It’s International Women’s Day, a day that everyone should use to recognize and celebrate the achievements of women in their lives. My good friend E wrote to me last week, providing the inspiration for this post. You see, she is carving out space on her daughter’s bookshelf for books that “embody feminism and all that without necessarily being too obvious” in her words. She has already collected some and wanted some more ideas. She engaged our group and while I don’t have children myself, I feel very lucky to be friends with a group of kick-ass women, many who have daughters and they jumped on the idea too.
Before I thought about books to recommend, I wanted to understand what they were looking for in these books, what they wanted their daughters to get out of them now and in the future. And here is what they told me:
“I want my daughter to feel unbound by the expectations when speaking her mind and reaching for the stars.”
I want my daughter to have big dreams and to be confident enough that she doesn’t feel like she always has to be nice”
“I want E (her daughter) to believe that anything is possible and not to be shackled by limitations she puts on herself, or boundaries based on what society thinks girls are capable of.”
“I want my daughter to be bold, brave and ambitious, and to be the best version of herself she can possibly be.”
I loved all of the ideas they had and it got me thinking about the books that inspired me as a young girl, as a teenager, and of course, as a woman. Children’s books with really strong female characters encountering all sorts of scenarios; novels with complex and interesting and imperfect women doing their thing; books written by notable women in all sorts of fields that are filled with advice, anecdotes, laughter and inspiration. What I realized is that there are so many great books out there for girls of all ages and I so appreciate all of the books that helped me along the way – when I needed to see myself in a character who triumphed or to see someone else entirely that I could learn from who was conquering their own challenges. Those books were important to me as I grew up and helped shape who I became and still help me figure things out.
And so, here is our list. The books my friend E has already purchased for her daughter’s shelf, the books some of us read as children, books Mrs. O recalled reading to her students and books we’ve read recently. It’s not at all an exhaustive list and you can certainly find lots of lists of great books like these but these are the ones that I would recommend starting with if you want to create one of these shelves too.
There are so many others and I’d love to hear about books you would recommend for building such a shelf. What are your favourites?
And don’t think that such a shelf has to be for a girl, I also asked if my friends would read some of these books to their sons and I got a resounding “Yes!” with A telling me the following:
“Totally, M (her son) and I have been reading the “Rebel Girls” books because it’s still a little too old for A (her daughter). He always wants to find the “sports girls.” It’s been helping our mission to show him that girls play sports too, a concept he had a lot of trouble with at first, since all he sees is men’s sports on TV.”
I am so happy that the daughters of my friends and cousins have such a wealth of great books to choose from when they need inspiration but what I’m also so proud of is that they all have strong female role models in the kick-ass women who are their mothers.
Now, go celebrate the women in your life! Happy International Women’s Day!
P.S. My friend E is so dedicated to this idea for her beautiful daughter that she used to read The Paper Bag Princess and We Should All Be Feminists to her daughter before she was born! She is raising a strong little girl!