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Your child will never be short of a role model with this must-have collection of books about remarkable women achievers. Pick any field, and you’ll find one or many amazing young women or girls who've made their mark. Here’s to raising our girls – and boys – as tomorrow’s feminist leaders.
Don’t we want our little girls to grow up feeling confident and aspirational? And wouldn’t we love to raise young men who stand alongside as their allies? What better way than getting them started on this enriching list of must-reads for every child. What our children read today will help shape their worldview as adults. That’s why reading empowering stories about women’s achievements, or ones that place girls at the centre of the narrative should not just be a “girls-only” activity. Encouraging boys to read these books is just as important as it is for young girls to read them. So here’s our list of 8 inspiring books about women and girls that every child should read:
You’ll find many collections on inspiring women out there (we’ve got a few great ones on this list), but this one stands out for its unique line-up. Among the popular ones, get ready to meet some trailblazers you’ve likely never encountered before – such as South African artist Esther Mahlangu, Chinese-American virologist and molecular biologist Flossie Wong-Staal, and Chilean singer-songwriter Violeta Parra.
Written by #1 New York Times bestselling author and illustrator Vashti Harrison, this book is a collection of 35 single-page stories about women from across cultures who’ve made a mark in different fields: science, literature, music, architecture, movies, and more. So, there’s definitely something inspiring in here for everyone! The book is made more inviting by the delightful full-page illustrations, with interesting elements from the featured woman’s background, culture, or field of work.
There are some super-handy resources at the end of the book: an exhaustive glossary to help explain any tough terms young readers may encounter, and suggestions for further reading as well as watching and listening. Visually charming and thoroughly engaging, this book is sure to inspire!
Author: Vashti Harrison | Publisher: Penguin Random House UK | Goodreads Rating: 4.50 | Ideal for: 8–12 yearsBuy Your Copy
This stunningly illustrated graphic novel is a great read for anyone, not just middle schoolers and teens. Centred around the fight for women's voting rights in the United States, it switches back and forth in time, drawing parallels between the injustices of the past, and the many important social battles that we continue to witness today.
It features key moments from the lives of American suffragists like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Sojourner Truth, Alice Paul, Ida B. Wells, and Susan B. Anthony – but also shows how there were different points of view even among the torchbearers of the movement. And the unique experiences of black and Native American women against this landscape.
With its spectacular watercolour-like illustrations, Good Girls Don't Make History infuses life into a very serious subject matter, making an important side of history very engaging and accessible for young readers. You might question the relevance of this very US-centric book for the Indian reader. But the values it advocates – of not taking one’s rights for granted, standing up for what’s right, and the importance of using one’s voice – are very much relevant for readers of all ages located anywhere across the world.
Author: Elizabeth Kiehner | Publisher: Wide Eyed Editions | Goodreads rating: 4.17 | Ideal for: 10 years and upBuy Your Copy
Looking for the perfect series to introduce your child to the world of reading? Well, look no further! This award-winning children’s series has sold nearly 4 million copies worldwide, and for good reason.
Each book is a biography of a historical or pop-culture artist, activist, scientist or dreamer, written in language that is crisp and direct. Your child will enjoy reading it without feeling frustrated, while also being challenged into learning new words. Each spread has small pieces of text placed among eye-catching and immersive illustrations. If your child feels intimidated by big chunks of text, this series will certainly make reading a more approachable activity.
Every book takes on a different illustration style and approach, keeping things both intriguing and interesting. However, the one unifying visual style that the series is known for is picturising the women achievers in a child-like appearance, which allows the child reader to easily place themselves in the shoes of the characters.
The series celebrates diversity, and features a number of inspiring women that your child will love learning about. Whether it’s Maya Angelou’s journey as a writer, or Anne Frank’s experiences in the holocaust; Maria Montessori’s revolutionary ideas on education, or Ada Lovelace love of mathematics – there are so many wonderful stories waiting to be discovered and cherished by your child.
Author: Isabel Sánchez Vegara | Publisher: The Quarto Group | Goodreads rating: 4.63 | Ideal for: 4–6 yearsBuy Your Copy
While there have been many such compilations of stories celebrating women’s achievements for younger readers in recent years (a number of them featured in this list), most have been for an international or American audience. This book, tailor-made for an Indian audience, is a much-needed addition.
A collection of 50 inspiring stories of Indian women, the book recounts their achievements and struggles in a simple and lucid style that stays informative yet engaging throughout. What adds to its appeal are the vivid illustrations by Niloufer Wadia that bring each story to life.
Author Neha J Hiranandani paints a vivid picture of women’s history in India, spanning historical figures like the 16th-century warrior queen Abbakka of the Chowta dynasty, freedom fighter Aruna Asaf Ali, writer Ismat Chutgtai, trailblazing lawyer Cornelia Sorabji to contemporary women like scientist Asima Chatterjee, photographer Homai Vyarawalla, actor Priyanka Chopra, and Olympic medallist PV Sindhu. Some of these women defied traditional norms to take up arms for the country; others overcame personal challenges to create their own path.
If you love reading to your child, this book is ideal. What’s more, it can be enjoyed by readers of all ages and genders. Because surely everyone can do with an extra dose of inspiration!
Author: Neha J Hiranandani | Publisher: Scholastic | Goodreads rating: 4.65 | Ideal for: 8–12 yearsBuy Your Copy
There’s no doubt about it. Role models matter. Studies show that when girls are unable to see relatable women succeeding in areas that interest them – such as STEM and politics – it discourages them from pursuing such careers*. That’s why this book, written by New York–based author Caroline Moss, is so important.
Part of a series of empowering biographies of highly successful, modern-day working women, Work It, Girl: Oprah Winfrey chronicles the life of the influential American talk-show host. It charts the ups and downs of her journey, from being an impoverished girl in a potato sack dress to heading her own media and business empire. This gritty story is made interesting for young readers through easy, conversational language and mesmerising 3-D cut-paper artwork. It features lots of punchy quotes, as well as 10 key lessons at the end of the book that readers can apply in their own lives for a successful career in the future.
If you like this book, you may want to check out others in the series, such as those on J.K. Rowling and Michelle Obama.
*Forbes: Seeing Is Believing: Female Role Models Inspire Girls To Think Bigger
Author: Caroline Moss | Publisher: Frances Lincoln Children's Books | Goodreads rating: 4.47 | Ideal for: 8–12 yearsBuy Your Copy
Science, a man’s world? Definitely not!
Through the magic of beautifully conceived illustrations and succinct write-ups, this New York Times Best Seller tells the stories of 50 extraordinary women in science. These remarkable women had to battle the odds in their own lives, and then many went on to be neglected by history. The book reclaims their contributions to humankind, while educating readers about significant scientific discoveries and developments. (Bonus! It has a glossary of scientific terms)
While usually only the likes of Marie Curie are allowed a conciliatory spot in the hallowed halls of scientific breakthroughs, this book shines a spotlight on numerous women throughout history – ancient to modern. Such as geneticist Barbara McLintock whose work was sidelined for 30 years by academia. Or, NASA physicist and mathematician Katherine Johnson who had to fight her way out of segregated rooms and then went on to successfully calculate the flight path for the Apollo 11 mission – one among her many, many achievements.
Author and illustrator Rachel Ignotofsky condenses dense information into fun and accessible content through a combination of words and pictures that makes these complex subjects interesting. As some who struggled with reading as a child, she understands how to use illustrations to make learning and reading exciting for children.
Add this book to your child’s bookshelf to give them a unique insight into science that is grounded in history. The stories of these brilliant and determined women will not only spark an interest in the sciences, but encourage them to discover and pursue their passions against all odds.
Author: Rachel Ignotofsky | Publisher: Ten Speed Press | Goodreads rating: 4.47 | Ideal for: 10–17 yearsBuy Your Copy
This endearing set of four pocket-sized, boldly illustrated books showcases 16 of the greatest women achievers from across time and the world.
The 4X4X4-inch set features charming, brightly coloured portraits that will hold even a baby’s attention. Each portrait is accompanied by a simple one-line bio – just perfect for getting a young child’s mind curious and asking the right questions. What’s more? Made of impressively thick board, these books will withstand a fair bit of toddler roughhousing.
The four books are titled Artists, Pioneers, Leaders, and Activists and feature the likes of US poet Maya Angelou, Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi, Pakistani Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai, and Polish scientist Marie Curie. Definitely a great addition to your little one’s bookshelf.
Author: Emily Kleinman | Publisher: Mudpuppy | Goodreads rating: 4.43 | Ideal for: Baby to 5 yearsBuy Your Copy
Not your typical book of fairy tales, this New York Times Best Seller tells real-life stories of 100 amazing women from across the world. Each story begins with “Once upon a time”, and then goes on to defy all the conventions of traditional fairy tales.
Your child will learn about racially, socially, and culturally diverse women past and present – the first female Egyptian pharaoh Hatshepsut, African American freedom fighter Harriet Tubman, Hispanic jazz drummer Millo Castro Zaldarriag, neurobiologist, Nobel Laureate Rita Levi-Montalcini and so many more.
Written in a manner that is easy for a child to understand without omitting difficult or complex topics, it will encourage your child to ask questions, have conversations, and become informed about the world around them.
A labour of love by women, the book is a veritable visual treat, with female illustrators from different corners of the globe bringing their unique vision to each story. The illustrations, along with the vivid descriptions, will pique your child’s imagination.
Also available as a podcast, the book has gone on to spawn its own series, making it an essential purchase for anyone who wants to teach their child the value and power of perseverance.
Authors: Elena Favilli & Francesca Cavallo | Publisher: Particular Books | Goodreads rating: 4.34 | Ideal for: 8 years and upBuy Your Copy