March is Women’s History Month. This is the first year that I have wanted to focus on some women’s history with my children. I went through our picture books and found as many of our children’s books that feature women. My desire in reading books featuring women to my children is to provide them examples of female heroes. Many of the books we read in school focus on men. There are a many reasons that affect why Western history has been (in some ways at least) dominated by the stories of men. My children are still young so I’m not discussing those reasons with my children. I simply want my daughters and my sons to look up to women of character just as they look up to men of character. I want to present to them a well-rounded, well-balanced look at history . . . and history of women cannot be ignored or glossed over if they’re to have an adequate historical education.
Since my children are all still on the young side (my oldest is eight), I’m simply taking the time to read them books that feature strong women. Now I don’t think that one month of the year should be dedicated to women’s history and then ignore it the rest of the year. My goal is to integrate stories of women into our everyday life and into the everyday reading that we do as a family.
Making it a priority to read stories about women helps my children form a more complete view of history. I can’t cover all of history in the few years I have with my children in our home; there will be gaps in their historical knowledge. Although to be perfectly honest, I’d rather view these “gaps” as fertile ground on which their future self-education will flourish. Regardless though, I prioritize reading stories about women so my children are aware of the many ways women have contributed to our cultural knowledge and our history.
So without further ado, I’m sharing some of the picture books we have enjoyed that feature women or girls.
Out of School and Into Nature: The Anna Comstock Story by Suzanne Slade – This is an excellent picture book biography of the woman who wrote The Handbook of Nature Studies. It presents the story of a young girl and then woman who is passionate about nature, about observing, and about learning about the world around her.
Boxes for Katje by Candace Fleming – This is such a sweet story of a young girl, Katje, who through a correspondence with some Americans makes a difference in her small Danish village in the aftermath of World War II.
The Library by Sarah Stewart – This sweet story is written in a poetry form, and it tells the story of girl who loves books and loves to read. The pictures are beautiful and engaging.
The Sense of Wonder by Rachel Carson – This book is comprised mostly of pictures. The pictures are beautiful exhibits of nature.
Through My Eyes by Ruby Bridges – This book is a bit more in-depth than your average picture book, and due to the hard topics addressed in this book, please preread it before reading it to your young children. This is an autobiographical book of one of the girls who integrated a public school in Louisisana in 1960.
A New Coat for Anna by Harriet Ziefert – This is a book I remember my mom reading to me when I was young. I was thrilled to find a copy of the book for my own kids. It’s a story of a mom who makes a coat for her daughter. The book follows the process from the time the sheep are sheared, to spinning the wool, to dying the wool, to making the coat. It’s a sweet, heart-warming story of a mother’s love for her daughter.
We have read quite a few books by Patricia Polacco; we have enjoyed almost all of her books. She often features strong women or girls in her books. The people she writes about in her books are well thought out and well-developed. I’d recommend The Junkyard Wonders, Just Plain Fancy, Fiona’s Lace, and Aunt Chip and the Great Triple Creek Dam Affair.
Big Machines: The Story of Virginia Lee Burton by Sherri Duskey Rinker – This is a biography of the author of some favorite children’s books like Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, The Little House, and Katy and the Big Snow. This delightful book tells the story of a mother who wrote stories for her own children, not expecting them to be well-loved by many children over the years.
Phillis Wheatley by Simonetta Carr – This is a newly released book from Reformation Heritage Books. I read this book to my children as part of our morning time in March. This short biography, like Simonetta Carr’s other biographies, are comprised of short chapters. There are quite a few pictures throughout the book; some are photographs of people and places significant in Phillis Wheatley’s life and others are illustrations that go along with the narrative of the biography. This book doesn’t quite hit all of the living book requirements in my opinion, but it was a good introduction to Phillis Wheatley’s life.
What are some of your favorite picture books that feature women or girls?