Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) skills are a gateway to 21st century opportunities and success. In encouraging children and youth to engage with STEM content, one should encourage in them a positive STEM identity. Children and youth with a positive STEM identity believe that STEM is relevant and enjoyable, experience it as something they can do, and persist with STEM related challenges.
It is developed by encouraging curiosity and imagination about topics of interest, questioning, and exploring possibilities. While acquiring specific knowledge is an important part of a STEM identity, memorizing sets of facts and carrying out prescriptive procedures are less important than thinking about how ideas or facts are useful towards explaining or addressing issues of interest. Through problem solving, looking for patterns, making connections, hands on exploration and discovery, STEM activities are more likely to be experienced as rewarding. And, increased content and procedural knowledge follow as a natural outcome. Finally, STEM identity is encouraged by relevant role models and peers who help children and youth see that STEM opportunities, careers, and successes are accessible to people and kids like them.
In this post, we review STEM books by black owned publishers and authors on this site and beyond that teach about STEM concepts and promote a positive STEM identity. Our focus is school age and older youth. See the following descriptions, images, and links for more details. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. There are other affiliate links in this post (⇔), which means at no cost to you, Shop With Leslie will receive a small commission if you use the link to make purchases.
- Dr. Arlyne Simon’s book “Abby Invents Unbreakable Crayons” relays Abby’s trials and errors in inventing the world’s first unbreakable crayons. She even gets a patent for her invention. Trial and error are a natural part of science and it helps for children to know that you can learn important lessons when things don’t go as expected. It is written to promote children’s understanding of the scientific method, and comes with an activity page that encourages children to invent their own unbreakable crayons. It is written for children ages 5 – 8. Illustrated by Diana Necsulescu.
- J.D. Wright’s “STEM Coloring and Activity Fun Book” promotes STEM vocabulary and organization through games and activities. The book also has a cyber safety section where parents and children review online safety practices. It is 100+ pages and designed for children ages 7 and older.
- EYES SEE ME ⇔ offers science and engineering books whereby the “Mad Axiom” character explains concepts in creative and user friendly ways. In the General Science series, there are 12 titles organized by topic (e.g., sound, magnetism, and climate change). A Physical Science series is also available (12 titles) with topics such as cell life, science safety, and the digestive system. In the Engineering series there are thematic bundles and books. Math Skills Workbooks are also offered for kindergarten through sixth grade, that include many examples and opportunities for practice. Titles are written for children and youth ages 8 to 14.
- Patrice McLaurin’s book “Have you thanked an inventor today?” reviews the many contributions of African American inventors. Inventions that a student uses during the school day that were also developed by African Americans are highlighted, along with brief biographies of each. This book is co-authored by Dian Wang and illustrated by Darren McLaurin. The book is acknowledged by Microsoft as one that encourages STEM.
- Patrice McLaurin’s book “Have you thanked a KIDVENTOR today?” teaches about child inventors and stories behind inventions such as the Popsicle and trampoline. The book comes with a glossary and fun science experiments to support STEM vocabulary and higher level thinking. It is written for elementary school students. This book is co-authored by Dian Wang and illustrated by Darren McLaurin.
- This is one of two books by Jacqueline Sanders-Blackman about the Maker family and their children. In “Smart Sarah and the Magic of Science” Sarah’s appreciation of science develops through learning about cupcakes, rainbows, and colors. It also develops through nurturing parents who encourage her passions, and exposure to STEM careers. The book is designed to be relatable to families of color. Illustrated by Zeeshan Shahid.
- In Jacqueline Sanders-Blackman’s second book “Perceptive PJ and the Making of a Mathlete,” PJ pursues his interests in competing in academic competitions (Math Olympics). His talks with family members help him decide on a winning strategy. Through PJ’s journey, children learn about traditional and less traditional sports, different kinds of competitions, and connections between math and sports. Illustrated by Zeeshan Shahid.
- Sasha Ariel Alston’s “Sasha Savvy Loves to Code” seeks to excite children about STEM. The book takes children on Sasha’s journey while learning to code. On this journey children are introduced to basic coding terms along with other behaviors that support STEM success (e.g., asking for help and overcoming challenges). The book is written for children ages 7 to 10 years. Illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton.
This book is about William Kamkwamba, a teenager growing up in Malawi who dreamed of building a windmill for electricity in order to help his family. With dedication, library research, and the use of scrap metals and old bicycle parts, William’s dream becomes a reality. His book “The Boy who Harnessed the Wind” relays his journey. Coauthored by Bryan Mealer. Illustrated by Anna Hymas. The book is written for teens and young adults.
This version of “The Boy who Harnessed the Wind” is a picture book edition for children ages 6 to 8. Coauthored by Bryan Mealer. Illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon.
In “Disco Balls of the Universe” children learn in a fun way about the eight planets of the solar system, by being introduced to them at a party in outer space. The author, Imani Ariana Grant is 10 years old. Coauthored by Shaneika Burchell-Kerr. Illustrated by Zachary-Michael Clarke and Simmone-Anais Clarke.
“Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race” is a picture book for children ages 4 – 8. Written by Margot Lee Shetterly, the book explores the experiences of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden while they were at NASA. Illustrated by Laura Freeman.
In “Nola the Nurse explores STEM Activities” Dr. Scharmaine Lawson’s character (Nola) explores the wonders of human anatomy. Children learn about the heart, skeleton, lungs and more through loads of activities. The books is written for elementary school children. Illustrated by Marvin Alonzo.
In Dr. Ashley Denmark’s book, “Olivia’s Doctor Adventures,” Olivia learns about what it is like to be a cardiologist, pediatrician, and more. The book is designed for children ages 4 to 8 to teach them about the fields of medicine and having a medical career. Illustrated by Mike Motz.
In reviewing these books, I hope you find one or more that excites and supports your children and youth in STEM.
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See the following references to learn more about supporting STEM development in children and youth.
- Afterschool Alliance. “STEM in Afterschool.” Changing perspectives. Shaping Lives.” http://www.afterschoolalliance.org/documents/STEMinAfterschool_Web.pdf
- The Pear Institute. “Stem.” https://www.thepearinstitute.org/stem