**Spoiler Alert friends with kids between the ages of five - eight: This will be their next birthday gift**
Earlier this year, while perusing books at a bookstore in Jerusalem with a dear cousin, I happened to come across a series of children’s books, Little People, BIG DREAMS. These short stories are about some of the great women in history, at a reading level appropriate for children ages five - eight. Some of the women include Coco Chanel, Georgia O’Keefe, Amelia Earhart, Frida Kahlo, Rosa Parks, and Mother Teresa.
I bought a few of the books this week for my seven-year old daughter, the Frida Kahlo book as a gift to a friend’s five-year old, and a few others for the birthday of a friend’s recently turned four-year old. The girls loved it as much as their moms did. The stories are brief: background about the famous woman’s childhood, the challenges she faced growing up, and then how she accomplished her goals and made her dreams a reality.
What I love about these books, to state the obvious, is that they’re about women! Intelligent, brave, sassy, talented women. The books highlight women from all careers – fashion design, activism, science, literature, entertainment. There is a focus on the hardships these women endured and what they did to reach their goals. There’s no magic fairy dust, no Prince Charming. These topics are tastefully talked about in child-friendly terms but there is no sugarcoating the death of a parent or the perils of war. This can be realistic segue to deeper conversations with your child about what challenges some people face and how people can choose to overcome them. Lastly, I like that at the end of each book, there is a brief timeline with the protagonists’ photos so that the child can enjoy the picture book but also relate to what each woman looked like throughout her life.
Girls need female role models. Girls need to learn (as much as boys do) that they are resourceful, that they can like science and literature as much as dance, bracelets and unicorns. That they can become entrepreneurs or scientists. As parents we should all be striving to raise boys and girls the same way,
Would these books also apply to boys? Why not? We have grown up learning about the great male scientists, artists and politicians. Boys can learn about female role models too. Maybe by doing so, the antiquated notion that a woman is only as good as and limited to her housekeeping and child rearing skills may soon become… antiquated. This idea is so engrained in many of our men’s minds, that the other day when I told someone I needed to get back to work, he said, “just grab a broom” without any awareness that his comment could be offensive and would seem absolutely LUDICROUS had someone said that to him.
Even though we all know that no one reaches the top without drama, hardships, setbacks and mistakes, we tend to forget this when we are striving for success ourselves. Reading these books with our kids is a nice reminder of these important life lessons. Kids need easy-to-read and relatable books about the great women in history who faced adversity and became legends. Because, one day, they can become legends too.
Look for Part 2 of this Blog Post soon; I got to interview Isabel Sanchez Vegara, the author of the Little People, Big Dreams series!
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Dr. Eva Benmeleh
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