators and caregivers to find books with relatable female protagonists and main characters of color (learn more from authors and experts in this webinar recording). To help you find diverse STEM picture books with fascinating stories, we have compiled a list of our favorite STEM and gender-equity-related picture books to kickstart your summer reading lists for young children. All the books on this list are targeted to kids around ages 3-8 years but can be adapted for use with slightly older or younger children. Let’s get reading! 

  • Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty – This fun picture book follows the relatable character of Ada, who has always been endlessly curious. Even when her fact-finding missions and elaborate scientific experiments don’t go as planned, Ada learns the value of thinking her way through problems and continuing to stay curious! (If you have an account, check out the Netflix animated series Ada Twist, Scientist too!)
Ada Twist, Scientist Book Cover
  • Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty – From the same author as Ada Twist, this story follows Rosie through a journey of self-confidence and celebrating failure. Rosie eventually learns that mistakes are part of the process for achieving your dreams.
Rosie Revere, Engineer Book Cover
  • The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires – A girl and her dog work through a daunting and challenging task of creating the most magnificent thing. This beautifully illustrated story explores themes of patience and perseverance.
The Most Magnificient Thing book cover
  • Going Places by Paul A. Reynolds and Peter H. Reynolds – When everyone is aiming to reach the finish line of the “going places contest” by go-cart, Maya sets out to achieve the same goal in a unique way by exploring alternative ways of approaching the contest. Going Places is an exciting story of creativity, collaboration, and charting a path of your own.
Going Places book cover
  • How to Code a Sandcastle by Josh Funk In this Girls Who Code book, we are brought along to enjoy a day at the beach with Pearl and her robot friend, Pascal. This relatable and amusing story highlights the usefulness of coding concepts in achieving goals.  
How to Code a Sandcastle book cover
How to code a rollercoaster book cover
  • What Are Your Words?: A Book About Pronouns by Katherine Locke – Filled with bright, graphic illustrations, this simple and poignant story about finding yourself is the perfect introduction to gender-inclusive pronouns for readers of all ages. This book is a useful read-aloud for adults and kids alike!
What are your words: a book about pronouns book cover
  • Lily and Maia: A Dinosaur Adventure by Jack Horner Written by Jack Horner, the world-famous scientist of Jurassic Park fame, this children's book about dinosaurs, families, friendship, science, and fantasy time-travel is a compelling STEM read-aloud for parents and young readers. Lily, an empowered third grade girl who loves dinosaurs and considers herself a paleontology expert tells her story in this richly illustrated book of juvenile fiction. Learn more about how to use books like Lily and Maia to spark young girls’ interest in interdisciplinary STEM learning in this NGCP webinar.
Lily and Maia: A Dinosaur Adventure by Jack Horner Illustrations by Grace Hattrup
  • Room to Read – STEAM Powered Careers Collection Looking for a large collection of STEAM picture books that can be used in the classroom or informal learning contexts? This collection presents 10 science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics-themed books to inspire first through third graders about the wide variety of groundbreaking and exciting STEAM careers that they can start exploring right now. Created in collaboration with scientists, staff and faculty from the University of Southern California (USC), the collection explores topics ranging from polar science to gastroenterology to nanotechnology and more. The books feature a trio of fun characters and their animal friends, with each title illustrating a day in the life of a working USC scientist, many of whom come from underrepresented communities in STEAM. Each book highlights the present and future of a unique field and offers resources and more information for classroom use. Best of all? The books are available digitally for FREE in both English and Spanish - and there are even free lesson plans to accompany them!
Three STEAM powered careers collection books


Want to learn more about how children’s books can be used to break stereotypes and inspire girls – and all youth? Check out the recording of our webinar Breaking Stereotypes through Children’s Books hosted by NGCP featuring Katherine Locke, author of What Are Your Words? and Dr. DJ Kast, of the USC Room to Read STEAM Powered Careers Collection.


Other Helpful Resources:

Amanda Sullivan

Amanda Sullivan

Amanda brings over a decade of experience in education, research, and advocacy for girls in STEM to her role as Senior Program Developer at NGCP. She is passionate about breaking gender stereotypes and providing all children with equal access and opportunities to succeed within (and beyond) STEM from an early age.

Amanda is the author of the book Breaking the STEM Stereotype: Reaching Girls in Early Childhood and co-author of the ScratchJr Coding Cards: Creative Coding Activities for Children 5+.  Amanda has a Master’s and Ph.D. in Child Development from Tufts University and a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology & Drama from Bennington College. She is happily married to her college sweetheart and a proud mom to two energetic children and one lazy cat.

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