At the National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF), we believe every child can invent. Every child can unlock their creativity, stretch their imagination, dream up solutions and make their mark on the world. As we keep this belief at the heart of our work in supporting inclusive and empowering learning environments through our education programs, we also recognize the ongoing gaps in diversity among STEM fields.
To support greater diversity in these fields, it’s essential that we all help the next generation of innovators to see both themselves and others as capable creators, guiding them to be respectful of each other’s differences and receptive to each other’s ideas.
One simple way to do this is to diversify children’s bookshelves. All children benefit from reading stories that prioritize representation across race, gender, ability and experience. For a great place to start, we’ve compiled a list of 10 inspiring books that focus on Black innovators, from stories of world-changing inventors to imaginative STEM adventures starring young children.
- “Abby Invents Unbreakable Crayons” by Arlyne Simon
This encouraging story follows young Abby’s innovative journey, demonstrating how inventors must follow their curiosity, be persistent to overcome obstacles and think creatively to develop solutions. Children will also enjoy the activity page at the end of this book.
- “Ada Twist, Scientist” by Andrea Beaty
Alongside New York Times bestselling picture books “Iggy Peck, Architect” and “Rosie Revere, Engineer,” the story of Ada Twist is an exciting read for young innovators. Ada is endlessly curious, demonstrating creativity and perseverance through each of her experiments.
- “Gary and the Great Inventors: It's Laundry Day!” by Akura Marshall
Children will love following young Gary as he learns the uplifting story of National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF) Inductee Thomas Jennings. The first Black man to be granted a U.S. patent, Jennings later became a leader in the abolitionist and civil rights movement.
- “Have You Thanked an Inventor Today?” by Patrice McLaurin
Following a child through his day and highlighting the inventions he encounters along the way, this book celebrates the work of Black inventors. The author includes a brief biography for each inventor and offers fun activities for more opportunities to engage with these stories.
- “Hidden Figures Young Readers' Edition” by Margot Lee Shetterly
A New York Times bestseller, this book tells the amazing true story of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Christine Darden, the mathematicians whose work challenged American stereotypes and barriers in race and gender, indelibly changing the field of space exploration.
- “The Magnificent Makers” series by Theanne Griffith
This series of books from author and neuroscientist Theanne Griffith blends science and adventure, enthralling readers with a diverse cast of characters who explore a wide array of intriguing STEM concepts.
- “The Unstoppable Garrett Morgan: Inventor, Entrepreneur, Hero” by Joan DiCicco
Both thrilling and inspiring, the story of NIHF Inductee Garrett Morgan comes to life in this book. A prolific Black inventor and entrepreneur, Morgan overcame racial barriers and dedicated his life to the safety and welfare of others.
- “What Color is My World? The Lost History of African-American Inventors” by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Raymond Obstfeld
This enlightening book from NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar follows a young pair of twins as they discover stories of ingenious Black inventors whose work has changed our world.
- “Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson's Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions” by Chris Barton
With an engaging look at the story behind the Super Soaker, this book introduces children to engineer and inventor Lonnie Johnson. From his childhood fascination with rockets and robots to his work with NASA, Johnson’s story offers inspiration for all young innovators.
- “Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World” by Rachel Ignotofsky
This New York Times bestseller introduces readers to diverse women throughout history who have broken barriers across race and gender to make major advances in STEM fields. Readers will also enjoy engaging illustrations and infographics as they meet these inspiring innovators.
For more support in guiding and inspiring our next generation of creators, innovators and leaders, please visit our blog at invent.org.