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Children's Books All Preschool Girls Should Own

Updated on July 23, 2012

Why books for girls?

All too often books for children perpetuate gender stereotypes - boys are brave, smart, and strong, and girls are weak, passive, and need to be saved. What's more, many books with fun, adventurous protagonists often feature boys, leaving girls to more secondary or boring roles.

Children's books and movies have come a long way, but there are still far too few children's books that have strong, funny, brave, interesting, and smart girl characters.

That's why I was so happy when my daughter received "The Paper Bag Princess" for her third birthday. She loved it, as did my five year old son. What could be better than a smart princess outwitting a dragon and (almost) saving her prince fiancé? It propelled us on a search for more books with girl characters that my children could enjoy and that send a positive message.

The books listed below among the best books I've found that portray strong, independent, smart, brave, and witty girls. While I think all preschool girls should have them on their bookshelves, I think it is equally important for boys to have them. Boys also need to see positive portrayals of girls so that they know to treat them as equals, both as children and when they grow up into adults.

Books with Strong, Independent Girl Characters

1. The Paper Bag Princess

Princess Elizabeth is determined to save her fiancé, Prince Ronald, after a dragon destroys her castle and kidnaps her prince. Wearing only a paper bag, Elizabeth walks through the ravaged kingdom to find the dragon. She then outsmarts him, playing off of his rather large ego, and finally reaches her Prince. When he sees her, he complains that she looks awful (wouldn't you after walking miles to find a dragon and outsmart him?). Her reaction? Read it and find out!

2. The Princess Knight

For anyone who grew up with Free to be, You and Me (another must have!), this story reads just like Atalanta. Violetta is a young princess who has three older brothers and is being raised by her father. She opts not to learn traditional girl skills, and instead trains herself, in secret, to be an excellent swordswoman. When her father decides to hold a jousting contest with her as the prize, she decides to take things into her own hands, sharpening her skills, and entering the contest herself. She is determined, witty, and strong, and shows that girls can determine their own destinies.

3. My Name is Not Isabella: Just How Big Can a Little Girl Dream?

A creative young girl, Isabella goes through the day imagining she is different women from history - an astronaut (Sally Ride), a sharpshooter (Annie Oakley), a civil rights activist (Rosa Parks), a scientist (Marie Curie), a doctor (Elizabeth Blackwell), and last, but not least, her own mother! Through the lens of this adventurous little girl, this book provides a history lesson and food for thought for all young girls who aspire to greatness. At the end of the book are brief biographies of each of the women mentioned.

Why Read These Books?

There are many books that feature girl characters, but these are the ones that I think do the best job of debunking age-old stereotypes and expectations about girls, without being too preachy.

These books feature smart, independent, and witty girls engage in fun adventure, problem solve, and take responsibility for their own futures. What better example to set for young girls and boys!


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    • SpeakUpStandOut profile image

      Criss 5 years ago from Southern California

      These are great book choices.

    • LauraGT profile image

      LauraGT 5 years ago from MA

      Thanks Habee! I hope you, and your granddaughters, enjoy these books!

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 5 years ago from Georgia

      Now I know what books to buy for my four granddaughters! I want them to know that they can grow up to do anything. Voted up, useful, and interesting!

    • LauraGT profile image

      LauraGT 5 years ago from MA

      dmhenderson: I would too! Actually, we have read quite a few from the library and find that many others are good, but not as recommended as those above.

      Some others that I like:

      - Brave Irene, William Steig

      - Cinder Edna, Ellen Jackson (a little heavy handed, but cute)

      - Angelina (gorgeous pictures, good life lessons)

      - Ladybug Girl (adventurous, imaginative girl)

      Here are some others that I have not yet read, but look promising:

      - Happy Ever After, Anna Quindlen

      - Fancy Nancy

    • dmhenderson profile image

      Dave Henderson 5 years ago from Missouri, USA

      These look interesting. Would like to see more.

    • LauraGT profile image

      LauraGT 5 years ago from MA

      Janinie Huldie: Thanks so much. Let me know if you have other top picks! Enjoy.

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 5 years ago from New York, New York

      Laura, this was a great list and loved it. With 2 little girls myself, thank you for compiling this one. Have pinned, shared and voted up.