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Female Role Models and Being Different: 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!

Chrysanthemum book
#1
Chrysanthemum
Written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

She was a perfect baby, and she had a perfect name. Chrysanthemum. When she was old enough to appreciate it, Chrysanthemum loved her name. And then she started school. "I'm named after my grandmother," said Victoria. "You're named after a flower." Chrysanthemum wilted. Life at school didn't improve. In fact, it got worse. Then the students were introduced to their music teacher, Mrs. Twinkle. Mrs. Delphinium Twinkle. And suddenly, Chrysanthemum blossomed....

Suki's Kimono book
#2
Suki's Kimono
Written by Chieri Uegaki and illustrated by Stephane Jorisch
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

On her first day of first grade, despite the objections of her older sisters, Suki chooses to wear her beloved Japanese kimono to school because it holds special memories of her grandmother's visit last summer.

Stephanie's Ponytail book
#3
Stephanie's Ponytail
Written by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Michael Martchenko
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7
Thoughts from B is for Bookworm

I grew up loving this book, and there are so many things I love about the strong Stephanie! She knows what she likes and isn't afraid to be different. I love that she isn't phased by teasing from other kids because of her confidence in herself and her likes. She's also not afraid to think outside of the box, use her creativity, and try something new. Plus, the ending is hilarious. You might also find yourself with a new repertoire of hairstyles. ;)

Another laugh-out-loud book from the author of The Paper Bag Princess! Everyone is copying Stephanie’s ponytail! No matter which way she wears it, the list of copycats keeps growing. But when Stephanie declares her next hair style, she tries to shake all of her followers loose. A newly designed Classic Munsch picture book introduces this tale of trend-setting hairdos to a young generation of readers.

Gloria Takes a Stand book
#4
Gloria Takes a Stand
Written by Jessica M. Rinker and illustrated by Daria Peoples
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Throughout Gloria Steinem’s life, she stood up for many things. In a time when most women didn’t go to college, Gloria knew the importance of education and studied at Smith College. In a time when almost all women stayed at home to raise a family, Gloria traveled to India and wrote about what she learned there. In a time when many people were fighting for equality, Gloria wanted to write about these important events. And as she heard more and more stories from women who didn’t have as many rights as men, Gloria decided to start Ms. Magazine to give women a voice. This text introduces a new generation of children to Gloria Steinem, the icon who fought for a better world for all women—and encourages all readers to "stand up and speak for equal rights for all people."

I Look Up To... Malala Yousafzai book
#5
I Look Up To... Malala Yousafzai
Written by Anna Membrino and illustrated by Fatti Burke
picture book
Recommend Ages: 0-3

If you can see it, you can be it! Introduce your child to powerful feminist role models with this series of inspirational board books. It's never too early to introduce your child to the people you admire--such as Malala Yousafzai, the activist for girls' education and Nobel Peace Prize winner! This board book distills Malala's excellent qualities into an eminently sharable read-aloud text with graphic, eye-catching illustrations. Each spread highlights an important trait, and is enhanced by a quote from Malala herself. Kids will grow up hearing the words of this inspiring woman and will learn what YOU value in a person! The I LOOK UP TO... series aims to shed a spotlight on women making a difference in the world today, and to encourage young kids to follow in their footsteps! Look for other books in the series about Michelle Obama, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Serena Williams!

  1. Professor McQuark and the Oojamaflip - One day a fantastic idea pops into Professor McQuark’s head to create an ‘Oojamaflip’ but what is one and will it win her first prize at the town science fair? A fast-paced, rhyming tale superbly written by first-time author Lou Treleaven and illustrated by the talented Julia Patton.

  2. Freckleface Strawberry - Freckleface Strawberry is just like everyone else, except that she has red hair and freckles but when she tries to hide who she is, she learns about true friendship and accepting yourself just as you are.

Did you enjoy our children's book recommendations? Did we miss one of your favorites? Let us know in the comments below!