10 Must-Read STEM Picture Books

STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math

STEM is more than just the current education buzzword. It is teaching our students critical skills that they will use for the rest of their lives.

A few of the benefits of a STEM curriculum include:
  • Inspires creativity
  • Encourages critical thinking
  • Prepares students for future careers in science and technology fields
  • Provides hands-on learning opportunities 
  • Develops a child's natural curiosity 
  • Teaches students how to work collaboratively to solve a problem
One way that librarians can incorporate STEM into their lessons is through picture books. At one time it was difficult to find picture books about engineering or scientists that were not dull and lifeless. Now there are more and more books being published that are engaging, interesting and will hold your students' interest. Below is a list of my top 10 STEM picture books that are a must-have for any library or classroom.

1. Charlotte the Scientist is Squished by Camille Andros.

Charlotte is a curious rabbit scientist. She is not able to work at home because her house is too crowded and she can't focus. So Charlotte applies the scientific method to solve this problem. Her first solution doesn't work out so she tries again until she is successful.

2. The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires.

A little girl wants to build something magnificent. She thinks it will be easy but she struggles at the task and fails several times. She becomes angry and quits but then her dog helps her to see that she shouldn't give up. She goes back to work and is successful in making her magnificent thing.

3. Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty.

Rosie dreams about becoming an engineer. She spends her time inventing various gadgets and gizmos. Her great-aunt comes to visit Rosie and tells Rosie that she always dreamed of flying. Rosie tries to make this dream come true. And while Rosie is not able to make her aunt fly, she learns an important lesson about perseverance.

4.  Awesome Dawson by Chris Gall.

Dawson is an inventor. He likes to reuse items that no one wants anymore. He decides to build a robot vacuum to help him do his chores. However, the robot goes berserk and he must find a way to stop it.

5. Papa's Mechanical Fish by Candace Fleming.

This is a partially true story about a 19th-century inventor Lodner Phillips who wanted to build a submarine or a mechanical fish. The book is told from the point-of-view of his daughter. After many attempts, he is somewhat successful and he ends up taking his family on an underwater swim in Lake Michigan.

6. Ada's Ideas: the Story of Ada Lovelace, the World's First Computer Programmer by Fiona Robinson.

This is a beautifully illustrated biography of Ada Lovelace, the first computer programmer. It details her life and how she became involved in the first "computers" in the 19th century.

7. How to Code a Sandcastle by Josh Funk.

Pearl is having trouble building a sandcastle. She decides to have her robot help her using code. The story provides a basic introduction to coding in a fun and creative way that will hook most of your young readers.

8. Jackrabbit McCabe and the Electric Telegraph by Lucy Margaret Rozier.

This tall tale introduces readers to the invention of the electric telegraph. Jackrabbit McCabe is the fastest man in the West. But when the telegraph is invented he enters a race to see who can deliver a message the fastest. There is also an author's note about Morse Code along with a riddle for children to decode.

9. Bright Sky, Starry City by Uma Krishnaswami.

Pheobe's father owns a telescope shop. Pheobe is excited that she will be able to see Mars and Saturn at the same time in the night sky. But the bright lights of the city make it impossible to see them. Luckily the power goes out so everyone in the city is able to see the beautiful night sky.

10. DOLL-E 1.0 by Shandra McClosky

Charlotte is a very tech-savvy child. When she receives a doll as a gift she doesn't know what to do with it. So she takes the doll apart and tries to modify it until it becomes DOLL-E 1.0.

Activity suggestions

There are so many different STEM activities that you can do with these books. Below is a short list of some activity suggestions that you could do with these or similar STEM books. I also created a Pinterest board for STEM activities. You can find more detailed instructions for some of the ideas listed below on this board
  • Provide students with different materials that you have on hand and tell them to make their own magnificent thing or their own creation. Some of the materials you could use: plastic cups, straws, paper, cotton balls, q-tips, craft sticks, string, glue sticks, old crayons, aluminum foil, wax paper, bubble wrap, cardboard (toilet paper rolls if you are lucky enough to have a supply of them), pipe cleaners or sticks. Pretty much anything you can think of or may have lying around.
  • Introduce and discuss the scientific method. You can do a simple science experiment with your students. 
  • Paper airplane challenge
  • Give students a small stuffed animal or another light item. Tell them they need to find a way to move the item. Provide them with some craft sticks, string and tape and see what they create. 
  • Have students create their own submarines with plastic Easter eggs and coins (or something else of similar weight).
  • Have students make a coding necklace using their names.
As I was writing this blog post I realized that I did not have any STEM posters in my library. So I decided to make a set. I think they are absolutely adorable! I can't wait to go back to school so I can put them up. If you would like a set you can buy them from my website or my TpT store.

School Library Planners

When I first became a school librarian, I bought a teacher planner at a teacher store. I loved the bright colors and cute graphics and thought it would keep me organized all year. Unfortunately, I quickly found out that the planner was made for classroom teachers, not librarians. I tried a few others over the years, but nothing worked for my specific needs. I do not need to keep track of student data or their IEP information.

So that's when I decided to make my own. I could customize it any way I wanted and only include pages that would help me. Once I realized how much I loved the planner I wanted to share it with other librarians. So I added it to my TpT store and it quickly became my best-selling product.

Creating the planner

When I sat down to create the planner, I started by making a list of all the things I needed. 
  • Planning pages to show a weekly, monthly and yearly overview
  • Pages to keep track of what I needed to order 
  • Teacher/collaboration pages
  • Pages to keep track of student discipline issues and parent contacts
  • Pages to list monthly circulation and collection statistics
Before I knew it I had quite a lengthy list. I wanted to include not only calendars and lesson plan templates but also the forms and papers that I would use all the time (like the collaboration pages and the discipline reports).

What is in the librarian planner?

The librarian planner is over 300 pages. It includes a .pdf document as well as many editable pages. I have had customers tell me that I included pages that they didn't know they needed until they bought my planner. And what's great about a digital product is that you only print the pages that you need. So what is in the planner?

Cover pages and spine labels


Two-page calendars for each month as well as some weekly and monthly planning forms.

Lesson plan templates

There are 3 different templates: 6 subjects, 7subjectst, and 8 subjects.

Misc. pages

Parent/home contact log - keep track of when you call parents about a student. In my school teachers document every parental contact in PowerSchool, but specials teachers do not. 

Library discipline report - fill this form out and send it home with the student when there is a behavior incident in the library. There is a place for a parent to sign. This way you can make sure that the parents are notified about problems their child is having in the library. 

Behavior log - fill this form in with any discipline or behavior incident that occurs in the library. 

Reports - keep track of your circulation statistics, library activities, classes visiting the library, books added/deleted and fees collected.

Surveys - 2 staff surveys to find out how teachers use the library and ways the library can support classroom instruction. 5 student surveys - the surveys can be used with multiple grade levels including your youngest students. They mostly focus on their reading interests.

Booked for Birthdays - This is a very popular program with parents that I use every year. Parents will pay for a birthday book for their child. The book is a library book but it has their child's name inside. There is a letter to send home to parents about the program and pages to keep track of what students are participating in the program. These are the forms I use in my library. They are editable.

Book fair planning pages - keep track of some of your book fair details with 3 different pages

And many more: password list, volunteer list, to-do list, professional development tracker and meeting notes.

Editable pages

There are many pages that you can edit yourself. When you purchase the planner, there is a separate folder for the editable PowerPoint pages. You can only open these files with PowerPoint. I embedded all of the fonts into the files so you do not need to download them to your computer. Once you open the file you will click where it says "edit text" or in any section that has a text box. You can add your own text, change the wording or use a different font or color.

Note: none of the images in these pages can be changed. The only thing that can be edited is the text (this is due to copyright restrictions).

Below is a list of the editable files:
  • About Me page
  • Behavior report and discipline log
  • Book fair black and white pages
  • Book fair color pages
  • Booked for birthdays (letter and the planning pages)
  • Collaboration forms
  • Cover pages and spine labels
  • Lesson plan templates
  • Misc. black and white pages (volunteer list, password list, professional development tracker, meeting notes, yearly plan for each grade)
  • Misc. color forms (same as above but with colored backgrounds)
  • Ordering ideas (I inserted a table so you can type in your ideas. The table can be deleted if you want.)
  • Peek at the week and peek at the month
  • Reports
  • Blank library schedule with a table inserted, you can edit the table, delete it etc. to suit your needs

Planner themes

I have four different planners to choose from: 
  • chevron
  • watercolor
  • superhero 
  • black/red
They are all identical in content, just have different colors, backgrounds, and graphics. The black and red planner has some slight differences than the other three. This is a more print-friendly option if you need to save on color ink. And there are fewer pages because there are no color options. Everything else is identical. 

All of these planners can be purchased from my website or my TpT store


"I have been looking for this for YEARS!!! I needed a way to be organized, but you Librarians know that the teacher planner isn't always the perfect resource.  Well, Librarians, LOOK NO FURTHER!!!  This is the DREAM planner.  I literally salivate over it when I open it.  I almost want to sleep with it, I love it that much.  GOODBYE UNORGANIZED LIBRARIAN!!  :)"

"Love, love, love. This is a great resource. You included many items I've had vague ideas of implementing but hadn't fully realized (like the birthday book club). This will be perfect for getting myself more organized this year."

"I love this! I've had such a hard time finding the perfect planner this year. They never have just the right things or they are ugly. I was really surprised how many options you included. I'm really fond of the fact you gave multiple versions of planning sheets. I'm a librarian in a K-8 STEM school and what works with isn't the same as what works with 4-8. Great product!"

"Wow, after many years as a media specialist, I am so glad that I've found you.  This is more than I could ever use, but everything I have ever wanted!  Thank you!!!"

"This bundle is amazing!  I purchased it last year to help keep me organized and it did not disappoint.  I loved being able to use the existing binder covers and pages but also being able to customize the covers that were not included.  There were some pages that I didn't use so I just didn't print them out.  Each year is different so I appreciate having the updates so I can reprint as needed.  It's difficult to find quality library materials and resources and this is perfect.
 Great product!"

I also have a Google Slides planner and one for Australian librarians.