When I was 11, I answered a random question from my sixth-grade teacher about the first mass-produced car in the United States and to this day, I can still see the impressed look on my teacher's face. I had learned the answer in the first Samantha Parkington book from the American Girl series, and this moment was my realization that reading gave me knowledge, and knowledge gave me power. American Girl is forever wanting to empower young girls with their stories, and their new Stay and Play initiative and American Girl read-alongs on Facebook are doing just that.
Today, Valerie Tripp, author of over 70 American Girl titles, will be hosting a virtual read-along on the brand's Facebook and Instagram accounts as she reads the first chapter of Kit: Read All About It. Kit is the American Girl whose story is set during The Great Depression, and if you think her life — a life that suddenly has a clear BEFORE and AFTER — seems to mirror everyone's lives right now during this pandemic, well then, you're in good company. Tripp does too, and she tells me on the phone (in the best conversation I've ever had), "I always hope the girls will read these stories and say, 'Hey, I have a story like this, too.' Everyone's compelling."
In fact, all of the American Girl series feature girls just like your own children at home — especially right now. "My daughter used to tell me, 'Mom, you don't like these girls you write about very much, because you give them funny problems.' But in every story, the character's world starts out one way and then a radical change happens — and you can never go back," Tripp tells me. "But you're going to be alright." And it's this kind of resiliency built into the character's lives that makes them such worthwhile stories to read. Especially when your children are at home during a pandemic, feeling confused and scared and angry.
The American Girl website also offers tons of free activities — and even a free library — for your children to enjoy at home. There are resources for your child to take care of themselves and their family, videos about their growing bodies, and even activities for the younger crowd, like a sing-along with the Wellie Wishers.
More read-alongs will follow, and I'm thrilled to have an easy way to share the American Girl series with my own 5-year-old. She might not quite understand the historical references yet, but the stories of Kit, Addy, Mary Ellen, Josephina, Samantha, Felicity, Julie — all of the American Girls — has a heart any child can understand. When I tell Tripp that the books never felt like historical fiction to me, she's so pleased. "I wanted it to be that way," she tells me over the phone. "I wanted you to make friends with that character. So it's like what happens to your friend and along the way, you're learning about, you know, what it's like to live in New Mexico in 1824. You're kind of absorbing all of that almost subconsciously."
Here's to absorbing tons of resilience and empowerment along the way, too.