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February 23, 2018

Women Who Inspire

By Brian Smith
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5

    We all play many roles. We are teachers, parents, children, students, writers, readers, friends, mentors, mentees, leaders, followers, and humans, just to name a few. One of my favorite titles is Daddy. My daughter, adopted from Guatemala, may be 13 but I will always see her as my little girl. I have loved watching her grow up and my most sincere hope is that she develops into a strong and independent individual who has the courage to stand up for what she believes and the grit to know that things in this life aren’t handed to you; that hard work is always better than stepping on others to advance yourself.

    My wife and I decided long ago that we wanted our child to be surrounded by books the second she entered our home. As she got older, it became more and more important to make sure she had books that reflected our family's diversity as well as books that gave her examples of strong, smart, and passionate females. We have been blessed with the huge variety of books currently available that echo the female message — the human message — that we have sought to bring to our daughter.

    While books featuring strong females belong in readers' hands all year round, I am sharing five newer books that my daughter and students have identified as their favorites right now to celebrate Women’s History Month.

     

    Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai and illustrated by Kerascoët is a newer picture book that tells the inspirational story of this young activist. A few years ago I read the young adult version of her story, I Am Malala, and was hugely touched by this brave young woman's story. When a friend showed me a copy of Malala’s Magic Pencil, I asked to put our conversation on hold so that I could turn immediately to this book. Yousafzai's story is one that I shared with my daughter and wanted to share with my students. The way Yousafzai handles the difficulties in her life is inspirational. I love how she so skillfully uses the idea of a magic pencil to describe a world vision that should be shared with every young reader, both girls and boys.

    Malala’s Magic Pencil has a Guided Reading Level (GRL) of M. I Am Malala has a GRL of Z.

     

    The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, A Young Civil Rights Activist by Cynthia Levinson and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton is a story about an elementary school student who stood up for what she believed in to make social change. I was first drawn to this book because of my unwavering affection for Brantley Newton’s work. I am including it because Audrey Faye Hendricks proved to be a great role model for the kind of human that I hope my daughter becomes one day. She didn’t let race, age, gender, or any other factor stand in her way of going after what she knew was right. I am very thankful to both the author and illustrator for bringing this story to light. It will be a book that comes out every year as I try to inspire my students to be the change that they would like to see in the world.

    The GRL is a level T.

     

    Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison is beautiful in every way. The layout, the art, the writing— but most importantly the topic is beautifully important. The book works on every level — from the moment you crack the spine and see the perfect end-pages to the gorgeous black and white photo of Harrison. Between the covers of this book, you turn each page and discover amazing women that range from Phillis Wheatley, a slave who “was the first African-American woman poet to be published,” to Dominique Dawes, an Olympic gold-medal gymnast who provided inspiration to both Gabby Douglas and Simone Biles. Between the profiles of these two remarkable women are thirty-eight other women, some who are household names and others who should be. The text length is perfect to include as part of your calendar time or class meeting. Covering one Little Leader a day is a perfect way to expose students to amazing women.

    The GRL of this book is approximately a level Z.

     

    She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World by Chelsea Clinton and illustrated by Alexandra Boiger is a favorite of every child that I have shown it to. The writing is concise and, as with Little Leaders, each page is set to inspire a new generation by bringing to light women who blazed new trails. Maria Tallchief, Sonia Sotomayor, and Nellie Bly are just a few of the amazing women featured but I was so excited to see Claudette Colvin as one of the women that persisted. I have felt for years that Colvin is an unsung hero from the civil rights movement. At the very young age of 15, she was the inspiration for the heroic Rosa Parks. This book has served as the springboard for so many wonderful conversations about glass-ceiling breaking women.

    This book has a GRL of N.

     

    What Would SHE Do? 25 True Stories of Trailblazing Rebel Women by Kay Woodward and brilliantly illustrated by eight different women. I love the idea of having different artistic styles represent the different personalities of the 25 extraordinary women that this book celebrates. With more in-depth text than the other two collections listed above, this book was overwhelming for the younger children that I shared it with, but was a favorite with students from upper elementary and beyond. The kids loved that each of the women had a real-world question on their page and how they would have responded. My favorite example is the question that is asked on Rosa Park’s pages about being left out of a group text. What would Rosa do? Find out on page 67.

    This book hasn’t been given a GRL yet.

    What to do after you have shared the stories of these inspirational women? When you grab a child's attention and she or he becomes truly engaged, that is the perfect time to expand their knowledge. The subject could be one of the women listed here, someone in the student's family or personal support circle, or even a woman that your students discover in their own research. The Scholastic printable, My Report on a Great Woman is perfect to help your students organize and present information that they find. This printable is free through March, but you can also download other printables from Scholastic Teachables for free during a 30-day trial period.

    These five books don’t even scratch the surface of the wealth of phenomenal literature that features strong women who have inspired and changed the world. Share your favorite book that celebrates women in the comments below and remember that although March has been designated as Women’s History Month, women’s history is everyone’s history and should be celebrated every day.

     

    Connect with me on Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.

    I can’t wait to see you next time.

    We all play many roles. We are teachers, parents, children, students, writers, readers, friends, mentors, mentees, leaders, followers, and humans, just to name a few. One of my favorite titles is Daddy. My daughter, adopted from Guatemala, may be 13 but I will always see her as my little girl. I have loved watching her grow up and my most sincere hope is that she develops into a strong and independent individual who has the courage to stand up for what she believes and the grit to know that things in this life aren’t handed to you; that hard work is always better than stepping on others to advance yourself.

    My wife and I decided long ago that we wanted our child to be surrounded by books the second she entered our home. As she got older, it became more and more important to make sure she had books that reflected our family's diversity as well as books that gave her examples of strong, smart, and passionate females. We have been blessed with the huge variety of books currently available that echo the female message — the human message — that we have sought to bring to our daughter.

    While books featuring strong females belong in readers' hands all year round, I am sharing five newer books that my daughter and students have identified as their favorites right now to celebrate Women’s History Month.

     

    Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai and illustrated by Kerascoët is a newer picture book that tells the inspirational story of this young activist. A few years ago I read the young adult version of her story, I Am Malala, and was hugely touched by this brave young woman's story. When a friend showed me a copy of Malala’s Magic Pencil, I asked to put our conversation on hold so that I could turn immediately to this book. Yousafzai's story is one that I shared with my daughter and wanted to share with my students. The way Yousafzai handles the difficulties in her life is inspirational. I love how she so skillfully uses the idea of a magic pencil to describe a world vision that should be shared with every young reader, both girls and boys.

    Malala’s Magic Pencil has a Guided Reading Level (GRL) of M. I Am Malala has a GRL of Z.

     

    The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, A Young Civil Rights Activist by Cynthia Levinson and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton is a story about an elementary school student who stood up for what she believed in to make social change. I was first drawn to this book because of my unwavering affection for Brantley Newton’s work. I am including it because Audrey Faye Hendricks proved to be a great role model for the kind of human that I hope my daughter becomes one day. She didn’t let race, age, gender, or any other factor stand in her way of going after what she knew was right. I am very thankful to both the author and illustrator for bringing this story to light. It will be a book that comes out every year as I try to inspire my students to be the change that they would like to see in the world.

    The GRL is a level T.

     

    Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison is beautiful in every way. The layout, the art, the writing— but most importantly the topic is beautifully important. The book works on every level — from the moment you crack the spine and see the perfect end-pages to the gorgeous black and white photo of Harrison. Between the covers of this book, you turn each page and discover amazing women that range from Phillis Wheatley, a slave who “was the first African-American woman poet to be published,” to Dominique Dawes, an Olympic gold-medal gymnast who provided inspiration to both Gabby Douglas and Simone Biles. Between the profiles of these two remarkable women are thirty-eight other women, some who are household names and others who should be. The text length is perfect to include as part of your calendar time or class meeting. Covering one Little Leader a day is a perfect way to expose students to amazing women.

    The GRL of this book is approximately a level Z.

     

    She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World by Chelsea Clinton and illustrated by Alexandra Boiger is a favorite of every child that I have shown it to. The writing is concise and, as with Little Leaders, each page is set to inspire a new generation by bringing to light women who blazed new trails. Maria Tallchief, Sonia Sotomayor, and Nellie Bly are just a few of the amazing women featured but I was so excited to see Claudette Colvin as one of the women that persisted. I have felt for years that Colvin is an unsung hero from the civil rights movement. At the very young age of 15, she was the inspiration for the heroic Rosa Parks. This book has served as the springboard for so many wonderful conversations about glass-ceiling breaking women.

    This book has a GRL of N.

     

    What Would SHE Do? 25 True Stories of Trailblazing Rebel Women by Kay Woodward and brilliantly illustrated by eight different women. I love the idea of having different artistic styles represent the different personalities of the 25 extraordinary women that this book celebrates. With more in-depth text than the other two collections listed above, this book was overwhelming for the younger children that I shared it with, but was a favorite with students from upper elementary and beyond. The kids loved that each of the women had a real-world question on their page and how they would have responded. My favorite example is the question that is asked on Rosa Park’s pages about being left out of a group text. What would Rosa do? Find out on page 67.

    This book hasn’t been given a GRL yet.

    What to do after you have shared the stories of these inspirational women? When you grab a child's attention and she or he becomes truly engaged, that is the perfect time to expand their knowledge. The subject could be one of the women listed here, someone in the student's family or personal support circle, or even a woman that your students discover in their own research. The Scholastic printable, My Report on a Great Woman is perfect to help your students organize and present information that they find. This printable is free through March, but you can also download other printables from Scholastic Teachables for free during a 30-day trial period.

    These five books don’t even scratch the surface of the wealth of phenomenal literature that features strong women who have inspired and changed the world. Share your favorite book that celebrates women in the comments below and remember that although March has been designated as Women’s History Month, women’s history is everyone’s history and should be celebrated every day.

     

    Connect with me on Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.

    I can’t wait to see you next time.

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