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13 Books Every Mom Should Read To Her Daughter, Because Literature Leads to Girl Power

Moms who have daughters know how important it is to find empowering books for girls that celebrate being female (no Dick-dominated Dick and Jane stories, thank you very much.) Of course, reading to your kids (starting when they’re infants) is awesome in and of itself (it’s a great way to bond, as well as scientifically-proven way to strengthen language skills and literacy development.) But going the extra step and reading a book with a feminist message is good for both mother and child. For your daughter, it acknowledges that burgeoning awareness of what it is to be a woman, potential pitfalls included. For adults, it reaffirms your feminist values and reminds you to be a role model for your little girl (and all girls for that matter, because you never know who’s watching you at playgroup.)

Now, you’ll be hard pressed to find a kid-friendly version of Bad Feminist or Men Explain Things to Me, but you can easily find a children’s book that teach girl power and all its glory. To start your daughter on a feminist path, here are 13 books that teach girls about coming into their own without the presence of a supposedly-charming prince (unless, of course, he just wants to tag along for the ride.)

1. 'Rosie Revere, Engineer' by Andrea Beaty

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Rosie Revere, Engineer tells the story of a little girl who dreams of building a flying machine. She comes up against some pitfalls along the way, but stays the course with the help of her great-great-aunt (and namesake) Rose.  

2. 'Ladybug Girl' by David Soman and Jacky Davis

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The first story in the much-loved Ladybug Girl series finds protagonist Lulu discovering her boundless imagination. But instead of playing the traditional game of princess, Lulu and her dog Bingo enjoy activities that aren’t based in any gender-specific generalizations.

3. 'Madeline' by Ludwig Bemelmans

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This titular character of Madeline takes everything in stride. She’s not afraid of tigers, mice, or even an emergency appendectomy. It’s no wonder that this classic children’s story has endured as a favorite since it was published in 1939, inspiring little girls everywhere to be their fearless selves. Bonus: it’s a series, so there are lots of Madeline’s adventures to enjoy. 

4. 'Cherries and Cherry Pits' by Vera B. Williams

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Bidemmi, a bright-eyed little girl who lives in the city and loves to draw, is the protagonist of the unique, and beautiful Cherries and Cherry Pits. Bidemmi’s imaginative daydreams express her desire to transform her urban dwelling into a destination of natural wonder.

5. 'Matilda' by Roald Dahl

Fans of Roald Dahl know that his books for children have a serious edge (for example, the little boy-turned-mouse of Dahl’s The Witches, who has his tail chopped off with a carving knife.) Although Matilda is certainly for older children, girls will idolize the brilliant, four-year-old Matilda, who wields her intelligence like a deadly weapon when she does battle with her evil teacher, Miss Trunchbull.

6. 'The Paper Bag Princess' by Robert Munsch

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Moms and daughters alike love this book for turning the classic damsel-in-distress story upside down. The Paper Bag Princess serves as a lesson of the importance of autonomy, as well as a reminder that girls can be princesses and still kick some serious *ss.

7. 'Olivia' by Ian Falconer

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Olivia, the little pig dressed in red, is unique, adventurous, and confident. This popular series celebrates that individuality with buoyancy and charming illustrations.

8. 'The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes' by DuBose Heyward

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Another children’s classic that was published in 1939, The Country Bunny has what the New Yorker calls a, "worshipful following." It tells the story of a bunny who pursues her dream of becoming the Easter Bunny, all the while acting as a single rabbit parent to 21 little bunnies. 

9. 'Ramona' by Beverly Cleary

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When your child is ready for chapter books, waste no time in introducing her to Ramona. The series begins when Ramona is a pint-sized pest at odds with her big sister Beezus, but Ramona is always admirable in her quest to boldly do what every child only thinks about doing (like taking a bite out of every apple in the house because the first bite tastes best.) Ramona’s development into adolescence and her loving, honestly portrayed relationships with the people closest to her are touching, inspiring, and entertaining.

10. 'Me. . . Jane' by Patrick McDonnell

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Patricks McDonnell's Me. . . Jane tells the story of Jane Goodall, the animal rights activist who turned her intelligence, creativity, and compassion into a vocation and became a revered figure worldwide. 

11. 'A Gold Star For Zog' by Julia Donaldson

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A Gold Star For Zog is another fairy tale with a welcome, empowering twist. The princess of this story — who consistently helps Zog realize his dragonly dreams — also wants to be a doctor. Spoiler alert: she teams up with (but doesn’t marry) a prince to make her own dreams come true. 

12. 'A Chair for My Mother' by Vera B. Williams

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A Chair for My Mother is about a little girl named Rosa and the hardworking female role models in her life. Although Rosa’s family deals with some difficult times, they can depend on each other as well as the friendship and love of neighbors and extended family.

13. 'Room On the Broom' by Julia Donaldson

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The protagonist of Room On the Broom looks like a typical witch, with her pointy hat and the wart on her nose. Contrary to how we think of witches, however, this particular, ginger-hair one befriends a group of animals and embarks on a joyous trip with all of her new friends in tow. 

Images: Courtesy of Lauren Hammond/Flickr