Hidden Figures Reveals New Possibilities For Young Readers

Hidden Figures YA EditionLast month, we proudly added the young readers’ edition of Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly to our Stories for All Project™ & STEM-themed books available on the First Book Marketplace.

The New York Times bestseller and inspiration for the Oscar-nominated film follows the true story of female African-American mathematicians at NASA, whose calculations helped fuel some of America’s greatest achievements in space.

The book exemplifies education researcher Rudine Sims Bishop’s principle of “windows and mirrors,” showing children mirrors with characters and settings that reflect their lives, and windows into different experiences across the world.

Members of the First Book community of educators ordered the books in a hurry and are now starting to use them in their classrooms. We serve a wide range of schools and programs, and are continually impressed with the creative and exciting ways to use resources like Hidden Figures to help give kids in need a well-rounded education.

Here’s how a few First Book educators are using “Hidden Figures” in their classrooms:

Houston, Texas – Read 180

At Bleyl Middle School in Houston,Texas, students dedicate time to independent reading.

As part of the Read 180 program, Rowena Ward teaches struggling eighth-grade readers at Bleyl Middle School in Houston, Texas.

“The students in my classroom are reading anywhere from one to seven years below their grade level,” she says. “Because of their struggles with reading, many of them are reluctant readers.  It’s not something they really like to do.”

When Ward first started teaching, she began to build her own personal, in-class library. “I really pride myself on using multicultural books,” she says. “I think that kids are more apt to read when they could see themselves in the book that they’re reading.”

The latest addition to her collection is the young readers’ version of Hidden Figures. “I hate to say it, but I didn’t know the story. I had not heard that part of history,” Ward says. After seeing the film adaptation, she felt strongly that that this story was perfect for her students.

Every day, she gives her class 20 minutes of independent reading time. It’s been less than three weeks since she received her copies of Hidden Figures, but she’s already had four students read the book.

“I just talked with one of my students today and he said that he had no idea that there were African American ladies at NASA back then.”


Charlotte, North Carolina – University Park Creative Arts Elementary School

Donna Devereaux is a Media Specialist at University Park Creative Arts Elementary School in Charlotte, North Carolina, a Title-I magnet school that specializes in visual and performing arts.

Devereaux is passionate about helping her students build their own home libraries. She has used First Book for the past five years to give away approximately 20 books to each of her students.

For this giveaway, one of the books that Devereaux is excited to share is Hidden Figures.

“I thought the story was an excellent choice for our rising sixth grade girls,” she said.

“I love the idea of Hidden Figures because not only does it illuminate a part of our past that a lot of people in our country were not aware of… for these girls, this is an opportunity for them to have different kinds of role models that embrace the idea of education.”

“They don’t see the possibilities that go with being good at math, that math isn’t just something you’ll teach. So I think it’s opening up a world of possibilities to girls and boys alike for that matter… A book like this, a story like this, I hope it reinforces that for them.”


Roanoke, Virginia – Reading Seeds

Reading Seeds, a volunteer led mission group of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Roanoke, delivers new books from the First Book Marketplace to approximately 200 children at risk in Roanoke, Virginia.

Twice a month, they give elementary school students the opportunity to pick their own new books, write their names in them, and take them home. They do the same with Head Start children once a week.

Caryl Connolly, a Reading Seeds volunteer, notes that the students in Head Start often have single parents, are raised by grandparents, or are raised by parents who are working two to three jobs.

“If a parent or other caregiver is worried about putting food on the table or paying the rent, there won’t be money to buy books,” said Connolly. One of her greatest concerns is that a child from a low-income household isn’t given the same opportunity to improve their reading as one who has access to new books.

Between grants and the donations from UUCR members, Reading Seeds is able to help increase that access. “By the end of one full year, each Head Start child should have at least 50 quality age appropriate books in their own home libraries,” Connolly said.

One of the books that they are offering to upper elementary students is is Hidden Figures. After watching the movie, Lucy Lee, a Reading Seed volunteer, decided that they needed to order Hidden Figures for the kids they serve.

“It is a book of hope and one that shows how education, hard work and perseverance pay off, whether one is disadvantaged or not. I am so happy to find that it is available for children, especially for girls.”


You can find “Hidden Figures: Young Reader’s Edition” on the First Book Marketplace, along with other rich, diverse books for any and all children.