At the National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF), we believe every child can invent, and we’ve seen firsthand how STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) experiences can encourage and inspire them.
We also know every child is different. While some children might naturally find themselves drawn to these subjects, others might not identify as a “math or science” person. Instead, maybe they are more interested in building, designing, creating art or solving problems. Fortunately, STEM fields offer many chances to do all these things! The more a child explores STEM, the more likely they are to see all these possibilities and to develop an interest and eventual passion for these subjects.
One fun and effective way to spark interest in STEM is through books. Reading can show children that STEM subjects involve much more than memorizing math facts or the periodic table. In fact, people working in these exciting fields often have the goal of making life easier, healthier or even more fun through the power of creativity and invention.
Inspiring Picture Books for Elementary School Children
“If I Built a Car” by Chris Van Dusen
Filled with action-packed artwork and a fast-paced rhyme scheme, this book tells the story of a boy named Jack who builds the car of his dreams. From a pool to a snack bar, he and his dad embark on a test drive of a lifetime. By reading this story, children begin to imagine what upgrades they could make to objects they use on a daily basis.
“The Story of Kites: Amazing Chinese Inventions” by Ying Chang Compestine
In this book, three creative brothers brainstorm a way to drive away the pesky birds from their rice fields: building wings using paper, straw and feathers to chase them away! Blending beautiful illustrations made from hand-cut, colored paper with a story that celebrates Asian culture, this story explores the invention of kites and encourages children to invent something of their own.
“The Most Magnificent Thing” by Ashley Spires
This story focuses on a young girl who has the wonderful idea of making “the most magnificent thing!” Things don’t go according to plan at first and she gets discouraged, but after taking a walk with her dog, she returns to her project with a renewed sense of enthusiasm to complete her invention. With an inspiring message that encourages children to never give up, this story tells readers that with hard work and perseverance, they can accomplish greatness.
Exciting Chapter Books and Graphic Novels for Middle School Aged Children
“Ada Lace on the Case” by Emily Calandrelli and Tamson Weston
Ada is an 8-year-old girl who has a gift for math, science and solving mysteries with the help of technology. One day, after discovering that her neighbor’s beloved Yorkie has been dognapped, she uses her collection of gadgets to solve the mystery. Suitable for children in grades 1 to 5, this book is the first in a series from author Emily Calandrelli, host of “Emily’s Wonder Lab,” “Xploration Outer Space” and a correspondent on “Bill Nye Saves the World.”
“The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Young Readers Edition” by William Kamkwamba
When a crippling drought struck William Kamkwamba’s village in Malawi, Africa, his family lost their crop, placing them in a dangerous situation. After exploring science books in his village library, he came up with the idea to build a windmill. Crafted out of scrap metal and old bicycle parts, the windmill was able to bring electricity to his family’s home and pump water to their fields to regrow their fields. This true story is an inspiration for students young and old and was recently adapted into a Netflix film children can enjoy after they finish the book.
“Full Steam Ahead” by Paul Reynolds
Sydney and Simon are two mice twins who want to enter their flowers in a neighborhood flower show, but their flowers are wilting due to the city heat. Fortunately, the mice are creative. Using the power of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics), they explore different ways to solve their problem. Packed with bright illustrations, this book teaches kids that inspiration can come from many different places.
“The Invention of Hugo Cabret” by Brian Selznick
Winner of a Caldecott Medal, this book tells the story of a boy named Hugo who lives in the walls of a busy Paris train station repairing clocks. While trying to repair a mysterious machine, he unexpectedly begins to unravel a mystery that will change his life forever. With beautiful black and white charcoal drawings, this story is sure to get any child’s gears turning.
Visit Our Blog for More STEM Learning Ideas
For more ideas and support in guiding and inspiring young creators, innovators and leaders, please visit our blog at invent.org