What Color Is My World?: The Lost History of African-American Inventors

Written by: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Raymon Obstfeld

Illustrated by: Ben Boos and A.G. Ford

Before Reading

Explore Illustrations

Take time to read the back of the book to get a high level snapshot of the story and information about the author. Flip through the book’s pages and illustrations to get a sense for what to expect while reading. Use this opportunity for your child to summarize what s/he thinks the book will explore. Ask about images and snapshots of text that you see with questions like:

Wow, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is a successful basketball player! Why do you think he would choose to write children’s books? Why do you think he chose this topic?

Does this look like a typical history book to you? I see historical figures, but it sure seems different. What about this book seems different or the same as other history books you have read in the past?

(Flip to page 17) Do you know who Lloyd Hall was? I wonder why the authors would feature lesser known African Americans? Why do you think they did? Why do you think these innovators are lesser known in history?


Activate Prior Knowledge

This book is all about African American inventors. Ask your child to name African-American scientists and/or inventors with whom they are already familiar.

Be sure to point out the fun and attention grabbing cartoon-like pages as well, and then
get started!

As You Read

Read Aloud and Make Connections

Although your child may be reading independently, consider reading the “fast facts” or cartoon-like pages together and aloud. While reading these components, you can check for comprehension and make connections to your child’s world. Say things like, “Frederick McKinley Jones loved race cars. What do you love? How might you invent something that improves on [insert what your child says s/he loves]?” Generally, draw connections and remind your child about what s/he already knows surrounding particular topics and inventions.

Vocabulary Development:

Ask your child to stop when s/he gets to a new word in the story. Encourage your child to discover its meaning by using the illustrations and words surrounding it. In addition to context clues, have your child reread the sentence or try to connect the sound of the word to ones s/he already knows. Ask “Have you seen or heard it before? Can you discover its meaning by look at the root word, prefix or suffix?” If not, look the words up in a dictionary or online. Be sure to keep track of your child’s newly acquired vocabulary words by keeping a “Vocabulary Journal” nearby when reading. Examples of new words from What Color Is My World include:

  2. DONOR
  3. SIEGE

After Reading

Summarize and Interpret

To ensure comprehension, ask them about what happened in the book. Who/what were the characters and places in the book? What happened in the story? Ask your child the following questions after finishing to further explore his/her understanding of the book:

Now that you have read the book, why do you think that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrote it? What was his intention? Visit his website here to learn more about him.

Initially, the twins thought their home seemed old and unappealing. How did they feel about their home by the end of the book? Why?

Which historical figure that Mr. Mital introduced most surprised or intrigued you? Why?

If you could go back in history and meet one of the historical figures he mentioned, who would you choose? Why?

Share with me what you liked (and didn’t like) the most about this book. Why?

Now that you have read "What Color Is Your World", do you have a different perspective on African American contributions to innovation and history? What, if anything, has changed about your perspective?

Extended Learning Exploration

Historical Dinner Party:

Invite your child to come in character to dinner one day (or multiple days). Have him/her prepare by spending time online or at the library looking up more information about a particular inventor and the history around his/her invention. Then, encourage your child to dress the part (you can join in, too!), and have a special dinner where you discuss all that (s)he has learned through fun table conversation. (Don’t forget your camera or voice recorder!)


STEM Extension: Rube Goldberg

For this activity, just gather knick knacks and whatever you have around the house. A Rube Goldberg machine is a complicated machine that performs a very simple task. Help your child invent one! Pick an easy task (knocking a cup over, for example); then help your child set up a complex chain reaction of as many steps as possible to complete it. Use only what you find around the house. Watch this video to see a sample machine. (Source: Reading is Fundamental)