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Empowering books EVERY child should read

These picture books and story compilations about strong characters, real and imagined, will both inspire, entertain and empower young girls and boys

Posted: 5 September 2017
by Bonita Turner & Alex Lloyd

Picture from the Junior Archive

Books are a wonderful and positive way to teach children all sorts of life lessons.

Inspiring characters can bring concepts like self-belief, persistence and compassion to life, not to mention feminism, equality and friendship.

They can also shape the person you become and your aspirations, morals and ambitions - and there has been a whole host of books published of late that will empower both girls - and boys. Topics such as feminism and equality are not just a female issue. 

Why not instill these positive ideas in your daughter or son with our round up of story books, mostly based on intrepid real life women and men... 

Ella Queen of Jazz by Helen Hancocks, £11.38

The true life tale of one of jazz's greatest voices also stars another iconic star, Marilyn Monroe, and how their friendship helped to overcome prejudice and adversity. A feel good story with beautiful artwork and plenty of soul.


Little People, Big Dreams series by Isabel Sanchez Vegara and Frau Isa, £6.99 each

The incredible lives and achievements of some of history's greatest women are the subject of this striking series of picture books, from solo pilot Amelia Earhart to civil rights campaigner and writer Maya Angelou.

Yes they are all women but these stories have captured both boys and girls - and you only have to look at your Instagram feed to see their popularity. A must for every Childs bookshelf.

Each book also comes with a fuller biography at the back for older children and parents to read to younger kids.


Taking Flight: How the Wright Brothers Conquered The Skies by Adam Hancher, £11.38

What could convey the message of never giving up on your dreams better than the first men to take flight?

This illustrated tale of the Wright Brothers world-changing feat brings to life the golden age of aviation and teaches your child to reach for the stars.


Pearl Power series by Mel Elliott, £7.99 each

British pop artist Mel Elliott has created a series of stories to counter the gender stereotyping in advertising and TV shows that were bombarding her young daughter.

Not only is the feisty lead character a girl passionate about gender equality, but her mum is a successful career woman too - these books also teach important life lessons, like being kind to animals.


Virginia Wolf by Kyo Maclear and Isabelle Arsenault, £9.99

The serious subject of depression is tackled thoughtful and accessibly in this delicate book about the author and her sister, with a wolf playing the role of the 'black dog'. The artwork is a treat, too.


Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World by Kate Pankhurst, £5.24

This accessible book tells the stories of history's most influential ladies, written by the descendant of super Suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst.

It's also packed with inspiring facts and beautiful illustrations to capture event he youngest of minds.


Just Being Audrey by Margaret Cardillo, £10.68

She was celebrated for her fashion sense and the way she lit up a screen. But, Audrey Hepburn's life and spirit were what made her truly iconic, from growing up in Nazi-occupied Europe to shining a light on impoverished communities through her work with UNICEF.

This book pays tribute to this little girl turned star - with a positive slant on how its perfectly ok to 'just be yourself.'


Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed The World by Ann Shen, £12.08

From Joan Jett, the godmother of punk, to Ada Lovelace, the first computer programmer, this series of illustrated essays celebrates the women who broke the rules and were so bad, they were good.

Perfect bedtime reading.


Diego Rivera: His World and Ours by Duncan Tonatiuh, £10.99

This picture books brings to life the story of politically outspoken Mexican artist Diego Rivera by bringing him into the reader's world and pondering what he might paint today.


Ordinary People Change the World series by Brad Meltzer, from £9.99

This collectible series of picture book biographies of history's good and great carries the message that we can all be heroes.

Adorably illustrated and thoroughly uplifting - parents will love these too.

Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World by Rachel Ignotofsky, £9.09

From engineering to astrophysics, this group of trailblazing females prove that anything men can do, they can do better. Features the stories of science pioneers like primatologist Jane Goodall and Katherine Johnson, the African-American physicist and mathematician who calculated the trajectory of the 1969 Apollo 11 mission to the moon.

With amazing illustrations, facts and snippets of info this book is the perfect bedtime reading ( they also scooped a Junior Design Award - read more here). 

Julia, Child by Julie Morstad and Kyo Maclear, £14.99

This charming book celebrates friendship, food and mastering the art of having a good time... not to mention the joy of butter.

Loosely based on the life and spirit of much-loved American cookery writer Julia Child, this is a tasty, uplifting read that your child will devour.


Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova by Laurel Snyder, £11.38

Belief and dedication are the morals of this story about Russian dancer Anna Pavlova, the most famous prima ballerina of all time.

The illustrations are simply stunning, too.


Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo, £9

This selection of 100 bedtime stories about real life 'rebel girls' allows young readers to dream big, be bold and cultivate confidence.

Includes the lives of everyone from boxers to painters, pharaohs to jazz singers.


Different Like Coco by Elizabeth Matthews, £13.28

The rags-to-riches tale of this fashion trendsetter is recreated with every bit of style and spirit as her coveted creations. Coco's story shows how far you can go with a bit of spark, flair and old-fashioned elbow grease.


Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker by Patricia Hruby Powell, £10.99

A powerful picture book about the extraordinary life of an entertainer who rose up from the slums and against prejudice in segregated America.



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Books are the wonderful gift that every child must learn to value. They must be given an opportunity to read such books so that they can earn good values and lessons. Thanks for the detailed article on the books that must be read by kids.

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