By Chrysta Naron
It happened on a Thursday afternoon. I was watching a friend’s two children for the day: eight-year-old Topher and his five-year-old sister, Elizabeth. Topher was helping me set up lunch on the back porch and Elizabeth had gone inside to get her doll. As Topher and I came back inside to grab juice boxes, I noticed the house had become quiet. Too quiet. The kind of quiet that all parents and teachers know. That kind of quiet can only mean one thing—trouble.
I found Elizabaeth in the bathroom. She stood next to the bathtub, into which she had cracked six eggs and emptied an entire bottle of orange shampoo. My mouth fell open.
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“Elizabeth, what happened?” I cried.
“It’s okay Ms. Chrysta,” she replied. “It’s for science. It’s supposed to be messy.”
And you know what? She was right. Science should be an exploration, and children should be passionate to try and build, experiment, and innovate. But rather than ever having to clean raw eggs out of my tub again—and to save you from a similar fate—I’ve curated a list of some of the most awesome Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (aka STEM) books for young children around.
This book is fantastic. I recommend it to everyone. Roda Ahmed has written a book about the first African American woman in space, Mae Jemison. It tells the story of Mae as a child and her dream to become an astronaut. It deals with ambition, having a supportive family, and overcoming racism to achieve your dreams. Stasia Burrington’s dreamy and darling illustrations make it all the more enchanting. It will have your child dreaming of their own star-bound adventures.
Hall of Fame basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has teamed up with Raymond Obstfeld to write this amazing book about African-American inventors. The book has lush illustrations and tons of information. It is a large book that children can really dive into. Two children spend the day helping fix things around the house and discover how much they can really accomplish. Most importantly, it brings to light the incredible contributions black inventors have brought to the world that are often overlooked and ignored. A must-have for every science classroom and science-loving child.
As you might have guessed by the title, this book is about Cece and how much she loves science, especially zoology. When her teacher asks the class to develop their own science experiment, Cece is so excited. With her best friend Isaac and her dog Einstein, they set off to ask, test, and learn. It’s adorable and is an introductory lesson to the scientific method. If your child likes it, there’s a whole series of related titles to discover.
Andrea Beaty, along with illustrator David Roberts, have created a book that I simply adore. Ada is a child that constantly has questions in her brain. Those questions lead to experiments, which lead to messes, and sometimes confusion. Her parents are frustrated beyond belief, but eventually recognize their daughter’s gifted scientific mind and become incredibly supportive. This book also goes along with Beaty’s books Iggy Peck, Architect and Rosie Revere, Engineer. All three books are powerful looks at the brilliance STEM can bring to a child’s life.
Learn all about boundary-breaker and brilliant scientist Marie Curie in this delightful book. It’s a great biography that discusses the obstacles she faced in her life to study and practice as a scientist and how she went on to win two Nobel prizes (the first person to ever do so)! In addition to sweet illustrations, this book includes historical photos and a timeline in the back of the book. I love this because it helps make history real for children.
If your child loves things that slither or snap and are covered in scales, this book is for you! Joan Procter was a herpetologist who knew from a young age that typical tea parties and dolls were not for her. Instead she brought her pet lizard and baby crocodile to dine! Joan dedicated herself to the study of reptiles and traveled the world, eventually becoming a leading expert on reptiles and the incredible komodo dragon. Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor might have your child asking for a reptile of their very own!
Summers just wouldn’t be the same without the classic Super Soaker water gun. Whoosh! Is about its inventor, Lonnie Johnson. An engineer and NASA employee, Lonnie’s list of accomplishments is long and impressive. But none are more fun than the Super Soaker. Get ready to delight in this book, and maybe even get soaked afterwards!
The Girl Who Thought in Pictures shares the story of Dr. Temple Grandin, an autistic animal scientist. Because Temple thought in pictures, she was able to visualize the way many animals might view their treatment at the hands of humans. She began to invent more humane ways to treat livestock that were soon adopted in farms across the United States. The book is a wonderful representation of neurodivergent people, with a note from Temple herself at the end.
Learn about a Chinese American female physicist who tackled sexism and racism in her quest to become a top scientist. This pioneering woman helped work on the Manhattan Project, developing the atomic bomb; became the first woman hired to teach at Princeton University; and even had an asteroid named after her! Robeson’s book will have you rooting for her from start to finish.
John Herrington is an astronaut and a member of the Chickasaw Nation. Here he has written about his lifetime of loving flight, science, and space exploration. He writes about training to become an astronaut, what it was like to be on the space shuttle Endeavor, and going on a space walk! Herrington brought along a feather and flute as important representations of his Chickasaw heritage. At the end of the book there is even a Chickasaw glossary! If your child loves outer space, they will love this book.
Canadian scientist Chris Ferrie has written a massive collection of science books for young children called the Baby University series. These board books range in topics from quantum physics to germ theory to rocket science. They have great bright graphics, simple language, and are astoundingly accurate. They may be labeled “for babies,” but the books are actually appropriate for children up through pre-K. Honestly, I even learned a lot from them!
Whatever piques your child’s interest and stirs their scientific thinking—be it Legos, computer games, outer space, or cracking eggs in a tub—support their STEM learning with a great book. And maybe a mop.
Let us know your favorite STEM books … or STEM adventures with kids … in the comments!
Chrysta Naron is an early childhood educator and curriculum specialist in Austin, Texas, who believes everything is better with glitter! Read more from her at playfulprek.com.