assorted books on book shelves

Five Culturally Responsible Books for Middle School Computer Science Classrooms

Field Notes
Field Notes
Five Culturally Responsible Books for Middle School Computer Science Classrooms

This Fall I have been leading a team of aspiring software engineers through a curriculum provided by Project STEM that is introducing them to core programming concepts using the SCRATCH framework.

SCRATCH is a wonderful platform to learn coding basics. The block-based, drag-and-drop language provides a safe space to learn computer science concepts and quickly build engaging programs. The curriculum also provides a set of fully guided instructional videos, which are narrated by a diverse set of individuals.

Each lesson also typically pulls in real-world Computer Science applications, which too also do a great job of being culturally responsible. All in all, I have been very impressed with the course on all levels.

The class just finished up their first end-of-unit project, and I was thinking it would be interesting to layer in a different perspective into our curriculum by doing a ten minute read-aloud while students are working on their daily programming activity.

So I have done a bit of seeking online to find a list of books that are culturally responsible and shine a different light on the topic of Computer Science for the new programmers in my CS class.

#5 – Zenobia July


This is a mystery novel featuring a brilliant young female coder who is attending a new middle school. Zenobia is not only navigating a new school but she is also presenting her gender for the first time in public. Bullying begins to happen targeting Zenobia on the school’s website comments system. Zenobia uses her knowledge of programming to help identify the bully.

The characters and topics in this story sound really relevant to some of the hard topics facing many teens in our middle schools today. 

#4 – Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life: Hollywood Legend and Brilliant Inventor


Hedy Lamarr was not only a Hollywood movie star, but she helped invent technology that is the backbone of modern day communications like WiFi and Bluetooth. Her contributions came at a time where women were not seen as contributors to science and technology. This seems like a wonderful story to share about the impact women have historically had in STEM fields.

#3 Atomic Women


Atomic Women explores the pivotal role numerous women played in the Manhattan Project and its development of atomic bombs. The women were recruited from labs and universities from across the United States and also from countries abroad, and their talents played a key role in the project.

This book sounds fascinating on numerous levels. Showing the impact of women in STEM roles is one key item, but also the moral implications of the Manhattan Project could yield some interesting discussions.

#2 Who Says Women Can’t Be Computer Programmers?: The Story of Ada Lovelace


There are many books to choose from that cover Ada Lovelace and her massive contributions to computer science – but this one looks pretty fun. And since all the students are budding computer programmers, it seems fitting to tell the story of the worlds FIRST computer programmer.

#1 Hidden Figures


Hidden Figures explores the roles of four African American women had at NASA during the great space race. These “Human Computers” helped perform intensive calculations by hand to determine take-off and landing telemetry. This story inspired a recent film by Disney as well – but my daughter ( a recent middle school grad ) informs me the book is much better.

And that wraps up my top 5 list of Culturally Responsible resources to add into my middle school Computer Science class. I hope you might like to explore one of these books yourself. If you have any other suggestions for books in this genre, please leave a comment on the blog post for this episode.

That’s all for now folks. Keep Fishing.

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