Books for Women’s History Month

I have a bumper sticker on my car that reads, ‘Well-behaved women rarely make history’. It’s a reminder to myself (and everyone else) that being a little bit ‘uppity’ and determined are positive traits in girls and women. We don’t have to conform to stereotypes of soft-spoken, agreeable, behavior. We can be strong and outspoken as we pursue personal and professional goals.

Women’s History Month offers an opportunity for children to discover how women and girls have persevered in the face of discrimination. Storybooks offer insight into the creative ways they have made their mark in the world. Read and explore one or more of these books about ‘uppity’ girls with children 3 years and older.

Dancing Hands (by Margarita Engle). Teresa learned to compose her own songs on the piano before she turned seven. When her family flees a revolution in Venezuela and comes to the United States,she finds joy and peace in playing. Yet her new country is soon caught up in the Civil War, and people all around her also long for the comfort of good music. President Lincoln invites Teresa to play at the White House. She became famous as the ‘Piano Girl’ who cared for a war-torn nation. Explore the power of music with children. Invite them to select songs that help them cope when they are afraid or struggling. Listen to their choices together. Ask: What other coping skills do you have? How might you help others find ways to manage their anxieties and fears?

More Than Peach (by Bellen Woodard). Once upon a time, crayon boxes included one crayon labeled ‘flesh’, suggesting that everyone had light pink skin. Sixty years later, Bellen’s classmates were still referring to the renamed ‘peach’ crayon as the ‘skin color’ one, despite Crayola’s release of more multicultural skin tones in 1992.  She decided to challenge their false assumption, setting off a nationwide movement and prompting a new Crayola product: Colors of the World. Encourage children to identify other ways that people might feel excluded in their community. List their thoughts and then brainstorm ways to turn each exclusive practice into a more inclusive way of being together.

Words of Wonder from Z to A (by Zaila Avant-garde). As the first Black American to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee, Zaila loves words. Her book includes many inspirational terms that help her succeed every day despite the challenges of racism in the U.S. Invite children to name their favorite motivational word and then create a poster or video illustrating its meaning. Share their work with others via social media or a hallway display.

The Leaf Detective (by Heather Lang). Meg Lowman loved the outdoors so much she wanted to become an environmental scientist. But some people thought girls weren’t tough enough to study the rainforest. She stayed the course, figuring out ways to climb into its leafy canopy and  observe. The data she gathered has propelled the movement to save the rainforest. Ask children: What challenges might you face as you work toward your dreams? How might you overcome them? With school-age children, encourage them to create a decision matrix to help them problem-solve.



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