I was an early reader and devoured books as fast as I could when I was young. My favorites tended to be those featuring strong female characters (Anne of Green Gables was at the top of my list). Starting in college, I wanted to support young girls and women. I worked for organizations that helped girls and women reach their potential through sports, leadership, and skill building. As a mother, I am committed to raising feminist boys who will grow up understanding the contributions of women and the importance of equality and respect for all people. The following titles (along with many others) are regularly featured during our bedtime reading. In honor of Women’s History Month, here is a round-up of some of my favorite girl power books to share with all of the young people in your life all year long!
A Computer Called Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Helped Put America on the Moon by Suzanne Slade and Veronica Miller Jamison.
In this true story, young readers learn the story of mathematician Katherine Johnson, who broke down barriers while working behind the scenes at NASA to help send people into space. This is a great way to introduce children to the biography genre as they learn how hard work and determination can help people achieve anything.
I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy and Elizabeth Baddeley. What does it mean to stand up for what’s right, even when that means disagreeing with those around you? Readers learn about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg through this biographical book about her many dissents and how she has chosen to stand up for her beliefs. This fascinating story shows the power of words and will surely inspire young readers!
Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai and Kerascoët. Written by the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize and strong advocate for the rights of all children to attend school, this inspiring tale is based on Malala’s own story. In the book, Malala dreams about a magic pencil that will change the world for the better. The text gently introduces readers to the struggles facing girls and women when educational opportunities are taken away and the power that a strong voice can have when speaking up for what is right.
Turning Pages: My Life Story by Sonia Sotomayor and Lulu Delacre. As the first Latina woman to become a Supreme Court Justice, Sonia Sotomayor has an inspirational story to tell in this autobiographical picture book. Young readers learn about Sotomayor’s early life and how her love of books inspired her to achieve her dreams.
To the Stars!: The First American Woman to Walk in Space by Carmella Van Vleet, Dr. Kathy Sullivan, and Nicole Wong. As a young girl, Kathy Sullivan was adventurous. She climbed trees, swam, fished, and loved to explore. When adults asked her what she wanted to do when she grew up, she told them she wanted to do something different and exciting. Little Kathy grew up to become a NASA astronaut and the first woman to walk in space! Readers will love learning about Dr. Kathy Sullivian and her journey to space in this delightful book.
Firebird by Misty Copeland and Christopher Myers. From the beautifully painted illustrations to the inspirational story of a young girl dreaming of becoming a ballerina, Firebird by ballerina Misty Copeland is the perfect book to encourage young dancers everywhere to go for their dreams.
Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women by Catherine Thimmesh and Melissa Sweet. Written for 10- to 11-year-olds, but relevant to all ages, this exciting book shares the stories of women inventing everything from interlocking bricks to chocolate chip cookies! The stories in this book will encourage readers to dream big and try new things, even in the face of adversity.
Me . . . Jane by Patrick McDonnell. This inspirational story, written for 4- to 6-year-olds (though enjoyable for all), introduces readers to Dr. Jane Goodall as a curious child exploring the natural world. Everything from where eggs come from to learning about chimpanzees fascinates young Jane. As an adult, she realizes her dream to live with and learn about animals. Written in an accessible way for the youngest readers, this biography of Dr. Jane Goodall will surely be a hit in your house!
Seeds of Change by Jen Cullerton Johnson and Sonia Lynn Sadler. This is the story of how Wangari Maathai became a well-known and respected environmental activist and Nobel Peace Prize recipient. Young Wangari grew up in Kenya with a deep respect for the natural world. After studying abroad, she returned to her home to find it had dramatically changed. This story shows how she stood up for the environment and women’s rights, even when faced with challenges. This empowering story will inspire all members of your household to think about our impact on the planet.
When Marian Sang: The True Recital of Marian Anderson, The Voice of the Century by Pam Muñoz Ryan and Brian Selznik. This beautifully written and illustrated book tells the biographical story of Marian Anderson, who is most well known for her historic concert in 1939, which drew an integrated crowd in pre-Civil Rights America on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Depicting the obstacles Marian faced as she became a world-renowned singer in a country that judged her for her race, this biography recounts her life from childhood to becoming the first African American to sing with New York’s Metropolitan Opera.
My Name Is Not Isabella: Just How Big Can a Little Girl Dream? by Jennifer Fosberry and Mike Litwin. In this engaging story, young Isabella has many heroes, including astronaut Sally Ride, activist Rosa Parks, scientist Marie Curie, sharpshooter Annie Oakley, and her own mommy! Beautiful mixed-media artwork sets the tone for this whimsical story, in which Isabella imagines herself as many extraordinary women while trying to find who she
This is a small list of the many amazing children’s books featuring strong women and girls out there, and I hope these titles inspire you and your children to dream big—no matter the obstacles!
By Jasmine Gibson, an educational consultant with expertise in early elementary education, supporting teachers, and designing curriculum.