Read Her Stories: Historical Women in Picture Books



historical women

March is Women’s History Month.

A month dedicated to recognizing, celebrating, and thanking women for their immense contribution to history. A month for us to remind ourselves and our children of why and how women rock! 

I recently visited my local library and spent an hour perusing the biography shelves in the children’s section (a huge thank you to my own mom for keeping my children entertained a few feet away), with the goal of selecting age-appropriate picture books that would help me teach my kids about what women have accomplished throughout history.

I thought I would pick out books on the rockstars I remember from elementary school: Rosa Parks, Amelia Earhart, Eleanor Roosevelt. I soon discovered that I was more drawn toward books about women I had learned about later in life or was just now learning about as I read the pages. In the end, I checked out 15 books, all about a different woman, ranging from athletes to scientists to musicians; of course, a few of the often remembered famous women were included in my tall stack! 

Here are my kids’ current favorites: 

The Watcher by Jeanette Winter: What kid doesn’t love monkeys? Hearing about Jane Goodall earning the trust of chimps in their natural habitat helps kids understand empathy from another angle. My daughter usually chooses new books each night, but this one stayed in her bed for three consecutive nights. Over the monitor, I could hear my son asking her to hold up the pages so he could see the monkeys as she read.

Touch the Sky by Ann Malaspina: This story about Alice Coachman, a record-breaking Olympic high jumper, is filled with beautiful pictures and poetic language, which come together to impart empowering lessons on race, family, and dreaming big. My daughter particularly loves the detail about how Alice sucked on lemons for good luck. There’s even CT history in the book when Alice travels to Waterbury for a championship meet!

Helen Keller, the World in her Heart by Lesa Cline-Ransome: Helen’s inspirational life, rising above adversity, is obviously a staple in promoting compassion, but this book explores her educational journey in the sweetest way. It is centered around how she learns to love her teacher, and what love means and where love is found. You definitely get that mom pang in your heart each time you read it, especially when your kids smile and profess their love for you as Helen hugs Annie. 

The Bravest Woman in America by Marissa Moss: Ida Lewis (one of the women I hadn’t heard of prior to this research) was a lighthouse keeper in Newport, Rhode Island. She rescued several people, the first of whom when she was only sixteen! Her story helps kids move past the stereotypical cartoon heroes to place value on everyday heroes who are always looking out for others, jumping (or more accurately, rowing) into action when lives need to be saved. 

Through Georgia’s Eyes by Rachel Rodriguez: Every kid is an artist, and this book presents the engaging tale of how Georgia O’ Keeffe knew she wanted to be an artist since she was a young girl. Each page is vibrantly colored, painting pictures of her ongoing relationship with Nature (cue in my English lesson on personification). My son LOVES this book and says, “I’m a painter like Georgia,” and my daughter and I trade our interpretations of the final illustration (I see a snail, she sees Georgia’s hair in a bun). 

Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors? by Tanya Lee Stone: This book has prompted the most conversation with my daughter who gets mad when she hears how often Elizabeth Blackwell was rejected and dismissed as she tirelessly pursued a medical career. My daughter even decided to bring this book to school for circle time (my son followed her lead and chose Frida by Jonah Winter), most likely to share the moral with her friends, that women can indeed be doctors or any other profession they so choose. 

What women’s history books are you and your kids currently reading and loving? 


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