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We have an article on empowering books for girls, but we don’t want anyone to think that these books are only for girls. It’s essential that we read books about strong women to boys, too! That’s why we’ve compiled this list of feminist books for boys, made up of board books and picture books for young readers.
Just like the girl post–these books aren’t just for boys! But we’ve broken them down to make it easier on you–parents or gift givers–as you build a collection of empowering books for kids of all genders!
Why Should I Read My Boys Books About Feminism?
It’s not just that we need to read boys books about feminism, but that we need to read them books that show strong women, and that are written by such women.
Boys need to be able to get a window into the lives of powerful women, to see women as inspiring figures for everyone, and to be able to draw on these figures as a reference for their own decisions in the world.
Yes, girls must have opportunities to see themselves reflected in books.
They should get as many chances as possible to see female-identifying protagonists written by female-identifying authors addressing important messages.
These messages may include being strong, helping others, being socially aware, and making a difference in the world.
However, we MUST also read these books to young boys.
Creating Empathy & Expanding Worldview
We create empathy and expand the world-view of children when we show boys books about important female figures–like Maya Angelou, Gloria Steinem, Rosa Parks, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Frida Kahlo, Malala Yousafzai.
We also do this by giving boys books with girl protagonists who experience everyday stories like the first day of school, learning to share, and going on trips.
We do this by encouraging boys to read and enjoy books about people who are different from them.
It’s essential that we show all kids diverse children and adults when reading to them.
Reading, an activity meant to expand children’s minds, can help expand their emotional empathy and worldview.
Reading increases empathy in children, and if you’re like me, we want our children to be as empathetic, welcoming citizens as possible.
Empathy for other people is created in children as they read about people who are different from them: different races, genders, socio-economic status, etc.
When children see and connect with people who are different from them, empathy is created and world-view is expanded.
BUT, when we relegate books about empowerment and awesome female role models to the condescendingly named “chick lit” category, it signals to boys that male heros are the norm and the only ones worth paying attention to.
This is neither empathetic nor conducive to a world-view that is centered on acceptance and belonging for everyone.
Books About Girls are for EVERYONE
Shannon Hale, author of Princess Academy and Princess in Black, has been a staunch defender of the idea that that books about girls should be for everyone.
In a 2018 Washington Post op-ed she wrote:
“Stories make us human. We form bonds by swapping personal stories with others, and reading fiction is a deeply immersive exercise in empathy.
So, what happens to a culture that encourages girls to read books about boys but shoos boys away from reading books about girls?
What happens to a boy who is taught he should be ashamed of reading a book about a girl?
For feeling empathy for a girl?
For trying to understand how she feels?
For caring about her?
What kind of a man does that boy grow up to be?”
We couldn’t have said it any better ourselves! No little boy should ever feel ashamed for reading a book about a girl. One more time for the folks in the back: books about girls are for everyone.
If you are looking for children’s books for the special boys in your lives, take a look at all of our recommendations of books about empowering girls and women.
We’ve also added some additional recommendations for your special young readers of all ages below!
Board Books To Empower Toddlers and Preschoolers
A Is For Awesome!: 23 Iconic Women Who Changed the World by Eva Chen
A board book taking the typical ABC style that introduces children to influential female figures throughout history.
The Feelings Book by Todd Parr
A fun, colorful board book that uses illustrated people and animals to help empower toddlers to understand all their different feelings and emotions.
Feminist Baby! He’s a Feminist Too! by Loryn Brantz
A fun and vibrant board book about a baby girl who is absolutely not afraid to do her own thing, and who wants others to know it!
It’s Okay to Be Different by Todd Parr
A colorful book that inspires kids (and adults!) to embrace themselves and their bodies, and to accept others.
This Little Collection (This Little President, This Little Explorer, This Little Trailblazer, and This Little Scientist) by Joan Holub
This feminist board book set may not call itself by such a name, but it is made up of the epitome of empowering books for toddlers.
Good for even very young readers, this collection teaches children about great scientists, explorers, presidents, and female trailblazers–many of the most empowering figures in history!
This book shows a diverse cast of people and animals to help little ones learn about how their bodies work, and how some bodies are different than others.
My First Book of Feminism (for Boys) By Julie Merberg, Illustrated by Michéle Brummer-Everett
Simple illustrations paired with engaging, rhyming text make the compelling, age appropriate argument that girls and boys are equal, plain and simple.
Humorous, familiar scenarios are treated as teachable moments for very young boys (ages 0-3) who will ideally grow up without ever questioning women’s equality.
From “no means no,” to “women’s rights are human rights,” important, grownup ideas are made clear and fun for young, impressionable minds.
Feminist Picture Books To Empower Pre-K Readers
Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty
This tells the story of Ada Marie Twist, an African American second-grade scientist whose experiments wreak constant havoc. As Ada attempts to solve the mystery of a stinky smell, she develops a hypothesis and uses the scientific method, trial and error, and more. Full of fun STEM activities for littles, and quite the crowd pleaser!
Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty
My son absolutely LOVES Rosie – he thinks the pictures of her inventions are hilarious and loves to turn and twist the book when her cheese copter flies then crashes!
Rosie Revere dreamed of becoming a great engineer. Where some people see rubbish, Rosie sees inspiration. Alone in her room at night, shy Rosie constructs great inventions from odds and ends. Hot dog dispensers, helium pants, python-repelling cheese hats: Rosie’s gizmos would astound—if she ever let anyone see them. Afraid of failure, she hides them away under her bed. Until a fateful visit from her great-great-aunt Rose (AKA Rosie the Riveter!), who shows her that the first flop isn’t something to fear—it’s something to celebrate. And you can only truly fail, if you quit. Rosie’s friends Iggy Peck, Ada Twist, and Sofia Valdez are also excellent follow ups!
Today I Feel …: An Alphabet of Feelings By Madalena Moniz
Today I Feel . . . follows a child through a whole range of emotions, from adored to curious to strong. Not all of the emotions are positive and not all of them are simple, but they are all honest and worthy of discussion with a young child.
Julián Is a Mermaid By Jessica Love
While riding the subway home from the pool with his abuela one day, Julián notices three women spectacularly dressed up. Their hair billows in brilliant hues, their dresses end in fishtails, and their joy fills the train car. When Julián gets home, daydreaming of the magic he’s seen, all he can think about is dressing up just like the ladies in his own fabulous mermaid costume: a butter-yellow curtain for his tail, the fronds of a potted fern for his headdress. But what will Abuela think about the mess he makes — and even more importantly, what will she think about how Julián sees himself?
Teddy’s Favorite Toy By Christian Trimmer, Illustrated by Madeline Valentine
Teddy has a lot of cool toys. But his very favorite doll has the best manners, the sickest fighting skills, and a fierce sense of style.
Then one morning, something truly awful happens. And there’s only one woman fierce enough to save the day. Can Teddy’s mom reunite Teddy with his favorite toy?
The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch
Princess Elizabeth is going to marry Prince Ronald, until the doofus gets himself prince-napped by a dragon. She sets out to save him, but when Good Old Ron is insufficiently grateful, she dumps him like last year’s tiara. (Not that she cares about tiaras, she has other important things to do.)
Asha’s Mums by Elwin, Rosamund, Michelle Paulse; illustrated by Dawn Lee
When Asha needs a signature for the permission slip for her school trip to the Science Center, she is questioned about which name on the form was her mom’s. Asha undergoes the experience of teaching her fellow classmates and her teacher that she and her brother have two moms and they are both number one.
It’s lovely to be our own unique selves! Big, small, curly, straight, loud, quiet, smooth, wrinkly. Lovely explores a world of differences that all add up to the same thing: we are all lovely!
Books About Empowered Women for Grade School Children
Tough Guys Have Feelings Too by Keith Negley
This book allows parents and children to talk about emotions, dispelling the myth that boys need to hide their feelings. In this book, we see that everyone has emotions–ninjas, wrestlers, knights, superheroes, and more!
Pink Is for Boys by Robb Pearlman
The diverse characters in this book encourage all children to enjoy what they love to do, whether it’s racing cars and playing baseball, or loving unicorns and dressing up.
Stories for Boys Who Dare to Be Different: True Tales of Amazing Boys Who Changed the World Without Killing Dragons By Ben Brooks, Illustrated by Quinton Wintor
It’s an accessible compilation of 75 famous and not-so-famous men from the past to the present day, every single one of them a rule-breaker and stereotype-smasher in his own way. Entries include Frank Ocean, Salvador Dali, Beethoven, Barack Obama, Ai Weiwei, Jesse Owens, and so many more-heroes from all walks of life and from all over the world.
Dactyl Hill Squad by Daniel José Older
The storytelling in this fantasy makes it believable that there are dinosaurs on earth during the Civil War. Little known episodes from history bring the teen squad together. Led by Mags, who can communicate with the dinosaurs, the children set out to do battle in NYC in this first of a trilogy that ends with the squad on the back of a pterodactyl, flying south.
The Princess in Black by Shannon Hale
Princess Magnolia is having hot chocolate and scones with Duchess Wigtower when . . . Brring! Brring! The monster alarm! A big blue monster is threatening the goats! Stopping monsters is no job for dainty Princess Magnolia. But luckily Princess Magnolia has a secret —she’s also the Princess in Black, and stopping monsters is the perfect job for her! Can the princess sneak away, transform into her alter ego, and defeat the monster before the nosy duchess discovers her secret?
What are your favorite feminist books for boys? Tell us about them in the comments!
Rebekah Fitzsimmons, PhD, is Undefining Motherhood’s expert on children’s literature. She has a PhD in English (Children’s Literature) from the University of Florida. She is an Assistant Teaching Professor of Professional Communication in the Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University. Rebekah’s book, Beyond the Blockbuster will be available through the University Press of Mississippi in April. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, son, mother-in-law, and awesome dog.
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