A Computer Called Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Helped Put America on the Moon

Ages: 4 - 8Publisher: Little, Brown and Company for Young Readers Narrator: Jeanette IllidgeAuthor: Suzanne Slade

The “computer” in this story is Katherine Johnson, made famous by the 2016 film Hidden Figures. As we learn by listening to the inspiring narrative, read with simple, expressive tones by Jeanette Illidge, Katherine loved counting steps. “1, 2, 3, 4…,” she says, going up to 10. As a little girl, Katherine even tried to count the stars in the sky.

She counted the days until she could start school, and when she did, she quickly found that children with different skin colors weren’t treated the same, and that women weren’t considered for the same jobs as men. One thing that never wavered was Katherine’s love of math. She fell in love with geometry, became a math teach and got a job at NASA’s Langley Aeronautical Laboratory, making calculations regarding flight data. “It was the perfect job” for Katherine, the narrator reads. “All day long she punched buttons on a calculator and solved long math equations.”

Katherine also asked lots of questions. “The men noticed the woman who asked intelligent questions. They asked her to join their space team to send America’s first astronaut into space.”  She was proud when Neil Armstrong took that first step on the moon. Her calculations helped make it happen.

Young listeners should listen to this important story of a trailblazer to understand that doing what you love is the best job. It can be truly out of this world.


Ann Oldenburg ©2020 Parents’ Choice

Ann Oldenburg, lecturer and assistant director of the journalism program at Georgetown University, writes about television, food, workplace issues and other pop culture topics. A University of Florida Gator with a degree in journalism, she began her career at The Washington Post and spent more than two decades with USA TODAY. She and her husband have three sons and live in McLean, Virginia.

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