These picture books with strong female characters show gender shouldn't be a barrier to achieving your goals. They illustrate female characters as complex rather than one-dimensional. They are positive role models, relatable, challenge gender norms, learn from their mistakes, show integrity, determination, resilience, and much more.
Why Read Picture Books with Strong Female Characters?
There are many picture books with strong female characters that are great for teachers to have in their classrooms. These books for empowering girls and boys can help your students see that anyone can achieve anything they set their mind to regardless of their gender.
Girls especially will be able to relate to the characters and see themselves in them while also learning valuable life lessons.
These books show gender shouldn’t be a barrier to achieving your goals and illustrate female characters as complex rather than one-dimensional. The book characters are positive role models, relatable, challenge gender norms, show integrity, determination, resilience, and much more.
Having some of these picture books with strong female characters in your classroom or library would send a message to students that they can be anything they want to be and that gender should not hold them back from reaching their goals.
Characteristics of Strong Female Lead Characters
A strong or inspiring female character doesn't mean they are perfect. Instead, they learn, adapt, and develop a growth mindset. The picture books about strong women and girls show characters who:
- have their own opinions and views
- listen to their instincts
- take on board the advice of others
- make mistakes and learns from them
- keep trying after failures or mistakes
- have their own identity or discover who they are
- learn about and embraces their culture and identity
- have goals and ambitions and work to achieve them
- show kindness, empathy and compassion
- ask questions to develop their understanding and knowledge
- a positive influence in their community
- work to overcome adversity and fears
- gain the confidence to stand up for their beliefs and those of others
- have imperfections and weaknesses
- take opportunities that come their way
- develop positive relationships
- challenge gender roles and norms
- develop their self-esteem and confidence
- show integrity, determination, resilience, and much more
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Diverse Picture Books with Strong Female Characters
These picture books with strong female characters show the reader who and what they can be, and that gender shouldn’t be a barrier to achieving your goals. The characters come from all corners of the world, with different economic circumstances, cultures and family dynamics.
Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman
Grace's love of reading and role-play motivates her to audition for the role of Peter Pan in the school play. The other children tell her she can't play a boys part. Her mama and Nana tell her she can be anything she wants, helping her find the confidence to audition and win the role of Peter Pan.
Cece Loves Science by Kimberly Derting
The first of two picture books with strong female characters illustrated by Vashti Harrison. Cece is full of questions and curiosity. She learns “scientific inquiry… can lead to a lot of fun and adventure” when her teacher sets a task to try an experiment.
A Dress With Pockets by Lily Murray
Lucy doesn’t want an itchy, frilly, fancy or sparkly dress. She wants a dress with pockets. Pocket to keep her favourite things; shells, fossils, creepy crawlies, trinkets, mysterious bones and anything else she finds when digging. The solution to her dress problem inspires those around her.
Evelyn Del Rey Is Moving Away by Meg Medina
Best friends, Evelyn and Daniela, have to say goodbye when Evelyn’s family has to move away. As her house is packed up, the two girls play with each other in their favourite places. They know they will always be best friends, no matter where they live.
Eyes That Kiss in the Corners by Joanna Ho
A young Asian girl notices her eyes kiss in the corners, just like her mother, grandmother and little sister. She feels empowered by this connection to her family and is filled with love and appreciation for her own identity and beauty.
Four Feet, Two Sandals by Karen Lynn Williams
In a Peshawar refugee camp, both Lina and Feroza find a matching sandal. They build a friendship and share the sandals, wearing them on alternate days. Lina and her mother are chosen to emigrate to America and gives the sandal to Feroza. But Feroza hands it back telling Lina they will share the sandals again one day.
Girl on a Motorcycle by Amy Novesky
A girl on a motorcycle travels the world alone, meeting new people, and visiting remarkable places. She learns something new every day and shows resilience by overcoming challenges.
Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry
The second of two picture books with strong female characters illustrated by Vashti Harrison. Zuri loves her curly hair even though it has a mind of its own. Her daddy has a lot to learn when he styles it for a special occasion, but he will do anything to make Zuri and her hair happy.
Journey by Aaron Becker
A lonely girl escapes into a mysterious world and witnesses an evil emperor capture a majestic bird. With courage, the girl outsmarts the emperor's army to set the bird free.
A Map into the World by Kao Kalia Yang
Paj Ntaub, a Hmong girl, moves across the street from an elderly couple, Ruth and Bob. As the seasons pass, Ruth dies. The young girl wants to help Bob so she draws a map into the world for Bob in his driveway. It shows him he can find kindness and support at Paj Ntaub's home.
Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed A Neighborhood by F. Isabel Campoy
Based on the true story of the Urban Art Trail in San Diego, California. A mural artist inspires Mira to transform her grey city into colour. She, in turn, inspired the community to add their voice to the mural.
Meesha Makes Friends by Tom Percival
Meesha finds it hard to make friends because she struggles to read and respond to social cues. It takes an overwhelming situation for her to realise her special skills can help her make friends.
The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires
A girl and her canine assistant adjust, examine, tweak, fasten, fix, straighten and study to create the most magnificent thing. But not everything works out the way she imagines.
The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi
When Unhei moves from Korea to America, her classmates can’t pronounce her name. She wants to choose a new name that is easier to pronounce but decides she likes her name just the way it is.
Nana Akua Goes to School by Tricia Elam Walker
Zura hesitantly brings her Nana Akua to her school for Grandparents Day. With traditional Ghanian tribal markings on her face, Nana Akua looks very different from the other grandparents. She creatively explains to Zura and her classmates the meaning of her culture and why it makes her special.
Nya's Long Walk: A Step at a Time by Linda Sue Park
A young South Sudanese girl goes on a journey that requires determination, perseverance, and compassion. Young Nya takes her little sister Akeer along on the two-hour walk to fetch water for the family. When Akeer becomes too ill to walk, Nya takes one step, then another so she can reach home.
The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch
Princess Elizabeth saves her fiancé Prince Ronald from a dragon only for him to tell her to clean herself up and look like a princess. Elizabeth happily skips into the sunset by herself.
The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family by Ibtihaj Muhammad
On the first day of school, sisters, Asiya and Faizah walk hand in hand. Asiya is wearing a hijab for the first time, representing being strong. Faizah admires her sister's beautiful blue scarf but hears other children making fun of her. The sisters follow their mother's advice about being strong and true to themselves in the face of bullying.
Rainbow Weaver by Linda Elovitz Marshall
Ixchel wants to continue the weaving tradition of her Mayan community. She walks around her village to find items to weave with but only finds colourful plastic bags. As the bags pile up she decides to cut them into strips and starts weaving them, producing a rainbow fabric.
Rocket Says Clean Up! by Nathan Bryon
Rocket visits her grandparents in Jamaica. While beachcombing, Rocket passes piles of rubbish and finds a baby turtle tangled in a net. She decides something must be done. She brings the community together to clean up the beach and teach them about plastic pollution.
Sofia Valdez, Future Prez by Andrea Beaty
After Sofia’s Abuelo hurts his ankle at the Mount Trashmore, she brainstorms ways to make it safe. She develops a plan to turn it into a park, but when City Hall turns the idea down she gets the community involved to make her dream come true.
Something Beautiful by Sharon Dennis Wyeth
A teacher helps a young girl see beyond her scary feeling for her neighbourhood. She looks for beauty in her community with the help of her neighbours. Her beautiful journey helps her feel happy and hopeful.
A Story About Afiya by James Berry
Afiya wears her white dress every day. As she goes about her day, the dress becomes imprinted with memories of her day, including sunflowers, flowers, fish, butterflies and tigers. She washes her dress every night so it is ready to record more memories.
Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold
Set in 1939 Harlem, Cassie Louise Lightfoot lies on the roof of her apartment, the tar beach. She imagines flying over the buildings and bridges of New York and dreams of helping her family out of poverty.
Tea with Milk by Allen Say
When May’s family moves back to Japan from San Francisco she feels out of place. She is called by her Japanese name, Masako, wears kimonos and sits on the floor. Upset at some of the traditions and rules she has to follow, including an arranged marriage, May set out to find her own way in life.
Usha and the Stolen Sun by Bree Galbraith
Usha lives in a town where the sun doesn’t shine. Her grandfather tells her stories about a time when people built a wall to keep the sun to themselves. She thinks of a unique way to make sure her voice is heard. Instead of showing anger, she shares her grandfather’s stories with the people on the other side of the wall who start to remove bricks and ultimately bring down the entire wall.
Your Name Is a Song by J Thompkins-Bigelow
A young girl leaves school frustrated after a day of her classmates and teacher mispronouncing her name. On their walk home she tells her mother she doesn’t want to go back, who in turn tells her daughter “your name is a song.” She returns to school empowered and shares what she has learned.
Remember to check out Best Books about Inspiring Women about real-life remarkable women. Do you have any favourite picture books with strong female characters? Do you read any books for empowering girls and boys in your classroom? Let me know in the comments.