Canton South native writes STEM book aimed at black girls


TWP TOWNSHIP. – Valerie Thompkins grew up reading and loving books, but rarely came across picture books featuring a little girl staring at her.

She’s working to change that with her new book, “Girls Like Me,” written to encourage black girls between the ages of 3 and 8 to pursue education and careers in STEM – which are the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Continued:Learn more about Valerie Thompkins.

Thompkins remembers visiting bookstores in Belden Village with his father as a treat for good newsletters. Her love for reading followed her into adulthood, and in October 2020 she began penning “Girls Like Me.”

“I always loved reading growing up,” she said. “I spent a lot of time around books, going to bookstores with my parents, but there weren’t a lot of motivational books for black girls.”

Thompkins said she grew up with her parents, Leon and Melinda Terrell, telling her she would go to college.

“They both grew up in Guangzhou, but they wanted me to branch out,” she said. “They tried to expose me to different things.”

A 2012 graduate of Canton South High School, Thompkins is a project coordinator at the Federal Reserve. She holds a bachelor’s degree in communications from Ohio University and a master’s degree in business administration from Baldwin Wallace University.

Thompkins said she wanted to write the book with the goal of introducing black girls to STEM at an early age.

According to a report by the Pew Research Center, the progress of minorities in STEM has been uneven. The study revealed that:

  • “Black workers make up 11% of all employed adults, compared to 9% of those in STEM jobs. Their share is lower in some STEM job groups, including only 5% in engineering and construction jobs. There has been no change in the share of Black workers in STEM jobs since 2016.
  • The gap in STEM workforce representation is particularly significant for Hispanic adults. Hispanic workers represent 17% of total employment in all occupations, but only 8% of all STEM workers. Their share of all STEM workers has increased by 1% since 2016, matching their growth in the overall workforce. »

Locally, Hartford Middle School became a STEAMM academy in 2018. In 2019, East Canton High School became the first high school in Stark County to earn the STEM designation.

The Girl Scouts of Northeast Ohio also offers a STEM program.

Continued:Learn more about the Girl Scouts of Northeast Ohio STEM program.

“I wasn’t really pushed into STEM as a kid,” Thompkins said. “I realized in college that if you want to get into science or medicine, you really have to start early.”

The book, released in 2021, is an Amazon bestseller.

When asked who inspired her at school, Thompkins pointed to her first grade teacher, DaNita Berry.

“Ms. Berry was the only black teacher I had in 12 years,” she said. “I remember having so much fun, and she was so fun, so sweet. It really sticks with you.”

Thompkins said she has two more children’s books in the works.

“I have a boy’s version, and also a financial education book,” she said. “I’ll stick to development topics.”

Although she works remotely from Atlanta, Thompkins said she is available for virtual class visits.

“I would like to get involved in things in Canton,” she said.

When asked what advice she would give to parents, Thompkins replied, “Keep encouraging your kids to keep reading. If they love to read, they may find something inspiring during recess.”

More Valerie Thompkins

EMAIL – [email protected]

INSTAGRAM – @AuthorValerieThompkins

TIKTOK – @AuthorValerieThompkins


AMAZON – Book “Girls like me”

Contact Charita at 330-580-8313 or [email protected] On Twitter: @cgoshayREP.

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