It’s pretty easy to agree that we should raise our girls to be feminists, and during Women’s History Month, there are plenty of extra resources to help us do so. But what about our boys? It’s arguably more important that our sons grow up knowing that people of all genders are equal, yet the way to do so isn’t always obvious.
We don’t want to crush any little boys’ spirits with chants of “Girls Rule, Boys Drool” — and even that much-lauded phrase “The future is female” feels a little off when we’re trying to teach young boys about equality. But we also can’t ignore that in 2020, we’re still so frustratingly far from seeing a female president in the U.S., and there’s nothing close to visible parity in some fields like professional sports and STEM. Maybe that’s because the men of today didn’t have grownups teaching them the meaning of feminism, the way you’re going to do with your sons.
Some of the books we list here are about feminism up front. But others are just about amazing women doing amazing things. It may be that your boy wants to join the feminist fight while still in diapers. Or you may have a kid whose way in will be the topics he already loves. How about reading them books about some pioneers in those fields, from sharks to computer science, who also happen to be women? This, at least, is a great place to start.
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‘Feminist Baby! He’s a Feminist Too!,’ by Loryn Brantz
He dances, he cries, he farts, he giggles! Above all, the point of this board book is that being a feminist is fun. (For children 0-2 years old.)
‘Think Big, Little One,’ by Vashti Harrison
While writer and illustrator Vashti Harrison’s Little Dreamers for older readers features full-page biographies of amazing women like Frida Kahlo and Wang Zhenyi, this board book sums up each incredible woman in one sentence — with the same vivid and adorable pictures of them. (For children 0-3 years old.)
‘A Is for Awesome!: 23 Iconic Women Who Changed the World,’ by Eva Chen
Who doesn’t want to read an alphabet book that honors Beyoncé as well as suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst? Derek Desierto illustrates each woman’s vibrant personality so well they could leap off the page. (For children 1-3 years old.)
‘My First Book of Feminism (for Boys),’ by Julie Merberg
“There aren’t girl jobs or boy jobs — do what you can do. It’s nobody’s job to clean up after you!” This rhyming board book, which covers everything from chores to consent, is something we’d like to give a few grown men we know, too. (For children 0-3 years old.)
‘Franny’s Father Is a Feminist,’ by Rhonda Leet
While this is the story of a girl whose dad stays at home to take care of her while her mom does an important job, it’s just as important for boys to see this version of a grown-up feminist dad. (For children 3-7 years old.)
‘Piggybook,’ by Anthony Brown
Women’s History Month is supposed to celebrate our real female heroes, but we’ll make time for some fictional women changing things at home too. Fed up with her husband and sons for not doing their share around the house, Mrs. Piggott leaves them on their own. Then they turn, literally, into pigs. (For children 3-7 years old.)
‘Malala’s Magic Pencil,’ by Malala Yousafzai
With the help of illustrator Kerascoet, Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai brings younger readers the story of fighting for girls’ right to an education in Pakistan. In this version, she wishes for a magic pencil that will fix all the problems making people so unhappy. (For children 4-8 years old.)
‘Ada Lovelace, Poet of Science: The First Computer Programmer,’ by Diane Stanley
With all the coding classes and games kids get these days, we hope they’re also learning about Ada Lovelace. The daughter of Lord Byron, she came up with the idea for computer programming about 200 years before we had iPads. (For children 4-8 years old.)
‘Feminism Is for Boys,’ by Elizabeth Rhodes
When you see simple statements, like “Some feminist boys like sports,” and, “Feminism is for everyone,” you kind of wonder why not everyone gets it. Your boys definitely can, anyway. (For children 4-8 years old.)
‘Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist,’ by Jess Keating
Like so many kids today, Eugenie Clark was fascinated by sharks as a little girl. In a time not so understanding of female scientists or of sharks, she became a zoologist who did her part to change people’s minds about both. (For children 4-8 years old.)
‘I Am Amelia Earhart,’ by Brad Meltzer
From the series behind the PBS Kids show Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum, this is a very cute depiction of Amelia Earhart’s early adventures as an aspiring pilot. Both boys and girls can agree that her determination is pretty inspiring. (For children 5-8 years old.)
‘Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13,’ by Helaine Becker
Little ones who dream of becoming astronauts should definitely learn about the late NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson. This is also a great lesson in how math works in our world (and others!). (For children 5-9 years old.)
‘Rosie Revere, Engineer,’ by Andrea Beaty
This fictional account of a girl who can’t stop inventing things, and who doesn’t let the doubters get her down, is all about inspiration and perseverance. That’s something both boys and girls can get behind. (For children 5 and up.)
‘Sojourner Truth’s Step-Stomp Stride,’ by Andrea Pinkney
It’s amazing how a book can teach children about slavery and one girl’s mission to end it without being too scary or brutal. Through this poetic story and colorful illustrations by Brian Pinkney, boys can learn about Truth’s fight to be seen equal as a woman and a former slave. (For children 6-8 years old.)
‘Proud: Living My American Dream’ (Young Readers Edition), by Ibtihaj Mohammad
Fencer Ibtihaj Mohammad made history in 2016 as the first American to wear a hijab while competing in the Olympics and as the first Muslim American woman to win a medal. We think her memoir about how she got there is something that will inspire kids who aren’t into fencing, aren’t Muslim, and aren’t even girls.
‘You Are Mighty: A Guide to Changing the World,’ by Caroline Paul
Once they’ve learned about the great historical figures we celebrate during Women’s History Month, your budding feminists might want to take action on the issues that are most important to them. This book has both a DIY guide to doing so and stories about young activists who have made an impact in the world. (For children 10-12 years old.)
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