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Female Role Models and America: Books For Kids

One reason that we love to read is because we identify with characters in books. We enter their worlds and learn with them. If you think about the last five books you read, what did you learn from the characters?

This list highlights books with positive female role models from whom we can all learn empowering lessons. These strong female characters can inspire and benefit all children across many ages, from toddlers to middle school aged kids! These ladies are strong, determined, brave, smart, powerful, and more.

While the children’s book market has started to make a better effort to publish progressive books with more women power, it can still be hard to find them—especially good titles that you will come to love. We’ve sorted through the bunch and have come up with our favorites for you. We think these are the best books to show the positive impact of being a good role model. You can use our subtopics and filter the list by book type—board, picture, and chapter—to find the titles that most interest you. Comment below if you have any you love that aren’t on our list!

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Amelia Earhart
Written by Isabel Sanchez Vegara & illustrated by Mariadiamantes
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom
A great board book introduction to an amazing woman who pushed the boundaries. It's simple and truthful without making morbid the fact that Amelia never made it back :) Plus, the illustrations are super cute!
board book
Recommend Ages: 3-5

Meet Amelia, the fearless female flier! Now available as a board book in the Little People, Big Dreams series, this inspiring and informative little biography follows the life of Amelia Earhart, from her childhood as a tomboy to becoming the first female pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean to her eventual disappearance. With stylish and quirky illustrations and extra facts at the back, this empowering series celebrates the important life stories of wonderful women of the world. From designers and artists to scientists, all of them went on to achieve incredible things, yet all of them began life as a little child with a dream. These books make the lives of these role models accessible for children, providing a powerful message to inspire the next generation of outstanding people who will change the world!

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She Persisted
Written by Chelsea Clinton & illustrated by Alexandra Boiger
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Chelsea Clinton introduces tiny feminists, mini activists and little kids who are ready to take on the world to thirteen inspirational women who never took no for an answer, and who always, inevitably and without fail, persisted.

Throughout American history, there have always been women who have spoken out for what’s right, even when they have to fight to be heard. In early 2017, Senator Elizabeth Warren’s refusal to be silenced in the Senate inspired a spontaneous celebration of women who persevered in the face of adversity. In this book, Chelsea Clinton celebrates thirteen American women who helped shape our country through their tenacity, sometimes through speaking out, sometimes by staying seated, sometimes by captivating an audience. They all certainly persisted.

She Persisted is for everyone who has ever wanted to speak up but has been told to quiet down, for everyone who has ever tried to reach for the stars but was told to sit down, and for everyone who has ever been made to feel unworthy or unimportant or small.

With vivid, compelling art by Alexandra Boiger, this book shows readers that no matter what obstacles may be in their paths, they shouldn’t give up on their dreams. Persistence is power.

This book features: Harriet Tubman, Helen Keller, Clara Lemlich, Nellie Bly, Virginia Apgar, Maria Tallchief, Claudette Colvin, Ruby Bridges, Margaret Chase Smith, Sally Ride, Florence Griffith Joyner, Oprah Winfrey, Sonia Sotomayor—and one special cameo.

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Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History
Written by Vashti Harrison
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-11

A NEW YORK TIMES INSTANT BESTSELLER!A USA TODAY BESTSELLER! This beautifully illustrated book introduces readers of all ages to 40 women who changed the world. Featuring forty trailblazing black women in American history, Little Leaders educates and inspires as it relates true stories of breaking boundaries and achieving beyond expectations. Illuminating text paired with irresistible illustrations bring to life both iconic and lesser-known female figures of Black history such as abolitionist Sojourner Truth, pilot Bessie Coleman, chemist Alice Ball, politician Shirley Chisholm, mathematician Katherine Johnson, poet Maya Angelou, and filmmaker Julie Dash. Among these biographies, readers will find heroes, role models, and everyday women who did extraordinary things - bold women whose actions and beliefs contributed to making the world better for generations of girls and women to come. Whether they were putting pen to paper, soaring through the air or speaking up for the rights of others, the women profiled in these pages were all taking a stand against a world that didn’t always accept them. The leaders in this book may be little, but they all did something big and amazing, inspiring generations to come.

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Hidden Figures Young Readers' Edition
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

New York Times bestselling author Margot Lee Shetterly’s book is now available in a new edition perfect for young readers. This is the amazing true story of four African-American female mathematicians at NASA who helped achieve some of the greatest moments in our space program. Soon to be a major motion picture starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kirsten Dunst, and Kevin Costner. Before John Glenn orbited the earth, or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of dedicated female mathematicians known as “human computers” used pencils, slide rules, and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space. This book brings to life the stories of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden, four African-American women who lived through the civil rights era, the Space Race, the Cold War, and the movement for gender equality, and whose work forever changed the face of NASA and the country.

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Elizabeth Leads the Way
Written by Tanya Lee Stone & illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-10

Elizabeth Cady Stanton stood up and fought for what she believed in. From an early age, she knew that women were not given rights equal to men. But rather than accept her lesser status, Elizabeth went to college and later gathered other like-minded women to challenge the right to vote. Here is the inspiring story of an extraordinary woman who changed America forever because she wouldn’t take “no” for an answer.

Elizabeth Leads the Way is a 2009 Bank Street - Best Children’s Book of the Year.

Audrey Hepburn book
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Maya Angelou book
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The House That Jane Built book
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I Am Helen Keller book
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  • Audrey Hepburn - This board book version of Audrey Hepburn—an international bestseller from the beloved Little People, BIG DREAMS series—introduces the youngest dreamers to this iconic Hollywood movie star. Audrey Hepburn grew up in Arnhem in the Netherlands. After living through the hardships of World War Two, she moved to study ballet in London. She went on to star in plays and films, eventually becoming one of the most iconic actresses of all time. Babies and toddlers will love to snuggle as you read to them the engaging story of this fascinating star, and will also enjoy exploring the stylish and quirky illustrations of this sturdy board book on their own.

  • Maya Angelou - Meet Maya Angelou, the world’s most beloved writer and speaker! Now available as a board book in the Little People, Big Dreams series, this inspiring and informative little biography follows the life of Maya Angelou, from her early traumatic childhood to her time as a singer, actress, civil rights campaigner and, eventually, one of America’s most beloved writers of poetry, memoirs, and essays. With stylish and quirky illustrations and extra facts at the back, this empowering series celebrates the important life stories of wonderful women of the world. From designers and artists to scientists, all of them went on to achieve incredible things, yet all of them began life as a little child with a dream. These books make the lives of these role models accessible for children, providing a powerful message to inspire the next generation of outstanding people who will change the world!

  • The House That Jane Built - This is the story of Jane Addams, the first American woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, who transformed a poor neighborhood in Chicago by opening up her house as a community center.

  • I Am Helen Keller - “The story of Helen Keller, who learned to read and write despite being deaf and blind, and became an activist who fought for the rights of disabled people”

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Hedy Lamarr's Double Life
Written by Laurie Wallmark & illustrated by Katy Wu
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-10

To her adoring public, Hedy Lamarr was a glamorous movie star. But in private, she was something more: a brilliant inventor. Now Laurie Wallmark and Katy Wu, who collaborated on Sterling’s critically acclaimed picture-book biography Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code, tell the inspiring story of how, during World War Two, Lamarr developed a groundbreaking communications system that still remains essential to the security of today’s technology.

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Maya Angelou
Written by Lisbeth Kaiser & illustrated by Leire Salaberria
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

In the Little People, Big Dreams series, discover the lives of outstanding people from designers and artists to scientists. All of them went on to achieve incredible things, yet all of them began life as a little child with a dream. The book follows Maya Angelou, from her early traumatic childhood to her time as a singer, actress, civil rights campaigner and, eventually, one of America’s most beloved writers. This inspiring and informative little biography comes with extra facts about Maya’s life at the back.

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Ella Fitzgerald
Written by Isabel Sanchez Vegara & illustrated by Bàrbara Alca
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Meet Ella Fitzgerald, one of the most influential jazz singers of all time! New in the Little People, Big Dreams series, this inspiring and informative little biography follows the inspirational life of the First Lady of Song, from her early singing days on the streets of Harlem, to her success as a jazz legend, with the message: ‘It’s not where you come from, but where you’re going that counts.’ With stylish and quirky illustrations and a facts and photo section at the back, this empowering series celebrates the important life stories of wonderful women of the world. From designers and artists to scientists, all of them went on to achieve incredible things, yet all of them began life as a little child with a dream. These books make the lives of these role models accessible for children, providing a powerful message to inspire the next generation of outstanding people who will change the world!

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When Ruth Bader Ginsburg Chewed 100 Sticks of Gum
Written by Mark Andrew Weakland & illustrated by Daniela Volpari
picture book
Recommend Ages: 8-11

Ruth Bader Ginsburg was the second woman justice to serve on the Supreme Court. But do you know what she was like as a child? Strong role models and encouragement to be herself led Ruth to speak her mind and to stand up for equality. This playful story of her childhood will help young readers connect with a historic figure and will inspire them to want to achieve greatness.

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I Look Up To... Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Written by Anna Membrino & illustrated by Fatti Burke
board book
Recommend Ages: 0-3

If you can see it, you can be it! Introduce your child to your role models with this series of inspirational board books.

It’s never too early to introduce your child to the people you admire! This board book distills Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s excellent qualities into deliciously illustrated little baby-sized bites, with text designed to share and read aloud.

Each spread highlights an important trait, and is enhanced by a quote from RBG herself. Kids will grow up hearing the words of this influential woman and will learn what YOU value in a person!

The I LOOK UP TO . . . series aims to shine a spotlight on women making a difference in the world today, and to encourage young kids to follow in their footsteps!

Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré book
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I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark book
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Epic Athletes: Serena Williams book
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A Voice Named Aretha book
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  • Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré - An inspiring picture book biography of storyteller, puppeteer, and New York City’s first Puerto Rican librarian, who championed bilingual literature. When she came to America in 1921, Pura Belpré carried the cuentos folklóricos of her Puerto Rican homeland. Finding a new home at the New York Public Library as a bilingual assistant, she turned her popular retellings into libros and spread story seeds across the land. Today, these seeds have grown into a lush landscape as generations of children and storytellers continue to share her tales and celebrate Pura’s legacy. Brought to colorful life by Paola Escobar’s elegant and exuberant illustrations and Anika Aldamuy Denise’s lyrical text, this gorgeous book is perfect for the pioneers in your life. Informative backmatter and suggested further reading included.

  • I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark - Get to know celebrated Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg—in the first picture book about her life—as she proves that disagreeing does not make you disagreeable! Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has spent a lifetime disagreeing: disagreeing with inequality, arguing against unfair treatment, and standing up for what’s right for people everywhere. This biographical picture book about the Notorious RBG, tells the justice’s story through the lens of her many famous dissents, or disagreements.

  • Epic Athletes: Serena Williams - An inspiring middle-grade biography of the most celebrated women’s tennis player ever, Serena Williams, from acclaimed sports journalist Dan Wetzel! Serena Williams is no stranger to overcoming obstacles. From growing up in a tough neighborhood to combatting racism to weathering severe health issues, there is no challenge she can’t defeat, no hurdle that will get in the way of her unwavering desire to be the best tennis player in the world. As a little girl, Serena spent years training at her local court with her father and older sister, Venus, dreaming of one day winning Grand Slam titles and earning the number one ranking in the world. In this exciting biography, young readers will discover what it takes to become a champion. Bestselling author Dan Wetzel brings to life the story of an athlete and trailblazer who broke records and racial barriers. Publishing right between Wimbledon and the US Open, and featuring action-packed comic-style interior art, this uplifting biography of the most celebrated women’s tennis player of all time is sure to be a hit with young sports fans across the country.

  • A Voice Named Aretha - A beautiful picture book biography about the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, and how she fought for equal rights throughout her life. Aretha Louise Franklin grew up in a house of music. The shy daughter of a famous Detroit preacher and civil rights activist, Aretha’s big voice surprised those around her, and everyone agreed: her powerful singing would someday make her a star. After relocating to New York City and signing a record deal, Aretha relentlessly pursued her dream of stardom. But it took many years of tireless touring and recording until her hit record “Respect” finally brought her the acclaim she deserved. Along the way, Aretha used her talents to fight for respect and equal rights along the way by refusing to perform for “whites only” audiences. With six decades of hits, countless memorable performances, and millions of lives touched, Aretha’s legacy of resilience and respect will inspire for generations to come.

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Queen of Physics: How Wu Chien Shiung Helped Unlock the Secrets of the Atom
Written by Teresa Robeson & illustrated by Rebecca Huang
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-10

When Wu Chien Shiung was born in China 100 years ago, most girls did not attend school; no one considered them as smart as boys. But her parents felt differently. Giving her a name meaning “Courageous Hero,” they encouraged her love of learning and science. This engaging biography follows Wu Chien Shiung as she battles sexism and racism to become what Newsweek magazine called the “Queen of Physics” for her work on beta decay. Along the way, she earned the admiration of famous scientists like Enrico Fermi and Robert Oppenheimer and became the first woman hired as an instructor by Princeton University, the first woman elected President of the American Physical Society, the first scientist to have an asteroid named after her when she was still alive, and many other honors.

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Ready to Fly: How Sylvia Townsend Became the Bookmobile Ballerina
Written by Lea Lyon and Alexandria LaFaye & illustrated by Jessica Gibson
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

An inspiring picture book for little ballerinas everywhere!

Ready to Fly is the true story of Sylvia Townsend, an African American girl who falls in love with ballet after seeing Swan Lake on TV.

Although there aren’t many ballet schools that will accept a girl like Sylvia in the 1950s, her local bookmobile provides another possibility. A librarian helps Sylvia find a book about ballet and the determined seven-year-old, with the help of her new books, starts teaching herself the basics of classical ballet.

Soon Sylvia learns how to fly—how to dance—and how to dare to dream.

Lyrical, easy-to-read, and affecting text paired with bright, appealing illustrations make Ready to Fly perfect for aspiring ballerinas everywhere who are ready to leap and to spread their wings.

Includes a foreword from Sylvia Townsend, a brief history of the bookmobile, an author’s note, and a further reading list.

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Margaret and the Moon: How Margaret Hamilton Saved the First Lunar Landing
Written by Dean Robbins & illustrated by Lucy Knisley
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

A true story from one of the Women of NASA!

Margaret Hamilton loved numbers as a young girl. She knew how many miles it was to the moon (and how many back). She loved studying algebra and geometry and calculus and using math to solve problems in the outside world.

Soon math led her to MIT and then to helping NASA put a man on the moon! She handwrote code that would allow the spacecraft’s computer to solve any problems it might encounter. Apollo 8. Apollo 9. Apollo 10. Apollo 11. Without her code, none of those missions could have been completed.

Dean Robbins and Lucy Knisley deliver a lovely portrayal of a pioneer in her field who never stopped reaching for the stars.

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Little Melba and Her Big Trombone
Written by Katheryn Russell-Brown & illustrated by Frank Morrison
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-10

“A biography of African American musician Melba Doretta Liston, a virtuoso musician who played the trombone and composed and arranged music for many of the great jazz musicians of the twentieth century. Includes afterword, discography, and sources”—

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I Am Amelia Earhart
Written by Brad Meltzer & illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

Presents the life of the first female pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, who mysteriously disappeared in 1937 while attempting to fly around the world.

Always Looking Up book
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Epic Athletes: Alex Morgan book
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  • Always Looking Up - This empowering picture book biography tells the story of Nancy Grace Roman, the astronomer who overcame obstacles like weak eyesight and teachers who discouraged women from pursuing astronomy to lead the NASA team that built the Hubble Space Telescope. A testament to women in scientific careers and a record of an important NASA milestone.

  • Epic Athletes: Alex Morgan - Kicking off his new series of sports biographies for young readers, journalist Dan Wetzel pens a page-turning book about the life of US Women’s Soccer star Alex Morgan! Fierce competitor. World Cup winner. Role model. U.S. Women’s Soccer star Alex Morgan has earned each of these impressive titles throughout her incredible career. As a young girl growing up in Southern California, she dreamed of being a professional soccer player, fighting to compete on the international stage against the world’s greatest athletes. Flash forward to the present and Alex Morgan has emerged as the face of U.S. Women’s soccer, famous for her clutch, late-game goals, and an inspiration to kids across the country. Just in time for the 2019 Women’s World Cup, bestselling author Dan Wetzel details the rise of an American champion in this uplifting biography for young readers, complete with dynamic comic-style illustrations.

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