Young girls need role models to show them that they can be anyone and do anything. Their earliest role models come from their parents and families, as well as the toys they play with and the books they read, which is why empowering picture books can make all of the difference.
It’s never been a better time for a parent to be raising a daughter: there are a plethora of inspiring picture books which not only illustrate amazingly fierce and bold fictional characters who are carving out their own paths, but also show us the women in history who faced all kinds of adversity and persevered.
Here are some of our favourite empowering picture books to read to a young girl today – and they’re all beautifully illustrated, so they also make great gifts. Of course, we suggest reading them all to your sons, too.
She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World by Chelsea Clinton and Alexandra Boiger
Chelsea Clinton’s book features the inspiring quotes and stories of women in history like astronaut Sally Ride, ballerina Maria Tallchief, Olympian triple gold-medal track star Florence Griffith Joyner and other remarkable women that all girls need to know about. We love that the impetus for this book came from Senator Elizabeth Warren’s refusal to be silenced in a Senate hearing (she was reading Coretta Scott King’s 1986 letter opposing Jeff Sessions’ appointment as a federal judge) in early 2017, which prompted Mitch McConnell to say: “Senator Warren was giving a lengthy speech. She had appeared to violate the rule. She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” Little did he know it would become a rallying cry for women everywhere to keep persisting. Also look out for the companion book, She Persisted Around the World, the latest empowering picture book from Clinton which profiles Malala Yousafzai, J.K. Rowling and Liberian peace activist, Leymah Gbowee, among others.
Good Night Stories For Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo
Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls has become a book series, a podcast and a movement of sorts encouraging girls to embrace their rebellious spirits (there’s even a companion journal urging girls to unleash their inner activist and pursue their dreams, no matter how big). The books are perfect bedtime fare because each one-page profile and accompanying illustration (all of the pictures are rendered in different styles), informs and also ignites the curiosity of the child who’s listening. We love that in addition to all of the usual suspects, there are some unexpected women included, like pirate queen, Grace O’Malley, and tattoo artist, Maud Stevens Wagner.
Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World by Rachel Ignotofsky
One of the reasons that women are underrepresented in STEM fields is a lack of female role models, but empowering picture books like this one can help. Women in Science celebrates the achievements of female scientists, engineers, doctors, past and present, and helps to create a new generation of scientists for the future. According to reviewers, this book also appeals to teens – and boys.
Little People, Big Dreams series
This gorgeous series of empowering picture books for girls and boys works across a range of ages, and new biographies have been added recently, focused on men like David Bowie and Stephen Hawking. The stories are told in an accessible, enticing way, and feature heroines from all fields and countries, like Amelia Earhart, Agatha Christie, Simone de Beauvoir, Rosa Parks, Anne Frank, Ada Lovelace and many more. These are the kinds of books you can read over and over again without getting bored – trust us, we have.
The Questioneers books by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts
You may be familiar with some of the feisty and fabulously illustrated fictional kids in this series, like Ada Twist, scientist, Rosie Revere, engineer and Iggy Peck, architect, who don’t take “no” for an answer and continue to ask questions, to create and to experiment – even if it means making a disastrous tower from soiled nappies or writing all over the walls (these books are hilarious). In addition to their appearance in picture books for younger children, they can now be found in chapter book form for independent readers, as well as in dedicated project books, so that future engineers and scientists can start conducting their own experiments. We can’t wait to meet Sofia Valdez, Future Prez, when she makes her debut in November 2019.