7 awe-inspiring children's books to celebrate Women's History Month

Ciarra Chavarria, who runs the Instagram feed @girlsreadtheworld, gives Know Your Value her top picks.
By Ciarra Chavarria

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This month we celebrate the women whose talent, passion, intelligence and drive have made the world a better place. One of my favorite ways to honor these fearless females during Women’s History Month (and really, every month) is to read books. Check out my list of seven fantastic reads to help you and your kids get the party started!

1. “The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read” by Rita Lorraine Hubbard and Oge Mora

Recommended age: 4-8 years

Read this if ... you want your kids to understand that it’s never too late to learn something new.

In a nutshell: Mary Walker was born into slavery in 1898. As a slave, she was never given the opportunity for an education, and even after being emancipated, she didn’t get the chance to learn how to read. But Mary always dreamed of being able to decipher the squiggles that she saw everywhere. So, when she was 116 years old — yes, you read that right — she finally achieved her goal.

Why I love it: Mary Walker’s story teaches all of us that there’s no limit on learning. Bonus: Oge Mora’s collage illustrations in this book are stunning.

Favorite quote: “[M]ary would stand on her old, old legs, clear her old, old, throat, and read from her Bible or her schoolbook in a voice that was clear and strong. When she finished, she would gently close her book and say, ‘You’re never too old to learn.’”

2. “The Only Woman in the Photo: Frances Perkins & Her New Deal for America” by Kathleen Krull

Recommended age: 4-8 years

Read this if … you want to be inspired by the woman behind some of the most significant pieces of legislation in U.S. history.

In a nutshell: Naturally shy as a child, Frances Perkins learned to speak up and use her voice when she began noticing injustice around her. An early social activist, Perkins was responsible for changing the nation’s standards on fire safety and workplace protections. Her work was so impactful that she caught the attention of then President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He appointed her as Secretary of Labor — the first woman to serve in a presidential cabinet — where she helped create and implement his famous New Deal.

Why I love it: It’s so important for kids to see not only how women have had to (and still have to) work so hard to make their voices heard, but also how strong our voices can be!

Favorite quote: “The door might not be opened to a woman again for a long, long time. And I had a kind of a duty to walk in and sit down in the chair that was offered.”

3. “Me and the Sky” by Joanie Stone

Recommended age: 4-8 years

Read this if ... you want your kids to know the sky’s the limit.

In a nutshell: When Beverly Bass was a child, she would dream of flying. At first, it was flying by jumping off her washing machine, but soon she began dreaming of flying planes. At 19 years old, Bass signed up for flying lessons, and before long, she was flying. She continued to pursue her passion with a new dream of becoming a commercial airline pilot. People said that a woman couldn’t possibly hold such a job, but Bass was determined. At 24 years old, she became the first female captain for American Airlines.

Why I love it: Bass didn’t just stop at learning to fly, or becoming a pilot. She kept going, learning and working hard — and then paid it forward by helping other women to do the same!

Favorite quote: “Oh, and the little girl who was told that girls can’t fly big airplanes? She was the first female to command a Boeing 777, the largest twinjet in the world for an airline.”

4. “A Girl Called Genghis Khan” by Michelle Lord

Recommended age: 5+ years

Read this if … you want your kids to know that girls really can do anything.

In a nutshell: Maria Toorpakai Wazir grew up in rural Pakistan, where girls had very little freedom. Even as a girl in a country where the Taliban held power, she knew this was wrong, so she chopped off her hair and put on her brother’s pants. Her incredible parents not only supported this, but they moved the family to Peshawar and introduced her as their son, Genghis. She took up squash and discovered that she loved it, and she was talented, too. When her secret eventually came out, the Taliban caught wind and threatened Genghis and her family, but she never gave up. In fact, she eventually went on to become the top female squash player for Pakistan and one of the top-50 players in the world!

Why I love it: Wazir’s rise to fame as an international squash champion is amazing enough, but the trials she endured really make her story awe-inspiring. I also adore her ultra-supportive parents.

Favorite quote: “I had to fight to play, fight for my beliefs, fight for the right to just be who I am!”

5. “Born Curious: 20 Girls Who Grew Up to Be Awesome Scientists” by Martha Freeman

Recommended age: 7-12 years

Read this if ... you want to encourage your kids to explore, ask questions, and discover!

In a nutshell: Though they came from different backgrounds and had different life experiences, the 20 women featured in this book all began as young girls who wanted to know how something worked, or why something was the way it was. And it was their eagerness to learn and to understand that led them to become great scientists. With quotes, fun facts and notable achievements, this one is packed with information and inspiration.

Why I love it: I always try to encourage my daughters’ curiosity, so I love how this book focuses on how important it is for kids to look for the answer to that nagging question — it just might lead them to an incredible discovery!

Favorite quote: “As women in professions dominated by men, some felt discrimination, while others were usually able to shrug it off. One thing they had in common: They were born curious.”

6. “Brave, Black, First: 50+ African American Women Who Changed the World” by Cheryl Hudson

Recommended age: 8-12 years

Read this if ... you’re looking to celebrate the lives of trailblazing African-American women.

In a nutshell: This anthology takes readers on a journey into the lives of 50 amazing African-American women. Published in collaboration with the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, the coolest part about this book is that the stories of many of the women featured are connected to artifacts and exhibits in the museum, so readers can take the book to the museum and experience them together!

Why I love it: I love bringing books to life with my girls, so I’m looking forward to our next road trip to D.C. where we can take a figurative and literal journey into the lives of these women.

Favorite quote: “For too long, the accomplishments of women, and in particular minority women, have been overlooked, minimized by those writing history books. We say no more.”

7. “Becoming RBG” by Debbie Levy

Recommended age: 10+ years

Read this if ... you want the perfect graphic novel to celebrate Women’s History Month.

In a nutshell: "Becoming RGB" is a glimpse into the life of an incredible woman. Woven together with pieces of her mother's advice and her own words, it portrays Ginsburg’s early life, all the way up through the work that she did for gender equality. Readers learn about the cases that she argued (and their significance) as well as getting a glimpse into her personal life, too —from her childhood nickname "Kiki" to her beloved mother's role in her life, to meeting her husband, to having children before going to law school — all important pieces of her life that made her into the woman that she is.

Why I love it: There are a lot of books about RBG, but the graphic novel format of this one makes it absolutely stand out.

Favorite quote: “As she won these battles for women and girls who were held back by unequal treatment, Ruth re-examined the inequality in her own life. She was done accepting less than she deserved. Ruth joined with others at Rutgers to press for equal pay — and she won that, too.”

Ciarra Chavarria runs the Instagram feed @girlsreadtheworld, where she regularly posts her latest finds. She’s also a lawyer and the mom of two super cool girls who live in New Jersey