Social Determinants of Health, Uncategorized

Children’s Books That Celebrate Women and Girls

Book Cover

Susan Burton is NACHC’s Director of National Grassroots Advocacy.

The tragic murders of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) women in Georgia are glaring examples of the violence perpetrated against women and girls globally. For decades, Community Health Center leaders have been working to address the health outcomes disparities among women and girls in medically underserved communities. The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed what Community Health Centers have always known – the depths of inequalities and the resulting catastrophic loss of life.

Each of us has the ability to respond to and prevent the unnecessary loss of lives. For 18 years, I worked with faith-based advocates in the United States, Liberia, and the Philippines to address the societal norms and policies that continue to lead some to believe that women and girls are disposable and easy targets of violence. Advocates consistently identified the persistent dehumanization and objectification of women and girls, leading to many types of violence, including domestic violence, sexual assault, and sex and labor trafficking.

The images surrounding our children teach them and us consciously and unconsciously about the value of their lives. As I pointed out in a previous blog, ensuring racial and ethnic diversity is crucial in our work to dismantle white supremacy. Furthermore, we must surround all children with images that celebrate women and girls’ talent, strength, and intellect.

A recent Washington Post article notes, “[t]he main characters — whether they’re human, animal, a snowplow or a crayon — are almost always male.” I include several titles with female protagonists for each of us to share in spaces where our children, parents, grandparents, and providers gather.

  • Ada Twist Scientist by Andrea Beatty — Ada Twist’s head is full of questions. Like her classmates Iggy and Rosie—stars of their own New York Times bestselling picture books Iggy Peck, Architect and Rosie Revere, Engineer—Ada has always been endlessly curious. Even when her fact-finding missions and elaborate scientific experiments don’t go as planned, Ada learns the value of thinking her way through problems and continuing to stay curious.
  • Fly Free by Rosanne Thong — When you do a good deed, it will come back to you. Mai loves feeding the caged birds near the temple but dreams that one day she’ll see them fly free. Then she meets Thu and shares the joy of feeding the birds with her. This sets a chain of good deeds in motion that radiates throughout her village and beyond. Set in Vietnam, Roseanne Thong’s inspiring story, an Asian-Pacific American Librarians Association Honor Book, is elegantly illustrated with watercolor on wood by Eujin Kim Neilan.
  • I Know the River Loves Me / Yo Sé Que El Rìo Me Ama by Maya Christina Gonzalez — Bilingual English/Spanish. Listen… Can you hear the river calling you? Rushing and bubbling, splashing or still, the river has so much to teach us. Whenever Maya visits the river, the river jumps up to greet her. It cools her down when the summer sun is too hot, and holds her up when she dives in. It keeps her company in the quiet of winter. The river takes care of Maya and Maya takes care of the river. In this gentle story of love and respect for nature, Maya Christina Gonzalez combines her award-winning talents as an artist and storyteller. Young readers will be inspired by the joy and wonder of being outdoors, and learn powerful lessons about their environment and themselves.