To Change The Face Of Science, We Need More Books Like Ada Twist, Scientist
Children’s science books are one way to keep changing the face of science, so here are ten more recommendations for you.
This is a guest post by Farah Qaiser and Nicole Williams, who are members of 500 Women Scientists — an international grassroots organization which serves society by making science open, inclusive, and accessible by fighting racism, patriarchy, and oppressive societal norms.
Today, the children’s book Ada Twist, Scientist is being launched as a Netflix Family animated series. Written by Andrea Beaty, Ada Twist is an eight-year-old Black scientist who is endlessly curious, and explores friendship, scientific discovery, and teamwork through her many questions. We’re looking forward to the launch of this Netflix series, because it’s an exciting moment to continue to change the face of science.
Why are books like Ada Twist, Scientist important? Well, as cliché as it sounds, it’s hard to be what you can’t see.
We know that diverse representation matters: past studies have shown that when children receive long-term exposure to counterstereotypical role models (e.g., women scientists), children are more likely to aspire towards, and engage with these roles. Similarly, studies also show that when asked to draw a scientist, more children are drawing women as scientists than ever before, but when they grow older, children still tend to associate science with men.
It’s clear that children need to be able to see themselves represented in the science-related books they read and the media they enjoy, yet existing media has often failed to represent the diversity of communities across the world. We can do much better.
To be clear, representation is simply the first step. We cannot continue to welcome excited young scientists with open arms, without actively working to dismantle the racism, systemic discrimination, patriarchy, and other oppressive societal norms embedded in the world of science.
But for today, with the launch of Ada Twist, Scientist, we want to take a moment to celebrate existing children’s science books, to elevate the authors behind these incredible pieces of work, and to activate the next generation of scientists and storytellers. And what better way to do this, than a curated reading list?
Here’s a short list of ten incredible children’s science books, which have been published recently — many that we have read, and some that we hope to get our hands on soon.
This is by no means a complete list, but a selection of books which are aimed at different ages, and feature a diverse cast of characters who explore different aspects of the science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM) fields. If you’re looking for more book recommendations, consider checking out First Book Marketplace’s Diversity In STEM book list, or initiatives such as #WeNeedDiverseBooks and #1000BlackGirlBooks.
While more and more children’s books are slowly popping up, we’re looking forward to seeing more books which explore the racial, cultural, and linguistic diversity of young readers, and their lived experiences. For example, what about a children’s science book with a lead character who is disabled or a Muslim, or books that explore obscure or emerging aspects of science, such as open science or organoids?
Children’s science books are one way to keep changing the face of science. There are endless stories still left to write — and perhaps you, dear reader, have a story you want to tell too.
Farah Qaiser is a genomics researcher who uses DNA sequencing to better understand complex neurological disorders, and carries out policy-related research. Outside the lab, Farah has written about science for media outlets, hosted Wikipedia Edit-A-Thons, and co-founded the Toronto Science Policy Network. She serves on the Canada Chief Science Advisor’s Youth Council, and the Executive Leadership Team for 500 Women Scientists.
Nicole Williams (she/her/hers) is a marine scientist, diversity and inclusion practitioner, and an advocate for policies that improve the well-being and health of self-identifying African American women. She holds a Masters of Science degree from Hawai’i Pacific University and a Bachelor of Arts degree in biology from Wittenberg University in Ohio. Nicole is the Director of Outreach at 500 Women Scientists, and manages the Gage database, which is the world’s largest community of women and gender diverse individuals in science, technology, engineering, math and medicine (STEMM). She is also the co-founder of the Black Women’s Collective, which was formed from the necessity for Black women in STEMM to advocate for progress and accountability while uplifting Black women in their science and advocacy work.