2018 Discovery Education STEM Community Reading Lists

With March being National Reading Month, I thought it would be the perfect time to immerse ourselves in STEM-infused literature! Books are so important to growing a STEM mindset, especially with the earliest of learners. Books open doors and windows to worlds and experiences which many students may never have the opportunity to enjoy in person; they give students examples of critical thinking, innovation, persistence, and creativity – all skills needed throughout a student’s education and into their future careers. This month, instead of sharing my favorite STEM resources, I reached out to our STEMtastic Discovery Education STEM Community for help, and the response was overwhelming! Asking educators about their favorite books is like asking a chef about their favorite foods; you receive incredibly extensive lists that stretch your thinking to places you never imagined. What started as a list with three categories grew organically to encompass the breadth of literature supporting a STEM mindset in students, educators, and the everyday population.

Disclaimer: I could never have shared all the great resources provided by the community in one blog post as that list would be so vast it could be its own blog. After separating recommended books into categories, I am sharing a sampling of books which were highlighted multiple times in community responses. We are in no way endorsing these books as “the best” or being “Discovery Picks”; this is just a small selection of books the Discovery Education STEM Community identified as exemplifying a STEM mindset. Do not fret if the book(s) you shared isn’t on this list, as I am sure this will be the first of many STEM Literature lists from the STEM community!

Professional – General STEM Thinking

Building the STEM dispositions and skills needed to solve global problems for our future generations is critical for humankind. These selected books can help us to develop these STEM dispositions such as wonder, persistence, skepticism, and risk-taking in schools, classrooms, and communities. To change the path we are on as an educational system, we must embrace new ideas and model STEM dispositions for students in our everyday actions.

  • The Boy Who Played with Fusion: Extreme Science, Extreme Parenting and How to Make a Star by Tom Clynes
  • Gödel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter
  • Why School?: How Education Must Change When Learning and Information Are Everywhere by Will Richardson
  • Out of Our Minds: The Power of Being Creative by Sir Ken Robinson
  • STEAM Makers: Fostering Creativity and Innovation in the Elementary Classroom by Jacie Maslyk

Professional – Content Focused

Content can be the key to inspiring and engaging students as we help make connections to our students “real-lives”. How many people over time have been inspired by the stars, questions of reality and eternity, as well as solving the problems of our world? Building our own background knowledge will help to foster curiosity within our students as well as create classrooms and communities ready to support the future innovators.

  • Lab Girl by Hope Jahren
  • Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World by Jane McGonigal
  • Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson
  • Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100 by Michio Kaku
  • Neutrino Hunters: The Thrilling Chase for a Ghostly Particle to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe by Ray Jayawardhana

Young Readers – Literature

STEM thinking starts with our youngest learners by providing positive STEM experiences at the onset of their education. Providing students with foundational STEM experiences can have dramatic effects on a student’s future. Research shows that early exposure to STEM has positive impacts across the entire spectrum of learning and disciplines (National Research Council, 2012), not just on science and mathematics. When it comes to literature, STEM doesn’t just live in non-fiction texts, as it’s often fictional stories with STEM infused ideas which get students hooked for life.

  • Not a Box by Antoinette Portis
  • Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty
  • What Do You Do With an Idea? by Kobi Yamada
  • Perfect Square by Michael Hall
  • Papa’s Mechanical Fish by Candace Fleming

Young Readers – Informational

Students often have one question on their mind when it comes to information, “Why?” Our earliest learners are developing an incredible amount of neural pathways in their preschool and elementary years, up to 700 per second (J.Buchter – UNLV College of Education). As we intensify inquiry, risk-taking, and play-based learning in classrooms; we need to provide literature that continues to captivate students with the real-life application of content knowledge.

  • Ada Lovelace: Poet of Science by Diane Stanley
  • Moonshot by Brian Floca
  • Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Oceans Most Fearless Scientist by Jess Keating
  • The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba
  • Sleeping in a Sack by Linda White

Young Readers – Series

There are so many STEMazing series of books that address STEM ideas, from biographies to engineering design. Many times students find books that are really engaging, leaving them begging for more. These STEM-infused series address this critical need and bring content to life!

  • Who Was… by Various Authors
  • I am… Series by Brad Meltzer
  • Baby Loves… series by Ruth Spiro
  • Who Would Win… by Jerry Pallotta

Young Adult – Fiction & Nonfiction

The young adult genre has embraced wonder, innovation, science fiction, and social impact for more than a century. Helping students see how the ideas within their favorite books and the actions of their favorite characters connect to the STEM skills they are building in the classroom can develop an understanding of “why?” and make learning relevant for all students. Though these books have a wide span of reading levels, they are ones that inspire all levels of students through their stories and lessons.

  • Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
  • The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
  • The Wild Robot by Peter Brown
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  • Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly
  • Driving Mr. Albert by Michael Paterniti

General – Fiction

Reading about STEM or reading books with STEM themes is not just for all students, but for all adults as well. These books don’t specifically fit into one of our other genre lists but cannot be left off any list highlighting STEM literature. I wanted to name this category “classics” but know it would have started a debate for the ages. Each of these books has inspired countless innovators as well as some of the worlds most brilliant minds. If you haven’t read these books, they’re a great starting point for understanding how STEM-thinking has always been a part of an innovation culture and will continue to be long into the future.

  • 20000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelly
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
  • Rocket Boys by Homer Hickam Jr.
  • Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
  • The Martian by Andy Weir

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