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Children’s books aim to increase diversity in STEM

September 28, 2020

It’s not a secret, despite the title. The two-volume children’s book series The Secret Lives of Scientists, Engineers and Doctors is now available for story time!

To encourage a more diverse community of engineers, scientists and doctors, CEE professor Faisal Hossain is leveraging the power of storytelling to inspire children, especially those from underrepresented and diverse backgrounds, to pursue careers in the sciences. The books are geared toward elementary school students from second-to-fifth grade.

“In my lifelong passion for science communication, I toyed with the idea of using fun cartoon illustrations to describe inspirational and hopeful stories about extraordinary scientists, engineers, and doctors. By highlighting a personal story of struggle, a moment, or a journey, my hope was that our children will understand that they, too, can become successful professionals in science, medicine, engineering, and other allied disciplines,” says Hossain.

Professor Faisal Hossain

Professor Faisal Hossain

For the past two years, Hossain has worked on the undertaking as part of his involvement in the New Voices storytelling initiative supported by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM). Working on the effort was a team comprised of 18 engineers, scientists and doctors, who initially started sharing their own stories about what led them to pursue a career in the sciences.

To collect content for the picture books, outreach efforts began in 2019. Through a nation-wide solicitation, the team looked for stories that were inspirational, highlighted overcoming adversity, and spoke to children from diverse backgrounds. They eventually selected 22 short one-page stories. 

“The purpose of the idea was to show our children that, while pursuing such disciplines, it is still okay to fail or be different from others, because all successful scientists, doctors, and engineers were just like them once,” says Hossain.

The books may just be hitting the shelves, but Hossain already has ideas for future volume topics, from virus hunters to public health experts to a volume that focuses on civil engineers. The production of the books was sponsored by a generous contribution from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

Available to order online

Proceeds from the sale of the books will help fund additional volumes on a variety of science-related themes. The books are available for pre-order through Mascot Books: The Secret Lives of Scientists, Engineers and Doctors, Volume 1 and Volume 2.