GUEST POSTS: NSTA Linking Literacy, NSTA National Convention, Boston, MA. 9 am – 3 pm, April 4, 2020.
The National Science Teacher’s Association has invited authors of Outstanding Science Trade Books and Best Stem Books to discuss literacy and children’s books at a special Literacy Event. 14 of these authors have contributed guest posts to run from January 7 – April 2, 2020.

See the full author list and the date on which they’ll post at Linking Literacy 2020

Guest post by Carrie J. Launius and Christine Royce

NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Books – since 1973

national science teachers assocation outstanding trade book seal

In 1973, the first Outstanding Science Trade Books list was published on cooperation between the National Science Teachers Association and the Children’s Book Council. This list which identifies books that were published in the previous year has continued since that day with the same collaborators and many scientists, educators, and librarians having served on the review panels throughout the years.

While this book list is now in approaching it’s fiftieth year, the criteria associated with the books selected have been tweaked over time but remain largely consistent.  Books

  • must be scientifically accurate and not contrary to current scientific thinking;
  • should not lead to misconceptions or oversimplify facts;
  • engage students in the understanding of science;
  • include an informative and aesthetically appealing format with the presentation of information in a logical and clear sequence;
  • are appropriate for the intended audience;
  • should be without significant personification, teleology, or animism or inaccurate anthropomorphism;

Additionally, if conflicting scientific theories exist, as many views as possible are represented. Finally, but equally important, the information is free of gender, ethnic, or socio-economic bias, whenever possible.

Best STEM Books

    Fast forward to the current time and the recognition that STEM has a definite place and need within the current classroom.  Knowing this, the Best STEM Book List morphed from the Outstanding Science Trade Book List and added to the recommendations books that could be utilized as exemplars in the area of STEM thinking.

While the criteria for the OSTB has been vetted and are clear, the criteria for the BSB is muddy as it is not nearly as cut and dry (i.e. has accurate science content) when selecting books for this list.  Much more inference is used while reading the books. The original idea was due to the fact that it was desirable to shine the light on what we believed created STEM-like thinking and provide resources that modeled that for students.  We looked at a variety of books, examined their components, and analyzed them to identify what we thought a STEM book would look like; but more importantly, we determined what was NOT a STEM book though the use of the Frayer Model.  Once an initial categorization was determined, a small team of educators developed the criteria.

The initial starting point considered that a STEM book was not just a book that taught science, technology, engineering or math.  A STEM book promoted STEM-like thinking and needed to incorporate at least two of those subjects in an integrated and supported manner.  The goal was to select books to promote not only convergent thinking but also divergent thinking.

After much research and thought we came across these STEM Book tenets which require that books

  • models innovation;
  • illustrates authentic problems;
  • assimilates new or more efficient ideas;
  • invites divergent thinking;
  • shows progressive change or improvement;
  • explores multiple solutions to problems; and
  • integrates STEM disciplines.

Along with this criteria books needed to have accurate content,  be age appropriate, and incorporates and demonstrates diversity. 

    To engage students in STEM topics and STEM like thinking, it is important that students be provided with a plethora of experiences from the earliest of ages.  Providing opportunities for students to gain exposure to STEM like thinking through literature allows students to connect this experience to other opportunities that they have. There are additional benefits for using books in this way which include the ability for students to get into the “heads” of the story characters; consider experiences that they characters have had or are describing,  and begin to understand the “thinking stance” associated with how they approached the situation described.  Furthermore, we want students to use the experiences and thinking strategies described in the story in their own experiences and to learn to take risks, be bold, and try new things. 

In considering all of the wonderful books published each year, you might run across a book that you believe should have made one of our lists based on the criteria.  We find these books too.  By providing additional information about the process and the existence of the list, we hope that more publishers would submit books to the CBC for consideration.  Books cannot be reviewed for consideration as a Best STEM Book, if it has not been submitted.

There is no doubt that both of these book lists have a similar goal which is to bring quality children’s literature into the K-12 classroom  in order to utilize the books as a springboard for engaging students in the pursuit of science disciplines and STEM habits of mind.

Check out the current OSTB and BSB lists.

Carrie J Launius
Carrie J. Launius, co-leader of the Linking Literacy Event.

Carrie J. Launius created the Best STEM Book Award, is co-leader of the Linking Literacy Event at the 2019 NSTA Convention, is the Elementary Science Coordinator for St. Louis Public Schools as well as the NSTA District XI Director.

Christine Royce, Current President of the NSTA

Christine Royce, Ph.D is the current president of the National Science Teacher’s Association and co-leader of the Linking Literacy Event for the 2019 NSTA Convention.

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