Books are an incredible tool to teach young girls to know their value. Now that spring is here, I’ve got some great picks to share. Whether these books encourage your girls to speak up, introduce them to women and girls who changed the world, or just show them a character that’s like them, I hope they inspire your daughters like they inspired mine.
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Recommended age: 4-8 years old
Read this if ... you want to encourage your girls never to be afraid to speak up.
In a nutshell: Alice Paul Tapper, a sixth-grade Girl Scout, wrote this book based on her own experience. After noticing that girls in her class tended to raise their hands less than boys (and after noticing her own hesitation, too!), she decided to do something about it. Along with the support of the Girl Scouts, she created a badge and a pledge to encourage other girls to raise their hand.
Why I love it: As a lifelong Girl Scout (and now leader of my daughter’s Daisy troop) and super fan of anything that encourages girls to raise their voice, I can’t get enough of this book. It’s also a powerful testament to how one simple idea can make a difference.
Favorite quote: “So now it’s your turn. You can do it. Be bold, be brave, and RAISE YOUR HAND!”
Recommended age: 4-8 years old
Read this if ... you want your girls to understand that you don’t always have to be the biggest, strongest or fastest — and you understand the alluring power of a churro!
In a nutshell: Maria loves churros. So much so that when she hears about a bullfighting contest offering a lifetime supply of churros to the matador that can stay in the ring the longest, she knows she HAS to try. The other matadors laugh, telling her she’s not strong enough, fast enough or big enough — and besides that, she’s a girl. But Maria’s determination only grows (as does her love for churros), and she finds her own way to face the bull.
Why I love it: Maria is one of my favorite characters — quirky, fun and tough. Not only is she not afraid to take risks, but she’s also clever enough to think creatively when faced with a big problem.
Favorite quote: “In the center of the arena waited the most ferocious-looking bull she had ever seen, but she marched up to him anyway …”
Recommended age: 3-8 years old
Read this if ... you want to help your little girl find her inner courage.
In a nutshell: It’s never easy to be brave in the face of something scary. The protagonist in this story is struggling to be brave as her family moves to a new home. She feels nervous as they drive through unfamiliar territory, on their way to an unknown place. But as she journeys on, she looks within and finds that the power to be brave was there all along.
Why I love it: This quiet, thoughtful book (with soft illustrations that mirror the protagonist’s feelings) can be read both as a regular bedtime story but can also be pulled out for those times when your little girls need a boost of courage.
Favorite quote: “Your light might be small to start — just a spark — but you can turn it into a flame.”
Recommended age: 4-7 years old
Read this if … you want your daughters to know that they should always be proud of who they are.
In a nutshell: An artist draws a little girl, but decides she isn’t quite right. But when she goes to erase and start over, the little girl comes to life and tells the artist to hold that pencil —she’s happy just the way she is!
Why I love it: We often get so caught up in trying to be perfect that we sometimes forget to just be happy with who we are. This message is so important for little girls to hear, and relaying it in a picture book format is genius!
Favorite quote: “Excuse me, lady, artist, ma’am, but I like me the way I am. Before you change one line or dot, can I try...to rock what I’ve got?”
Recommended age: 4-6 years old
Read this if ... you want to teach your girl that she’s got magic of her own.
In a nutshell: Juno Valentine’s favorite shoes are plain, white and comfy. So when her shoes go missing, Juno is frantic! As she looks for her shoes, she suddenly finds herself on an adventure — in a magical closet! Lining the shelves are the shoes of famous women, past and present — like Queen Elizabeth I, Jane Goodall, Cleopatra, Sally Ride and Serena Williams. Readers step into their shoes along with Juno, and learn about what made them so magical. When Juno finally finds her own shoes, she realizes that maybe they need a little magic of their own, too!
Why I love it: It’s a fun, cheerful and totally unique concept for introducing some trailblazing women in history — Lady Gaga’s shoes were our favorite!
Favorite quote: “Game, set, match — victory was hers in Serena’s shoes!”
Recommended age: 3-7 years old
Read this if ... you want your girls to know that they can be and do anything.
In a nutshell: This book is an ode to girl power, encouraging girls to raise their voice and find their passion. Through catchy rhymes and photo illustrations, each page in this book depicts real little girls practicing 30 careers where women are often underrepresented, reminding little girls that there is no limit to their dreams.
Why I love it: The photo illustrations here are so powerful, and it’s fantastic that little girls reading this book can literally see themselves as an architect, Olympic athlete, CEO, astronaut, President of the United States and many more occupations.
Favorite quote: “Set your mind and focus on the dreams you will pursue and you will be unstoppable. There’s nothing you can’t do!”
Recommended age: 6-9 years old
Read this if ... you’re looking for a new early reader series that celebrates STEM!
In a nutshell: Ada Twist is always trying to find answers to life's great (and small) questions — that’s par for the course when you have a scientific mind like hers. In this second book of the “Questioneers” chapter book series, she’s called on by her friend Rosie Revere to help her friend solve one of the most important questions of all: How can Rosie’s Uncle Ned and his runaway helium pants get back down to Earth?
Why I love it: Characters that grow with kids are the best, especially ones as spunky and smart as Ada. My girls were introduced to Ada in the picture book, “Ada Twist, Scientist,” and I’m thrilled that as they get older, they’ll get to keep following along on her adventures!
Favorite quote: “The day had just begun, and she already had a mystery to solve. As a scientist, nothing made her happier.”
Recommended age: 8-12 years old
Read this if ... you’re looking for a multicultural middle grade read that will have you cheering for its imperfect heroine.
In a nutshell: Ana María (Anamay) Reyes lives in a small apartment in Washington Heights with her parents and three sisters (and one on the way!). It’s crowded, busy, loud, and she can barely get enough peace to practice her piano — which is even more crucial now that she’s trying to get a scholarship to a prestigious private school. Anamay is laser-focused on getting that scholarship, but over the course of a series of events, including a trip to the Dominican Republic and a nearly tragic accident, she is forced to reconsider her priorities.
Why I love it: Anamay is a fantastic character. Girls reading this book will identify with her imperfections and struggles, but also recognize that it’s both her determination and ability to understand what’s really important that get Anamay to where she wants to be.
Favorite quote: “I looked up at the stars and was amazed by the way the stars completely filled it. You can’t see stars in New York City. Here there were millions.”
Recommended age: 8+
Read this if ... you’re looking for truly unique anthology of amazing women that not only captivates visually, but audibly, too.
In a nutshell: Each page in this anthology includes the usual biographical information, illustrations, and quotes. But what makes “She Spoke” stand out is that each page is also accompanied by a short recording of a speech given by the woman featured — in her actual voice. This book really gets the conversation going about what it means when we tell girls to speak up and speak out.
Why I love it: Having access to these women’s voices, to literally hear them saying their iconic and critical words creates a magical connection between readers and these women, and I’ve never seen (well, heard) anything else like it.
Favorite quote: “No matter who you are, you have the right to speak up. The world needs your voice.”
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.