Representation matters: Girls do better on science tests when their textbooks include images of female scientists. And a 2017 survey by Microsoft found that girls in Europe begin to show interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields at 11 years old but lose it at around 15—and a lack of female role models is one reason for the drop in interest.
This is a list of books to inspire young girls looking to go into STEM, including a wide range of topics and genres.
KINDERGARTEN TO GRADE 3
Rosie Revere, Engineer
Andrea Beaty’s picture book explores growth mindset, perseverance, and failure. Rosie Revere wants to create a contraption that flies, but it only hovers. Her great-great aunt is Rosie the Riveter, and tells her that what she thinks is a failure is a success since you can only truly fail when you quit.
Ada Twist, Scientist
This is also by Andrea Beaty. It follows Ada Twist, a young black scientist that explores her world through science. Ada’s curiosity takes her on a journey to uncover the terrible smell in her house. She asks questions, experiments, and gathers facts to find that some questions lead to more questions than answers.
Swimming With Sharks: The Daring Discoveries of Eugenie Clark
Heather Lang’s illustrated biography chronicles Japanese-American Eugenie Clark’s lifelong fascination with sharks and her journey to becoming a marine biologist. Through her research, she disproved the popular opinion that sharks are dangerous killers.
GRADES 4 TO 6
The Fourteenth Goldfish
Three-time Newbery Honor winner Jennifer L. Holm introduces young readers to the world of science through fifth grader Ellie. When she meets Melvin, a teen who looks like her scientist grandfather, she wonders whether Grandpa really did discover how to reverse the aging process. The book explores themes of family, friendship, life, death, and what’s possible through science. It includes a gallery of scientists and other STEM resources.
Finding Wonders” Three Girls Who Changed Science
In this verse-written novel, Jeannine Atkins shares the lives of three real scientists: entomologist Maria Merian (1647-17170, paleontologist Mary Anning (1799-1847), and astronomer Maria Mitchell (1818-1889) – All of whom were interested in science from the childhood on.
Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World
In this beautifully illustrated book, Rachel Ignotofsky highlights 50 women from around the world who impacted STEM fields from A.D. 400 to the present. Readers will find geneticists, volcanologists, and primatologists, as well as mathematicians and chemists. A historical timeline notes pivotal moments for women in STEM. The book includes statistics showing the gender gap in the STEM workforce, an illustrated glossary, and other resources.
GRADES 7 TO 8
Radioactive! How Irène Curie and Lise Meitner Revolutionized Science and Changed the World
Winifred Conkling’s nonfiction narrative profiles two female physicists whose discoveries paved the way for nuclear energy—and the atomic bomb. Set in the 1930s, this book is a combination of history and suspense, and details the glass ceiling of a male-dominated field. Educational sidebars throughout the book explain the science.
Wonder Women: 25 Innovators, Inventors, and Trailblazers Who Changed History
Sam Maggs, a writer who frequently explores what it means to be a woman in geek culture, uses illustrated biographies to examine the lives of scientists, engineers, inventors, and more. With a dash of humor, references to pop culture, and a conversational tone, Maggs captures the amazing achievements of women throughout history.
Josie Byrne and her doppelgänger, Jo, live in different universes that open to each other every 12 hours, at 3:59. In this science fiction/horror story by Gretchen McNeil, Josie believes she’s just dreaming this alternate world until she switches places with Jo. Josie and Jo realize that their worlds are in danger, and use physics to save them both.
GRADES 9 TO 12
Hope Jahren chronicles her lifelong passion for nature and science. Her memoir explores her relationship with her parents and the impact it had in cultivating her love of science as a child, and how her passion for plants and science gave her a deeper insight into herself.
In the Land of Invisible Women: A Female Doctor's Journey in the Saudi Kingdom
This memoir by Qanta A. Ahmed, a British Muslim doctor, begins in the late 1990s when her application to renew her U.S. visa is denied and she accepts a job in Saudi Arabia. Though excited about the prospect of forming a deeper connection to her faith, she struggles with being a feminist, a doctor, and a Western woman living and working in a country that’s deeply oppressive to women.
Recently adapted to film – With Oscar nominations – Margot Lee Shetterly’s nonfiction book depicts the lives of four black women who, as mathematicians and engineers, helped send the first American astronaut into space. Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, and Christine Darden fought to progress up the ranks at NASA in the 1950s.
All these books are great for kids and teens, and nearly all are available at most book stores as well as online.