|Born||1995 (age 24–25)|
Staten Island, New York, U.S.
|Known for||We Read Too|
Kaya Thomas (born 1995) is an American computer scientist, app developer and writer. She is the creator of We Read Too, an iOS app that helps readers discover books for and by people of color. Thomas is a volunteer mentor with Black Girls Code and a Made with Code role model. Widely recognized for her work to improve diversity in the tech industry, she was honored in 2015 by Michelle Obama at BET's Black Girls Rock! award show and was named one of Glamour magazine's 2016 College Women of the Year.
Originally from Staten Island, Thomas graduated in 2017 from Dartmouth College, where she studied computer science. Initially enrolled in environmental engineering, she switched to computer science after teaching herself to code through Codecademy. She credits a TED Talk by Kimberly Bryant, founder of Black Girls Code, with sparking her interest in the tech industry. Thomas is particularly interested in the role technology can play in improving people's day-to-day lives.
A volunteer mentor with Black Girls Code and the founder of the YouTube series Code With Kaya, Thomas is committed to helping women learn to code and promoting the diversification of both the tech and publishing industry. In 2015 she spoke at BookNet Canada's 10th annual Tech Forum where she underscored the importance of children, from all backgrounds, being exposed to diverse book characters. She encouraged the traditionally white publishing industry to include ethnicity based metadata about authors to improve discoverability of diverse writers and publications.
In 2015 Thomas was named a CODE2040 Fellow. The following year she was appointed a role model as part of Google's Made with Code initiative, which provides girls with coding support and training to encourage their entry into technology-based fields. She was also named one of Glamour's 2016 College Women of the Year.
We Read Too
Thomas began working on the iOS app We Read Too in 2014 while working as an intern at Time Inc. on the development of Entertainment Weekly's mobile site. The app highlights books written by people of color featuring characters of color. Aimed at improving access to books for and by diverse communities, We Read Too helps young readers find books with protagonists they can relate to. The idea for the app was based on Thomas' experience as a young reader who struggled to find diverse books. She explained to BET in 2014 that: "Whenever I tried to find books with characters of color, I would have to look in sub-categories or search longer than I should have had to. I created this app so that books created by and for people of color can be found easily and in one central location." She was honored for her work on the app by Michelle Obama in 2015 as part of BET's Black Girls Rock! award show.
As of April 2017 the app had been downloaded 15,000 times. In March 2017, Thomas launched an Indiegogo campaign to help achieve the goal of 1,000 listed titles featuring Black, Latinx, Native, Indigenous, Asian, and Pacific Islander characters. Part of the identified work was launching an Android version of the app and undertaking a redesign of the iOS version. By mid-April she had surpassed the initial goal of $10,000, indicating that additional funds would be put toward developing a website for the app and introducing fiction titles aimed at adults.
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- Godfrey, Laura. "Millennials, Diversity Big Topics at BookNet Canada's Annual Tech Forum". PublishersWeekly.com. Retrieved 9 January 2017.
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- Peck, Patrick. "Looking for Children's Books With Black Characters? There's an App for That". BET.com. Retrieved 7 December 2016.
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- Herman, Lily (12 April 2017). "This College Senior Couldn't Find Books About People of Color — So She Made an App for That". Teen Vogue. Teen Vogue. Retrieved 8 May 2017.
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- Dupere, Katie (10 April 2017). "This college senior's app connects young readers of color to books they can relate to". Mashable. Retrieved 8 May 2017.
"Tech as Equalizer: We Read Too - Kaya Thomas". Tech Forum 2016. 11 May 2017. Retrieved 17 November 2017.