I bring my kids to the library every 3 weeks to get a new stack of books. The stakes feel high. My kids love books, so picking great books makes the following three weeks significantly more enjoyable. I look for beautiful pictures, interesting topics, and main characters that don’t always look like my boys. My oldest, now four, is endlessly curious and our library books have opened up fascinating conversations with him. Bringing diversity of narratives into our home has led to widen our worlds.
Here just a few of the books that we liked recently that changed our conversation and our play:
Little People, Big Dreams: Rosa Parks tells a version of Rosa Park’s story that is accessible to kids. It opens up conversation about the history of race in our country and instead of putting Rosa Parks on an unattainable pedestal, it presents her as a person who saw the truth in her dignity and worked hard her whole life to change society for the better.
Both my boys fell in love with Katie Casey, the main character in Players in Pigtails, and left them with curious questions about the history of gender in sports. Katie adored baseball and played despite pleas to stop. She changed a lot of minds by playing with grit and style in the All American Girls Professional Baseball League.
Shi-shi-etko tells the story of an observant, nature-loving native girl in her final days before having to go to residential school. Her mother, father and grandmother take turns instilling in her what they want her to remember about her people, her land and where she came from.
Me… Jane tells the story of little Jane Goodall and her beloved stuffed chimpanzee named Jubilee. Its simple narrative captures the wonder small children have about nature and encourages questions about sap in trees and chickens laying eggs. It also shows how the passion of a young girl can become a career that transforms the world.
Red: A Crayon’s Story is a deeply touching story about a blue crayon that is mislabeled red. It goes through its days frustrated and judged until a friend helps it realize that it is indeed blue. For all of us, kids and adults alike, it is a lovely reminder that our identity is in flux and sometimes it is the label that is the problem, not us.
Doctors suggested that little Lily Marks start dancing to strengthen her weak legs instead of getting braces. Not only does she fall in love with ballet, but she smashes expectations by becoming an amazing ballerina just like her hero and fellow Jewish dancer Anna Pavlova. An Unlikely Ballerina reminds kids to dance across the boundaries and limitations that others set for us and is honest about the sacrifice it requires to pursue a passion.
Bobbi Gibb was told she couldn’t run the Boston Marathon because she was a woman. In 1966 she disguised herself at the starting line and finished triumphantly. Like all the books in this post, The Girl Who Ran made my cry as I read to my boys. Running has been so important to me, and it is important to me to talk about barriers that people like Bobbi Gibb were brave enough to dismantle.
A few others with strong female leads:
Bon Appetit: The Delicious Life of Julia Child by Jessie Hartland
Anybody’s Game: Kathryn Johnston, the First Girl to Play Little League Baseball by Heather Lang
It’s Not Fair! A Book About Having Enough by Caryn Rivadeneira
Skit-Scat Raggedy Cat: Ella Fitzgerald by Roxane Orgill
I will leave it there for now. Representation in narratives matter. Stories are powerful in how we shape our reality. A good book is such a gift at leading to good conversation and open minds.