8 Children’s Books About Trailblazing African American Women in STEM

Do you know who Sarah Goode was? How about Dr. Patricia Bath? These are just two of the many African American women who made their marks in the STEM field, while also making a mark on American history.

Sarah Goode was an entrepreneur and inventor who became one of the first African American women to receive a US Patent. Dr. Patricia Bath invented the Laserphaco Probe for cataract treatment. She was the first African American female doctor to receive a medical patent. They are trailblazers!

Picture book biographies are great way to help readers better connect with stories that they might otherwise have a difficult time connecting to. The books featured here celebrate the achievements of trailblazing women and are sure to inspire the STEM lovers in your life.

Helping Kids Rise believes all children deserve access to books that educate, empower and inspire and all of these books fit that mission!

Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13 by Helaine Becker, Illustrated by Dow Phumiruk: The bold story of Katherine Johnson, an African-American mathematician who worked for NASA during the space race and was depicted in the film Hidden Figures.

You’ve likely heard of the historic Apollo 13 moon landing. But do you know about the mathematical genius who made sure that Apollo 13 returned safely home?

As a child, Katherine Johnson loved to count. She counted the steps on the road, the number of dishes and spoons she washed in the kitchen sink, everything! Boundless, curious, and excited by calculations, young Katherine longed to know as much as she could about math, about the universe.

From Katherine’s early beginnings as a gifted student to her heroic accomplishments as a prominent mathematician at NASA, Counting on Katherine is the story of a groundbreaking American woman who not only calculated the course of moon landings but, in turn, saved lives and made enormous contributions to history. (Ages 5–9)

The Girl With A Mind For Math by Julia Finley Mosca, Illustrated by Daniel Rieley: Meet Raye Montague―the hidden mastermind who made waves in the U.S. Navy!

After touring a German submarine in the early 1940s, young Raye set her sights on becoming an engineer. Little did she know sexism and racial inequality would challenge that dream every step of the way, even keeping her greatest career accomplishment a secret for decades. Through it all, the gifted mathematician persisted―finally gaining her well-deserved title in history: a pioneer who changed the course of ship design forever.

The Girl With a Mind for Math: The Story of Raye Montague is the third book in a riveting educational series about the inspiring lives of amazing scientists. In addition to the illustrated rhyming tale, you’ll find a complete biography, fun facts, a colorful timeline of events, and even a note from Montague herself! (Ages 5–10)

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly, Illustrated by Laura Freeman: Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden were good at math…really good.

They participated in some of NASA’s greatest successes, like providing the calculations for America’s first journeys into space. And they did so during a time when being black and a woman limited what they could do. But they worked hard. They persisted. And they used their genius minds to change the world.

In this beautifully illustrated picture book edition, we explore the story of four female African American mathematicians at NASA, known as “colored computers,” and how they overcame gender and racial barriers to succeed in a highly challenging STEM-based career. (Ages 4–8)

Talkin’ about Bessie: The Story of Aviator Elizabeth Coleman by Nikki Grimes, Illustrated by E.B. Lewis: Soar along with Bessie Coleman in this inspirational tale of a woman whose determination reached new heights.

Elizabeth “Bessie” Coleman was always being told what she could & couldn’t do. In an era when Jim Crow laws and segregation were a way of life, it was not easy to survive. Bessie didn’t let that stop her. Although she was only 11 when the Wright brothers took their historic flight, she vowed to become the first African -American female pilot. Her sturdy faith and determination helped her overcome obstacles of poverty, racism, and gender discrimination. Innovatively told through a series of monologues. (Ages 4–8)

Sweet Dreams, Sarah by Vivian Kirkfield, Illustrated by Chris Ewald: Sarah E. Goode was one of the first African-American women to get a U.S. patent. Working in her husband’s furniture store, she recognized a need for a multi-use bed and through hard work, ingenuity, and determination, invented her unique cupboard bed. She built more than a piece of furniture. She built a life far away from slavery, a life where her sweet dreams could come true. (Ages 5–9)

Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed, Illustrated by Stasia Burrington: A beautiful picture book for sharing, inspired by the life of the first African American woman to travel in space, Mae Jemison.

A great classroom and bedtime read-aloud, Mae Among the Stars is the perfect book for young readers who have big dreams and even bigger hearts!

When Little Mae was a child, she dreamed of dancing in space. She imagined herself surrounded by billions of stars, floating, gliding, and discovering.

She wanted to be an astronaut.

Her mom told her, “If you believe it, and work hard for it, anything is possible.”

Little Mae’s curiosity, intelligence, and determination, matched with her parents’ encouraging words, paved the way for her incredible success at NASA as the first African American woman to travel in space.

This book will inspire other young girls to reach for the stars, to aspire for the impossible, and to persist with childlike imagination. (Ages 4–8)

The Doctor With An Eye For Eyes: The Story of Dr. Patricia Bath by Julia Finley Mosca, Illustrated by Daniel Rieley: If you like to think big, but some say you’re too small, or they say you’re too young or too slow or too tall… Meet Dr. Bath―the scientist who never lost sight of her dreams!

As a girl coming of age during the Civil Rights Movement, Patricia Bath made it her mission to become a doctor. When obstacles like racism, poverty, and sexism threatened this goal, she persevered―brightening the world with a game-changing treatment for blindness!

The Doctor with an Eye for Eyes: The Story of Dr. Patricia Bath is the second book in a brand new educational series about the inspirational lives of amazing scientists! In addition to the illustrated rhyming tale, you’ll find a complete biography, fun facts, a colorful timeline of events, and even a note from Dr. Bath herself! (Ages 5–10)

Vision of Beauty: The Story of Sarah Breedlove Walker by Kathryn Lasky, Illustrated by Nneka Bennett: “I am a woman who came from the cotton fields of the South. I was promoted from the fields to the washtubs. I promoted myself into the business of manufacturing hair goods. I have built my own factory on
my own ground.”

Born December 23, 1867, Sarah Breedlove Walker was the first free-born child of sharecroppers in Delta, Louisiana. Life was hard, but slavery had ended, and the Breedlove family was free — and if you were free, you could dream.

And dream she did. VISION OF BEAUTY follows Sarah Breedlove Walker’s rise from a bleak world of poverty and discrimination to unprecedented success as a businesswoman and philanthropist. Through tenacity and faith, she discovered a cure for her own hair loss, then began marketing her original products through the Madam C. J. Walker Manufacturing Company. Well known as a woman of economic independence, Madam Walker offered a vision of dignity and freedom for her people and a powerful role model for women and girls of all races. Back matter includes an epilogue, an illustrator’s note, sources, and an index. (Ages 8 -12)

You can find more Diverse STEM children’s books in our online bookstore. Disclosure: We earn a small fee for any purchases made through our online bookstore. There is no additional cost to you.

Helping Kids Rise is on a mission to improve the lives of children and the people who love them through literacy, education, and social justice awareness. We do this by highlighting diverse and inclusive children’s books and resources that promote education, literacy, and social justice awareness. We also partner with schools, families, and children’s advocacy organizations to promote access to children’s books for under-served and underrepresented communities. To learn more or to partner with us, connect with us on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, and our website: www.helpingkidsrise.org.

Diverse childrens books recommendations to encourage growth, inclusiveness, and understanding

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