WOW Dozen: Biographies of Latin American and Latinx People in STEM

By Janine M. Schall, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

With increasing emphasis on nonfiction in the classroom, we must remember to seek out nonfiction that features people from diverse backgrounds. Representation matters in nonfiction as much as it does in fiction! Yet, while 25% of U.S. children have Latin American heritage it remains difficult to find quality nonfiction featuring Latinx characters, settings, or experiences.

Biography and autobiography is a form of nonfiction that allows children to understand history and significant events by stepping into another person’s shoes. It allows children to experience, through text, the contributions others have made to the world and the resilience, persistence and courage needed to do so. By incorporating biographies of Latinx people in STEM into the curriculum, both Latinx and non-Latinx children learn that Latinx people belong in STEM and have a long history of successful STEM engagement. According to the Pew Research Center, across all employment categories Latinx people take up 17% of the jobs but in STEM fields are just 8%. National Science Foundation data shows a similarly severe under-representation of Latinx in STEM fields. While the reasons behind this under-representation are complex, incorporating literature featuring Latinx people in STEM careers into the curriculum can be one small part of addressing this challenge.

This collection of children’s books contains 12 picturebook biographies of Latinx/e and Latin American people involved in STEM activities and careers.

WOW Dozen features a list of 12 global books for children and adolescents around a theme, topic, issue or personal favorites. Each Dozen consists of ten newly-published titles with two older “must have” books. Please share or recommend additional books that fit the theme in the comments section or on social media using #WOWDozen. Use the printer icon in the upper left corner of this post to print or save this list as a PDF.

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