Celebrating Women's History Month with Kids

March is Women's History Month, an annual celebration of the contributions of women to American history. Anytime is a good time, however, to introduce kids to some important female historical figures. Help spark the dreams of young girls by sharing these high-quality biographical picture books with the kids in your life:

The fascinating story of women's vital mathematical work on the early Apollo space missions has only recently received a smattering of the attention it deserves. Space enthusiast kids will thrill to Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly, a picture book version of the adult book that spawned the recent popular movie.

Malala's Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai tells the true story of the Pakistani teenager and activist for girls' education who survived an assassination attempt in 2012. This version is for the youngest readers, and is an inspiring tale of Malala's dreams of equality and justice in her country.

2020, a presidential election year, marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which awarded (white) women the right to vote in 1920. Women fought for this right for several decades, enduring public ridicule, jail time, and torture for their efforts. Introduce girls to one of the pivotal figures in the fight and impress upon them the importance of exercising their right to vote with the lively picture book biography Miss Paul and the President: The Creative Campaign for Women's Right to Vote by Dean Robbins (2016).

Appreciating women's history includes being explicit about the value of traditional "women's work," and The Women Who Caught the Babies: A Story of African American Midwives by Eloise Greenfield does just that, exploring the history of Black female midwives through poetry, beginning with the trans-Atlantic journey of people bound for enslavement in America and continuing through today.

The life of the first Latina Supreme Court justice is on the docket in Sonia Sotomayor: A Judge Grows in the Bronx by Jonah Winter. This bilingual picture book looks at Sotomayor's path to the nation's highest court, including her childhood in poverty and diagnosis with chronic illness.

Water Walker by Joanne Robertson tells the story of Josephine Mandamin, a determined Ojibwe grandmother who in 2003 walked all the way around Lake Superior to call attention to the need to protect the Earth's water for future generations. After the first walk, Mandamin attracted more women from her community, including the book's author, who did walks throughout the 2000s, eventually walking around all five Great Lakes and more.

Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpre introduces readers to New York's first Puerto Rican librarian, a groundbreaking woman who championed bilingual children's literature and was an artist in her own right. This book has gorgeous, colorful illustrations and a lyrical storytelling style that sings on the page.

Lots of kids are interested in ocean life and sharks, and Swimming with Sharks: The Daring Discoveries of Eugenie Clark by Heather Lang will introduce them to a Japanese-American female marine scientist whose pioneering research in the 1940s showed that sharks were not "mindless killing machines," an identity with which they'd long been associated.

Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker is a portrait of the performer and civil rights activist, who overcame a childhood of poverty to sing on the grandest stages in the world. The illustrations in this book are to die for, which certainly doesn't hurt. 

Today, female doctors feel pretty commonplace, but a good reminder of just how tough it was to break into the field can be found in the pages of Tanya Lee Stone's Who Says Women Can't Be Doctors?: The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell. Rejected by many, one medical college admitted Blackwell "as a joke," expecting her to fail out; in 1849, she became the first woman in America to earn an M.D. degree. Though it was difficult to find patients willing to be treated by a female physician, Blackwell nonetheless broke down barriers when she became a doctor despite the total lack of role models.

There are also some great collective biographies - numerous profiles of groundbreaking women collected in one volume. A few of the best are Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison; Rad American Women A-Z by Kate Schatz; Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Tales of Extraordinary Women by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo; and Women Who Dared: 52 Stories of Fearless Daredevils, Adventurers, and Rebels by Linda Skeers.


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