As a woman, and now as a mother to two little girls, I am all too keenly aware of how strictly gender roles are defined pretty much from birth. You need look no further than the clothing section of a baby store: one side full of lace, pink and frills, and the other side packed with rugby stripes in blues, greens, and miniature sports jerseys. And while at 3, Big M may wear a tutu 24/7 and live to play princesses, I tell her everyday that she can do and be anything she sets her mind to. A decade ago, I was one of on average about four women in finance classes of 40+ students, by self-selection. I hope to instill in my girls a since of wonder and curiosity that challenges them to explore all fields, from science and math, literature and art, and of course, soccer and softball ones too! One way I help to reinforce that message is by including empowering books for girls in their library.
Empowering Books for Girls
All of these books feature strong, female protagonists, who pave their own paths and make their own adventures. They may still play dress-up, some may even still wear tutus, but they are their own super heroes and serve as great role models to little girls!
Big M discovered these books on one of our first trips to the library. It was the first book she even read along to – Wow! City!, Wow! Ocean! and Wow! America! feature a little girl, Izzy, and later her little sister too, as they go on adventures through NYC, to see the ocean and across America. Each page depicts a scene, labeled simply, “Wow! Buildings!” or “Wow! Mountains!” You can spend hours examining the details on every page, and the Ocean! book actually labels every creature too. Every page features Izzy, her sister and their dog somewhere in the scene, which makes for a fun game to play as you read. It’s a great reminder that there is awe and wonder all around you, be it a cityscape, landscape or ocean view.
We all love the Molly Lou Melon stories. In Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon, Molly Lou’s family moves and she must start at a new school. Remembering the advice from her Grandma, she embraces her unique character traits, even when teased by the school bully. In Have Fun, Molly Lou Melon, she welcomes a new friend to her neighborhood and teaches her all the fun that can be had with your own imagination, even more fun than with big screen TVs and fancy toys. Big M’s favorite part is looking for all the hidden creatures in the clouds, and now she does it in real life too!
We started our Ladybug girl experience with the board books, but loved them so much, got the full sized picture books as Big M got bigger. Lulu uses the power of her imagination (and some dress up accessories) to become Ladybug Girl, a super hero who entertains herself and her dog Bingo on adventures through her backyard, and learns valuable lessons about friendship with her friend, Bumblebee Boy, in one of the Ladybug Girl sequels.
As a native Texan, this one speaks to me… A little girl trapped in her big city life dreams of the Wild West and being a cowgirl. And she wants to make it a reality so invites her Dad to come along too! The girls picked this one up on our last trip to the library, and they fight over who gets to read it. We may have to buy our own when we have to return it!
Maple was another great library find. Maple’s parents plant a maple tree for her when she is little, and as she grows and it grows with her, it is her constant friend through all seasons. Maple is not only a story of a nature-loving, free spirit, but also a story of new siblings. Maple watches her mom’s belly grow, and a new tree sprout… a Willow! Only in writing this post did I discover Maple now has a sequel – we will definitely be looking for that one on our next library visit!
It is not news that there is a dearth of women in engineering. In the US, fewer than 20% of undergraduates in engineering are female, and only 11% of the engineering workforce is women. And even with statistics that low, the US stats are better than most developed nations. Rosie Revere, Engineer is the story of a young girl who dreams of being a great engineer. She is mentored by her ancestor, Rosie the Riveter, who teaches a great lesson: the only true failure is quitting.
Created by Debbie Sterling, a Stanford engineering graduate, GoldieBlox has one singular goal: to get girls building. Sterling was disappointed by how few women were in her engineering program at Stanford, that she became “obsessed with the notion of “disrupting the pink aisle” with a toy that would introduce girls to the joy of engineering at a young age.” Winner of the 2014 Toy of the Year Award, all GoldieBlox kits include a storybook, character figurine, GoldieBlox building pieces compatible with all other sets and building instructions. Some kits even have corresponding apps.
Grace decides to become the first woman president of the United States, after she learns from her teacher there has never been one before! She begins immediately by running in the mock election at her school. A great social studies lesson, that teaches about our electoral system, while also teaching the value of hard work and independent thought.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
After reading Beauty and the Beast on repeat for two straight weeks, I couldn’t take one more night… I decided to introduce Big M, at 3.5, to the magical world of novels! The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was our first pick – I wasn’t sure how it would go over, but she is in love. For Big M’s baby shower, my mom had decorated every table with books and corresponding figures, so we had a set of Kelly dolls, dressed as the characters (and now that I’ve just looked them up online and seen how much they cost because they are now collector’s items, I probably shouldn’t have opened the box to let her play with them!). Every night, she acts out the story as I read another chapter.
Dorothy is the original modern day female heroine. I can’t believe I have never read the book before, but reading the book, it is so apparent how each character has within themselves exactly what they are searching for, and Dorothy is capable of not only taking care of herself, but leading her new found friends through the great adventure to the Emerald City.
Whenever I think Big M might not actually be listening, she’ll stop me to ask what a certain word means – we’ve added ‘spectacles,’ ’emerald,’ ‘courage,’ and ‘cowardly’ to her vocabulary just this week alone. And every night before bed, she tells Daddy exactly what we read about the night before and is so excited to continue the story. Dorothy and her friends now consume quiet time imaginative play, and our last few days of crafting activities as well (stay tuned for our reveals later this week!).
What books do you read to empower your little girls? Did we miss one of your favorites? Share it with us and our readers in the comments below – we always love to read new books!