Welcome back to our series on Books to Empower!
Next up are these wonderful books: my favourite picture books to empower girls! I was deeply shaped by the reading I did as a child and as a young girl myself. And now that we have three daughters and a son, we believe even more strongly in seeing smart, resourceful, and empowered characters for all of our children to enjoy. Representation matters, we know this, and that includes our bookshelves. But it’s not just about learning and representation – we all want a cracking good story and beautiful illustrations, too.
Of course, the biggest problem with this list is keeping it short! There are so many amazing options available to young girls now that I ended up simply choosing our family’s personal favourites rather than using any other metric.
My hope is that you will check these books out of the library or buy them at your local bookstore and then read them to or with the girls in your life. They would all make excellent Christmas gifts, too.
After all, the books we read shape who we are especially when we are young. If our girls are reading books reminding them that they are called, chosen, capable, strong, clever, creative, wise, even empowered by the Holy Spirit…well, the dangerous and wonderful thing is that our girls might just believe them.
My Favourite Picture Books to Empower Young Girls
*in no particular order
When God Made You by Matthew Paul Turner – We absolutely adore this book. I have given it as a gift multiple times. The illustrations are gorgeous and I have yet to get to that last few pages without my voice cracking with tears. Such a fantastic message for our girls.
Ada Twist Scientist by Andrea Beaty – A quick-paced rhyming book with gorgeous illustrations, this tells the story of a kid who can’t stop asking “WHY” (there are a few others in this series we also love including Izzy Peck Architect and Rosie Revere Engineer)
Stand Tall, Molly Lou Mellon by Pamela Lovell – The illustrations are hilarious in this story of a quirky kid with an odd voice believing her grandmother instead of the bullies.
When I Was Eight by Margaret Pokiak-Fenton & Christy Jordan-Fenton – My big kids loved the memoir Fatty Legs and this is that same story re-told and illustrated for younger readers. It tells the story of the residential school system through the eyes of a strong young girl who is determined to learn to read.
Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman – Grace loves stories and she wants to play Peter Pan in the school play…even though everyone tells her that a black girl can’t play the part. My eldest loved this book when she was younger.
Everyday Dress Up by Selina Alko – We grabbed this from the library shelf when my eldest was a toddler and all my girls have loved this story of a girl who dresses up as great women in history.
Wangari’s Trees of Peace: A True Story From Africa by Jeanette Winter – I love finding books that subvert the notion of “hero” to include powerful and influential women like Wangari Maathi.
Viola Desmond Won’t Be Budged by Jody Nyasha Warner – The story of Viola Desmond (sometimes called Canada’s Rosa Parks) is familiar to most Canadians and her fight against segregation in the 40s in Nova Scotia but this book tells it beautifully for children.
God’s Dream by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Douglas Carlton Abrams – We received this book as a gift when our youngest was born and we regularly read it at bedtime. It’s not exclusively for girls but the message and illustrations are something our girls can’t hear enough in my opinion.
Violet the Pilot by Steve Breen – All of my girls loved this book about an ingenious girl who lives at a junkyard and builds flying machines but my daughter Evelynn – who loves to build and create – especially identifies with Violet’s story and often requests this one for bedtime stories.
A Brave Big Sister by Rachel Spier Weaver and Anna Haggard – In my book Jesus Feminist, I lamented the lack of Christian books for children that portray women as heroes and leaders. Well, I don’t wonder anymore thanks to Rachel and Anna. They are starting a new series of books called Called and Courageous. This is the first book and it tells the tale of Miriam. I am particularly excited about their new one coming out “An Extraordinary Teacher” because it’s all about one of my own heroes – Priscilla. I’ll likely be buying every single one as they come out!
Just in Case You Ever Wonder by Max Lucado – This one is a classic for a lot of Christian parents for good reason: it tells the story of unconditional love and unwavering support for our children. More girls need to hear this message in the voices of those who care for them.
My Brother Charlie by Holly Robinson Peete and Ryan Elizabeth Peete – We grabbed this from the library one day and we all loved it. It tells the story of a girl whose brother has autism but it’s not sentimental or sweet. It’s honest and loving both for the narrator and for Charlie.
Lizzy the Lioness by Lisa Bevere – This book was different than I expected – rather than centering bravery on one girl’s actions, it centers bravery around knowing when to ask for help. A much needed reminder of permission for our adventurous girls that sometimes the bravest thing they can do is ask for help.
The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch – Classic, classic, classic. My kids all howl with laughter when we reach Elizabeth’s pronouncement to Ronald at the end. He has a lot of other great stories that feature girls in the lead, too. (And a pro-tip: if you can find Robert Munsch’s audio books at the library, I highly recommend. They are taped in a live school audience with kids and he is SUCH an animated reader and storyteller. I remember hearing him when I was a kid myself in my school gym and almost crying with laughter over his stories live.)
The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi – This book tells the story of a Korean immigrant girl who is trying to figure out how to change her name to a more Americanized one when her friends intervene.
Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney – This is such a beautiful book. Seriously. I could frame every page but the story of a woman just simply living her life in the beautiful way that suits her is it’s own story, too.
Maya Angelou and the entire Little People, Big Dreams series of books by Isabel Sanchez Vegara – Another library find, we all adore these biographical but accessible books about strong and influential women. Our other favourites include Marie Curie, Frida Kahlo, and Amelia Earhart. There are a lot more coming out in 2018, too! This series is beautifully bound, too, so they make an excellent gift.
She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World by Chelsea Clinton – These stories of tenacity and boldness and determination are so moving. What a legacy.
When We Were Alone by David Alexander Robertson – This award-winning book tells the story of a grand-daughter asking her grandmother the questions that lead to her learning about her family’s experiences in residential schools. My favourite part is that it centers the children who were at the schools and tells of their strength and creativity and determination to survive.
Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett – A story about knitting and irrepressible girls? Take my money!
Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans – This was the first book my eldest ever memorized from start to finish. We still love Madeline to this day.
Not All Princesses Dress in Pink by Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple – The thing we found most refreshing in this book is that there is room for the princesses who DO wear pink in amongst all the other things girls like to wear and do.
God Made All of Me: A Book to Help Children Protect Their Bodies by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb – In an ideal world, this kind of book isn’t necessary but here we are. This is a good start for the conversation with the kids – repetitive, accessible, age-appropriate for littles, and educational. Also, as a head’s up, it has a parent section at the beginning and end that might not be appropriate for little ones to come across on their own (i.e. it talks about child abuse stats) but it will help you have the conversations that need to be started with our daughters (and sons) even at a young age.
Your turn! What picture books are your favourites to empower girls? Share in the comments!
Keep an eye out for My Favourite Chapter Books to Empower Girls soon (and yes, that will include graphic novels!). Subscribe to my blog so you don’t miss it.
P.S. Don’t forget – my annual Christmas Gift Guide to Empower Women is coming out soon! To get first-access sneak peek and for access to the exclusive giveaway on November 20th, sign up for my e-newsletter Field Notes. But don’t worry – The Gift Guide itself will be posted here on November 22. I’m busily putting that together at the moment and it is AMAZING this year. I can’t wait to share it with you!
Books to Empower Women Series
My Favourite Chapter Books to Empower Girls (coming soon)
My Favourite Fiction Books to Empower Women (coming soon)
My Favourite Theological Books to Empower Women (coming soon)
IF YOU WANT TO TALK MORE ABOUT BOOKS: