Books based on real people pack an emotional punch. Not only do nonfiction stories help girls by teaching history and allowing them to see the world from different viewpoints, they provide role models and inspiration. My oldest recently came across the story of Virginia Hall in the book series Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls. She’s quite taken with the decorated American spy who thwarted the Nazis during World War II (I’m confident there’s a Virginia costume in our future).
Girls need to have exposure to diverse people who have pursued dreams and overcome adversity. Through children’s nonfiction books and stories, they learn they’re not alone in their feelings and that others who came before them discovered ways to cope and respond to hardships.
Luckily, we live in an age where there are as many tales as there are children’s interests. Is your girl concerned about the earth? Tell her about Rachel Carson, an environmentalist who wrote the book Silent Spring. Does she worry about making her voice heard? Suggest she explore the world of Sojourner Truth.
Reading real stories encourages self-reflection, empathy, emotional intelligence, and offers a front seat to observing life lessons. They’re a win-win for anyone wanting to boost a child’s reading list.
Activities To Do With Girls
- Have your child write on a sticky note the names of the people they’re reading about. Arrange the names in chronological order, along with the years the people lived.
- Take time to sit down with your child; ask her to share the stories she is reading and what she likes (or dislikes) about the person.
- Don’t wait until your child can read a story to herself. Read a higher reading level book with her so you both can learn about a person and talk about them.
- Discuss the author’s sources for the story. Check to see if the book has a bibliography, end notes or an author’s note to explain what sources were used. This is a great way to reiterate lessons on fact checking and cross referencing.
- Keep in mind real stories about despicable people have value. They teach readers about terrible decisions that have dire consequences. Take the opportunity to talk about moral choices and human flaws.
- Suggest your girl write her own biography, along with creating a self-portrait, or interview an older family member and write their story.
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Nonfiction Stories for Girls
Me…Jane (Jane Goodall)
Rosa (Rosa Parks)
I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World (Malala Yousafzai)
Grace, Gold & Glory: My Leap of Faith (Gabrielle Douglas)
How I Discovered Poetry (Marilyn Nelson)
Red Scarf Girl: A Memoir of the Cultural Revolution ( Ji-li Jiang)
Taking Flight: From War Orphan to Star Ballerina (Michaela DePrince)
Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir (Margarita Engle)
Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx (Sonia Manzano)
Code Name Pauline: Memoirs of a World War II Special Agent (Women of Action) (Pearl Witherington Cornioley)
Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen (Jazz Jennings)
Do You Dream in Color?: Insights from a Girl without Sight (Laurie Rubin)
Top photo by Rahul Shah from Pexels
First video by the Jane Goodall Institute
Second video by Smithsonian Folklife
Third video by Scholastic
Fourth video by Curious City
Fifth video by Simon & Schuster Books