Are you eager to introduce coding to your little ones? Are you trying to find a relatable STEM-loving character that they can look up to? Are you sick of YouTube (never!!!) and want to find amazing books which don’t feel educational, but secretly are?
If so, this is the post for you! Non-fiction is great, but this book list focuses on compelling storytelling and inspirational characters to get your kids into STEM and coding, rather than a non-fiction, instructional approach. All the books listed here are story-led, I’ve read them myself, we don’t get any money for talking about them, we just really rate them. Here goes!
1. Interstellar Cinderella
- Ages: 4 - 7
- The best bit: It's the perfect antidote to fantasies of princely rescue. Plus the illustrations are gorgeous.
- The blurb: Once upon a planetoid, amid her tools and sprockets ,a girl named Cinderella dreamed of fixing fancy rockets. With a little help from her fairy godrobot, Cinderella is going to the ball. But when the prince's ship has mechanical trouble, someone will have to zoom to the rescue! Readers will thank their lucky stars for this irrepressible fairy tale retelling, its independent heroine and its stellar happy ending.
- Extra resources: Yes, the Reading Literacy Centre has created loads. Kidspace Children’s Museum has a great reading of the book on YouTube too.
- What people say: “If you're looking for a book to empower your little girl, this is the perfect book! Girl knows tools, dreams of fixing spaceships, girl fixed boy's ship (instead of Prince Charming saving dainty princess), girl gave marriage proposal a careful thought instead of jumping into a yes, girl refused marriage because she's too young for it. This book teaches girls that there are way much more than being pretty and waiting around for a marriage proposal from Prince Charming.”
2. How to Code A Sand Castle
- Ages: 4-8
- The best bit: Problem solving is at the heart of coding, and it’s also at the heart of this lovely picture book.
- The official blurb: It’s the last day of summer, and Pearl is determined to build a sandcastle. She’s been trying all summer, but one thing after another has gotten in her way. Today, though, she’s got a new plan. She’s brought her trusty robot Pascal, and they’re going to code their way to getting the job done! As she and Pascal set about to build, Pearl learns that she can’t just tell Pascal to build a sandcastle — she has to break down each step to create a code that will work properly. Pearl problem-solves her way through the day, and in the end, her sandcastle — or rather, sand kingdom — is perfect.
- Extra resources: Library lessons here.
- What people say: “A great mix of solid programming lessons and a fun, engaging story. My kids laughed out loud.”
3. Hello Ruby
- Ages: 4-8
- The best bit: The author, Linda Liukas, is a coder herself. She was fed up with the lack of diversity in tech and decided to do something about it.
- The blurb: Meet Ruby―a small girl with a huge imagination, and the determination to solve any puzzle. As Ruby stomps around her world making new friends, including the Wise Snow Leopard, the Friendly Foxes, and the Messy Robots, kids will be introduced to the fundamentals of computational thinking, like how to break big problems into small ones, create step-by-step plans, look for patterns and think outside the box through storytelling. Then, these basic concepts at the core of coding and programming will be reinforced through fun playful exercises and activities that encourage exploration and creativity. In Ruby's world anything is possible if you put your mind to it.
- Extra resources: Loads of great videos by the author and educational resources on her website here.
- What people say: “Hello Ruby is half picture book and half activity book rolled into one adorable package. It introduces programming without requiring a computer at all. The point of the book isn’t to teach you a programming language, but programming concepts.”
4. Ada Twist, Scientist
- Ages: 5-7
- The best bit: This is just one of a brilliant series. Check out Iggy Peck, Architect; Rosie Revere, Engineer; and Sofia Valdez and the Vanishing Vote stars Sofia Valdez, an activist and community leader who stands up for what she believes in.
- The official blurb: Scientist Ada has a boundless imagination and has always been hopelessly curious. Why are there pointy things stuck to a rose? Why are there hairs growing inside your nose? When her house fills with a horrific, toe-curling smell, Ada knows it’s up to her to find the source. What would you do with a problem like this? Not afraid of failure, Ada embarks on a fact-finding mission and conducts scientific experiments, all in the name of discovery. But, this time, her experiments lead to even more stink and get her into trouble!
- Extra resources: Yes, on author Andrea Beatty’s website, plus some great teaching resources by Abrams Books.
- What people say: “Encourages young minds to be inquisitive and ask questions regardless of the reactions of others as well as teaches parents and others to support young, inquiring minds."
5. Agent Asha, Mission: Shark Bytes
Disclaimer alert! The author of this blog is a huge advocate for diversity in tech. She is also the author of Agent Asha, as well as CEO of Bright Little Labs.
- Ages: 7-11
- The best bit: The heroine, Asha Joshi, is third generation British-Indian, and provides a great coding role model for young boys and girls. Also, once they’ve read the book, kids can join the (real!) Children’s Spy Agency’s for free, to take their coding learning further.
- The official blurb: Asha Joshi has just been recruited by the top-secret Children’s Spy Agency. Her first mission is to investigate who – or what – is bringing down the Internet. Asha is fearless and can code with her eyes closed, but this mission is dangerous. She’ll have to hack into the world’s biggest tech company, battle deadly sharks and avoid setting off her farting selfie stick. Can she save the day before the whole world loses its mind … and its Wi-Fi connection?
- Extra resources: Great teaching resources from the Centre For Literacy In Primary Education here, activities from Authorfy, plus a free app and website for kids, and a few YouTube Videos too.
- What people say: “This is a great book because it is different to other mysteries! Asha uses the kind of coding we learn at school. The case briefings and notes at the end of the story are exciting. I could not put it down”
6. Frankie Sparks and the Class Pet
- Ages: 7-10
- The best bit: There’s an audiobook!
- The blurb: The best thing EVER is happening in Frankie Sparks's third grade class: They are getting a class pet! Their teacher, Miss Cupid, tells them they will vote on their pet, but it has to meet some "parameters." Their pet must: 1. Fit in aquarium. 2. Cost less than $50. 3. Be easily portable. 4. Be able to be left alone for the weekend. Frankie thinks that a rat--just like the rats in her beloved Aunt Gina's lab--would be the perfect fit. But her best friend, Maya, doesn't think a rat would be great at all. They are kind of gross and not as cool as a hermit crab, which is Maya's top choice. Using her special workshop, can Frankie find a way to convince her teacher and her best friend that Team Rat is the way to go?
- Extra resources: Teaching Books created a whole pack of resources here. They are free, but you have to sign up for them. The author, Megan, has created an activity on YouTube too.
- What people say: “Fun book that introduces lots of vocabulary. My end of 2nd grade daughter who normally struggles to read really got into this and read within a couple days.”
7. Secret Coders
- Ages: 8-12
- The best bit: It’s a graphic novel about coding! Mic-drop.
- The official blurb: Welcome to Stately Academy, a school which is just crawling with mysteries to be solved! The founder of the school left many clues and puzzles to challenge his enterprising students. Using their wits and their growing prowess with coding, Hopper and her friend Eni are going to solve the mystery of Stately Academy no matter what it takes! From graphic novel superstar (and high school computer programming teacher) Gene Luen Yang comes a wildly entertaining new series that combines logic puzzles and basic programming instruction with a page-turning mystery plot!
- Extra resources: Reading Literacy Central has produced a couple of great gaming activities
- What people say: “Exciting and interesting, I believe this book presents an excellent introduction to coding for kids. It helped me understand the idea as an adult. The graphic novel format makes it even more appealing.”
8. The Wild Robot
- Ages: 8-12
- The best bit: Helps kids to build empathy by imagining what it might be like to be a robot who is lost and scared!
- The official blurb: Can a robot survive in the wilderness? When robot Roz opens her eyes for the first time, she discovers that she is alone on a remote, wild island. She has no idea how she got there or what her purpose is–but she knows she needs to survive. After battling a fierce storm and escaping a vicious bear attack, she realizes that her only hope for survival is to adapt to her surroundings and learn from the island's unwelcoming animal inhabitants. As Roz slowly befriends the animals, the island starts to feel like home–until, one day, the robot's mysterious past comes back to haunt her
- Extra resources: Loads of videos by the author and STEM resources, plus a teaching pack on adventure writing. Teacher Gay Miller’s own resources are great too.
- What peoplesay: “I loved the book. Robots are awesome. Same thing with the wilderness. If you combine them together, you get this book. This book is so good it's hard to put down.” 10-year old boy