Girl Power Books
There is a wave of cool new books for kids that feature stories about girls and women, portrayed as smart, inventive, strong and important. These are a far cry from the princess books or even the "girls can do everything boys can do" books of years past, and they are having an impact on how girls are seeing themselves and understanding the role of women and girls in history and the world today. I know this because I have watched first hand how my 10 year old daughter takes pride in important women in history, many of whom are also Black, Brown and Asian...and, many of whom I had never learned about as a kid, or as an adult. So, who better to have on the show today than my own daughter, Tomitsela Engel-Halfkenny to share her insights about these new “Girl Power” books and why she loves them. Listen in to the full LIVE audio interview which is filed with so many great thoughts from Tomi, through the link above, by podcast or on facebook live, or check out the photos, lists, and info below.
The importance of seeing girls and women and Black and Brown people in books cannot be understated. Tomi often comes home from school talking about how boys say things like “girls aren’t as fast and strong as boys” or “girls can’t do this”. These things infuriate her, and she finds enormous support and pride in these books as proof that girls and women are awesome. Additionally, as a light skinned mixed kid she rarely sees her self represented in books, and finds that kids don’t believe her when she says she’s mixed or black, unless they see her standing with her dad. Having books that show the full spectrum of people, races and cultures is super important to her sense of self and place in the world. While it's really important for GIRLS to read these books, it's also super important for BOYS to read these books to expand their thinking about women and girls.
Please support your independent bookstores and libraries when getting new books! Indie bookstores will order books for you and call you when they arrive, and it usually only takes a few days. Also, libraries can often purchase new books or get new magazine subscriptions and can borrow books from libraries in other towns, so don’t hesitate to ask for new books there, especially if you don’t have money to buy books, or if you want to try them out before purchasing. Another great tip from Tomi is to ask for books as gifts for birthdays and holidays, they are the gift that just keeps giving.
Non-Fiction Girl Power Books
The first set of books are non-fiction portraits of real women and girls. Tomi’s favorite book in this category was Strong is the New Pretty which has great photographs and quotes of girls being girls in their full complexity with a shift away from “body talk” focused on appearance and into the substance of who they are as people. This is a great book for kids young and old because the photos are wonderful and there aren’t a lot of words on each page. Most of the rest of these books have portraits of individual women and interesting stories and facts about their lives. Many times over the past year, Tomi has jumped into conversations to tell me a cool fact about an important woman in HERstory or current times, many of them people I had not heard of before. The impact of this knowledge on her world view and her feelings about herself are clear and powerful.
Also in this list is a fabulous magazine called New Moon Girls created BY and FOR girls! It is filled with photos, writing and stories about and written by a racially diverse community of girls, AND there is no advertising in the print version or on their website. It’s for “Every girl who wants her voice heard and her dreams taken seriously”. Another fun addition to this list is the Kid Chef cookbook...filled with fun recipes that kids can make and enjoy.
*All books with an asterisk include girls and women of color
Non-Fiction "Girl Power" Books:
Strong is the New Pretty* by Kate T Parker (Photo book with quotes from girls)
Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls 1 and 2* by Francesca Cavallo and Elena Favilli (artist portrait of a woman and a single page interesting story about their life)
Women in Science* by Rachel Ignotofsky (artist portrait of important woman in science and a single page story about their life, plus cool facts and quotes around the edges)
Women in Sports* by Rachel Ignotofsky (artist portrait of important woman in sports and a single page story about their life, plus cool facts and quotes around the edges)
Rad American Women A-Z*: Rebels, Trailblazers, and Visionaries who Shaped Our History . . and Our Future! by Kate Schatz Illustrated by Miriam Klein Stahl
Rad Women Worldwide*: Artists and Athletes, Pirates and Punks, and other Revolutionaries who shaped history, by Kate Schatz, Illustrated by Miriam Klein Stahl
Fight like a girl*, Laura Barcella - 50 femenists who changed the world
I Got This, To Gold and Beyond*, the Laurie Hernandez Biography (full length text biography with a center section of photos)
Kid Chef by Melina Hammer, forward by Bryant Terry
New Moon Girls (Magazine)* (An awesome magazine created BY and For Girls. Features a wide diversity of girls and perspectives)
Fiction Girl Power Chapter Books
The second set of books are FICTION chapter books and include female lead characters or really strong female characters. There are certainly many more books to add to this list, but these are some of Tomi’s favorites and range from Ivy and Bean early reader series for 6-9 year olds to The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series for ages 12 and up. A wonderful older book we found at a used book store is Taiwo and her Twin, a fun story about a Yoruba girl in Nigeria in the 1960’s who isn’t allowed to go to school with her brother because she is a girl, but manages to learn to read and eventually go to school anyway!
*All books with an asterisk include girls and women of color
Fiction "Girl Power" Chapter Books:
Ivy and Bean series by Annie Barrows and Sophie Blackall
The Girl who drank the Moon* by Kelly Barnhill
The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series by Michael Scott
Sisters Grimm series by Michael Buckley
Taiwo and her Twin* by Laurie Schatz
Matilda by Roald Dahl (Tomi didn't mention this on the show, but it's one of her favorites!)
Jupiter Storm* by Marti Dumas (This is a new book Tomi hasn't read yet but is exited for)
Nadia Knox* by Jessica McDougle (This is a new book Tomi hasn't read yet but is exited for)
Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene (did you know Boriqua and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor was inspired to become a lawyer because she wanted to solve cases like Nancy Drew?!... Tomi learned that fact in Goodnight Stories fro Rebel Girls 2!)
A Few Tips to Help Kids fall in love with books
Reading doesn’t come easily to all kids, and it’s not always the top choice of activity when they are just hanging out at home. While I’m blessed with two kids who love to read, and didn’t have many challenges with it, here are a few tips of things we did that helped foster their love of reading:
Hanging out at the library - a great way to explore new books and talk to librarians or other kids about what they like.
No screen time during the week and a very limited amount on weekends. When there is no screen time (including video games), books can become a great option for relaxing and “vegging out”.
Lots of books of ALL sorts around your home - comic books, pictures books, cookbooks, and chapter books on different topics and a diversity of cultures and characters. (We get tons of great books at tag sales, second hand stores like SAVERS, and at used book stores.)
Reading out loud to kids when they are younger, or even reading the first few pages of a new chapter book to get them intrigued...and then kids can take it from there.
Books in the car (and in backpacks, on trains, buses, and plains). We have always traveled with books, and somehow our kids can read in the car without getting car sick… having a book with them anywhere they go adds many more minutes and sometimes hours of reading time each day.
Asking for books as gifts for birthdays and holidays, even having a used book swap instead of gifts from friends at a bday party.