Celebrating women’s contributions to history is essential all year round. By giving students the chance to read books by and about incredible women, students of all genders can be inspired by these often-untold stories that have shaped our world.
Whether you’re looking to integrate women’s history into STEM lessons, diversify your classroom library, or find the perfect role model for that one special student, explore these 15 titles by women authors that our teachers love.
Elementary Grade Books by Women Authors
The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist, written by Cynthia Levinson and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
At 9-years-old, Audrey Faye Hendricks was the youngest known child to be arrested for a civil rights protest in Birmingham, Alabama, 1963. Her story shows students (and reminds adults!) that you’re never too young to stand up for what’s right.
“Texts such as The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist… provide the classroom with a diverse, relevant and engaging books and integration of content. Making meaningful connections and having a shared text to refer to in class makes discussion rich with high impact.” —Mrs. Sorgenfrei, Rich, Complex Texts for Future Leaders
Little Dreamers: Visionary Women Around the World, by Vashti Harrison
This gorgeously illustrated New York Times Bestseller shines a light on women from around the globe who’ve changed the world. From physicist Chien-Shiung Wu to novelist Toni Morrison, Little Dreamers celebrates bold thinkers and creative innovation.
The Power of Her Pen: The Story of Groundbreaking Journalist Ethel L. Payne, written by Lesa Cline-Ransome and illustrated by John Parra
Award-winning author Lesa Cline-Ransome shares the story of journalist and Civil Rights activist Ethel L. Payne. Growing up on the South Side of Chicago during the Great Depression, Ethel L. Payne went on to become one of the first Black press correspondents for the White House.
“Books like The Power of Her Pen about Ethel L. Payne highlight inspirational Black women… These books will go a long way in representing the differences of my classroom on the outside, while we also highlight the beauty and similarities that we find on the inside.” —Mrs. Everage, Books That Reflect Our Diverse Classroom & World
Flying High: The Story of Gymnastics Champion Simone Biles, written by Michelle Meadows and illustrated by Ebony Glenn
Simone Biles is the most decorated gymnast in America, with a combined 30 Olympic and World Championship medals. Flying High tells the story of how hard work and love from her family helped her get there.
Ambitious Girl, by Meena Harris
Ambitious Girl shows young girls that their boldness and personality will never be too much. Niece of US Vice President Kamala Harris, Meena Harris brings the joy of being surrounded by ambitious women and girls to life.
Middle School Books by Women Authors
Black Women in Science: A Black History Book for Kids, by Kimberly Brown Pellum
Black Women in Science features 15 biographies of trailblazing women. Students can dive into Black history and read about Dr. Alexa Irene Canady, the first Black woman to become a neurosurgeon in America; Annie Turnbo Malone, the first Black woman millionaire in America; and many more.
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, by Erika L. Sánchez
New York Times Bestseller and National Book Award Finalist, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter tells the story of Julia, who has to find her place in her Mexican-American family after her sister’s death. This instant classic strikes the perfect chord between moving and laugh-out-loud funny.
“Being able to read a story and relate to a character is what allows a child to fall in love with reading as a whole. My students are very interested in learning about current events through accessible texts. Erika Sanchez’s I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter is exactly that.” —Ms. Schmitt, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter: Reading and Relating
Other Words for Home, by Jasmine Warga
Jasmine Warga tells the story of a young girl who has to leave Syria for the United States. The novel in verse explores identity and belonging, and what it means to find yourself in a new place.
Women in Art: 50 Fearless Creatives Who Inspired the World, by Rachel Ignotofsky
For young artists ready to dive head first into art history, Women in Art shares the biographies of women artists from 1262 to the present. From favorites like Frida Kahlo and Georgia O’Keeffe to contemporary artists like Maya Lin and Sokari Douglas Camp, students are bound to be inspired.
Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson
In her autobiographical novel in verse, Jacqueline Woodson shares what it was like to grow up in South Carolina and New York in the 1960s.
“This memoir focuses on the 1960s and 70s where the civil rights movement and the remnants of Jim Crow laws greatly impacted the author’s childhood and family life. Through this memoir, students will learn about this important period in history and the ways in which the conversation about race in America has changed since then.” —Mrs. H., Deepening Our Representation of Diversity Through Brown Girl Dreaming
High School Books by Women Authors
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou’s 1969 autobiography is an unprecedented work of storytelling and literature. The classic examines racism and trauma, and pushes the genre of autobiography to new heights.
“Learning to read for fun increases wisdom, knowledge, and morality, encouraging children to demand more from themselves and expect more out of life. Maya Angelou’s story is just the book I need to help my students learn to dream and achieve.” —Mr. Thomas, Help Us Learn Why The Caged Bird Sings
Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
Written in 1937 during the Harlem Renaissance, Their Eyes Were Watching God is a pillar of American literature. Zora Neale Hurston’s examination of race, gender, and love remains essential.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot
Henrietta Lacks had her cells cultured by doctors without her permission or knowledge, and those cultured cells went on to change medical science. Rebecca Skloot’s book interweaves the story of Henrietta Lacks with science writing and an examination of racism and medical ethics.
“I am planning to give each of my science students a copy of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks to incorporate into our study of cells and the human body. Students will make connections from the book to what is happening today in both the COVID-19 pandemic and the pandemic of systemic racism.” —Ms. Schuettpelz, Focusing on Social Justice in Science Class
In the Time of the Butterflies, by Julia Alvarez
This piece of historical fiction gives breath to the Mirabal sisters during the time of the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic and shares a story of courage and political resistance.
The Poet X, by Elizabeth Acevedo
Written by renowned slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo, The Poet X tells the story of a young slam poet in Harlem as she grapples with her mother’s religion and her place in the world.
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