Ready or not, it’s time to go back to school! It can be an exciting – and nerve-wracking – time for many young girls. While the thought of seeing friends and learning new skills is enticing, sometimes there can be anxiety about unkind classmates, fitting in, having a learning difference and more.
No matter how the young girls in your life are feeling, you’ll want to check out these 10 books that encourage young girls to be their best and most confident selves, at school and beyond.
“The Queen of Kindergarten” by Derrick Barnes
Recommended age: 3-5
Read this if … you want to inspire your soon-to-be kindergartener to be confident and kind!
In a nutshell: MJ can’t wait to start kindergarten! When her first day arrives, she’s got her best outfit on, her hair is perfect and she’s ready to go! Momma puts on the finishing touch — a tiara! With the tiara, Momma explains, she is ready to be Queen of Kindergarten, which means brightening every room and always being caring, kind and helpful. Taking on her new royal role, MJ shines and sparkles with confidence in her new class, sharing and helping classmates along the way!
Why I love it: I love that MJ’s mom teaches her that being queen isn’t about ruling over her classmates, but about being a true leader — by helping, sharing and being kind to everyone around her!
Favorite quote: “MJ…the Queen of Kindergarten…that’s me.”
“That’s Not My Name” by Anoosha Syed
Recommended age: 3-5
Read this if … you want your girls to be proud of their unique names.
In a nutshell: Mirha has been looking forward to the first day of school for ages. When the day finally arrives, she stands up and introduces herself to her new teacher and classmates. But to her dismay, no one can say her name correctly! Too shy to correct anyone, Mirha starts to wonder if she should change her name. But then her Mama tells her about how special her name is — meaning “happiness” in Arabic — and reminds her that she doesn’t need to change her name just to make it easier on others. With renewed energy, Mirha goes back to school the next day and proudly shares how to say her name.
Why I love it: Names are so important to a person’s identity. It’s crucial that we teach our kids to love their own names and also to respect others’. I know that so many kids (and their grownups!) will relate!
Favorite quote: “If people can remember names like Beethoven and Tchaikovsky and Michelangelo, they can remember Mirha!”
“Today I’m Strong” by Nadiya Hussain
Recommended age: 3-5
Read this if … you’ve got little ones who could use an extra boost of confidence at school!
In a nutshell: The little protagonist in this book loves school — most of the time, that is. Some days a classmate, Molly, is mean to her and she doesn’t feel good about it. But when she feels sad, she calls on her trusty tiger sidekick, who is always there to encourage her. When she needs him most, he gives her the confidence she needs to stand up to Molly and let her know that it’s not OK to be mean!
Why I love it: This is such an adorable book, from the text to the illustrations. Young readers will love this strong little girl!
Favorite quote: “And soon I’m going to be on top of the world. Maybe not today. But someday very soon. Like tomorrow.”
“Amy Wu and the Warm Welcome” by Kat Zhang
Recommended age: 4-8
Read this if … you want to show your daughters the importance of welcoming others.
In a nutshell: Amy is so excited — her class is getting a new student from China! She can’t wait to chat and play with him. But despite her best attempts to welcome him, Lin stays quiet — he barely says a word. She can’t figure out what’s wrong, until she sees him chattering away with his family in Chinese. So, Amy comes up with an extra special plan to really give Lin the warmest welcome.
Why I love it: Amy Wu is one of my favorite picture book characters, and in her third book, we get to see even more of the spunky, thoughtful girl that she is. Plus, I love that this one includes instructions on how to make your own welcome banner.
Favorite quote: “It’s never too late for a welcome.”
“Lupe Lopez. Rock Star Rules!” by e.E. Charlton-Trujillo
Recommended age: 3-7
Read this if … you’ve got a daughter with a big personality!
In a nutshell: Meet Lupe Lopez, drummer extraordinaire. She cannot wait to start kindergarten and show her whole class her rock star personality! But she quickly learns that neither her teacher, nor her classmates, are impressed by her constant drumming and flashy behavior. She’s even the first kid to get in trouble! Slowly, Lupe begins to realize that maybe being a rock star doesn’t mean having to be the center of attention all the time. Can she find a way to fit in at school and stay true to herself?
Why I love it: Lupe is such an original character and I love her larger-than-life personality. But the best part is that even though she learns the importance of following the rules, she doesn't have to dim her light to do so!
Favorite quote: “Lupe had big plans for the first day of kindergarten. She’d practiced drumming all summer. And now, she was a real-life, Texas-size star. As anyone could see.”
“Tomatoes in My Lunchbox” by Costantia Manoli
Recommended age: 4-8
Read this if … you’re looking for a heartfelt story about being the new kid in school.
In a nutshell: Starting a new school is never easy, but just imagine coming from a different country, having an unfamiliar name and bringing unfamiliar foods for lunch. The little girl in this book experiences just that. Her name, which has always sounded so lovely when her Mama says it, feels hard and strange when people say it in English. And no one eats a whole tomato for lunch in her town. Everything feels so so different — how can she adjust? Slowly, and with the help of some new friends, the little girl begins to feel like home again.
Why I love it: This is such a thoughtful, beautiful story that highlights an experience that many children have. I love how the small connections the little girl makes with her classmates blossom into a new life for her.
Favorite quote: “We sit with tomato seeds on our shirts and talk and talk, and it’s like a door opening.”
“Geraldine Pu and her Lunchbox, too!” by Maggie P. Chang
Recommended age: 6-8
Read this if … you love an early reader graphic novel series with a fantastic main character.
In a nutshell: Geraldine Pu loves lunch — it’s her favorite part of school! But when classmates start making fun of her lunches, Geraldine suddenly feels different. She decides to skip lunch rather than face the taunts, and even takes out her frustration on her beloved lunchbox, Bianding! But when the same kids make fun of another classmate’s lunch for being “stinky,” Geraldine decides she’s had enough of the bullies. To her classmates’ surprise, she brings out her own lunch and stands up for her classmate and herself!
Why I love it: Not only is this book fun and engaging as a graphic novel for early readers, but it incorporates Geraldine’s Taiwanese culture, and also is a great conversation starter on microaggressions.
Favorite quote: “Yup, pretty STINKIN’ good!”
“Growing Pangs” by Kathryn Ormsbee
Recommended age: 8-12
Read this if … you want a great graphic novel that tackles anxiety in an engaging and approachable way.
In a nutshell: Katie loves being homeschooled. She loves the freedom, the creativity, and most of all, she loves that it’s where she met her best friend, Kacey. But over the summer before sixth grade, Katie’s friendship with another girl begins to strain her relationship with Kacey. Katie starts feeling anxious, and the only thing that stops the bees buzzing in her head is if she taps the doorknob the “right” number of times, or clicks the light on and off, just so. As homeschool co-op begins again, Katie’s anxiety doesn’t go away, and even as she’s looking forward to her new drama class, she finds herself struggling to manage the continuing issues with Kacey — and those buzzing bees. But with some new friends and her family, Katie finally gets the support she needs.
Why I love it: So many kids these days deal with anxiety and mental health issues, and this is such a fresh perspective. I love that Katie finds support in those who care about her and learns that it’s OK to get help!
Favorite quote: “I still didn’t step on the cracks…but I felt a little better than I had before. I didn’t feel like I was so different. Or alone. And even though I wasn't sure what lay in store for me…I was ready to find out.”
Recommended age: 8-12
Read this if … you’ve been looking for a fantastic new series in the magic school genre!
In a nutshell: Onyeka’s lively curls have always made her stand out — and she’s not always thrilled about it. But after her curls literally take on a life of their own and save her friend from drowning, Onyeka’s mother tells her something incredible: her hair has superpowers! Before she knows what’s happening, she’s moving with her mother back to Nigeria to attend the Academy of the Sun, a school for Solari, a secret group of Nigerians with superpowers like her own. But as she discovers new truths about herself and her family, she also discovers secrets and lies. Onyeka bands together with friends and family to uncover the truth and save the Solari in this epic adventure.
Why I love it: This adventure is thrilling and I absolutely loved the message of learning to love yourself and realizing that our differences make us powerful.
Favorite quote: “But I’m surrounded by people who love and accept me exactly as I am. That’s what really matters. That’s what family is and where true power comes from.”
“Welcome Back, Maple Mehta-Cohen” by Kate McGovern
Recommended age: 9-12
Read this if … you want your girls to celebrate their differences.
In a nutshell: Maple Mehta-Cohen is not excited to enter fifth grade. That’s because this is the second time she’s done it. It all started when her last teacher somehow discovered what she’d managed to keep secret for years: she can’t read. But Maple just can’t bring herself to tell her friends the truth. So, she draws on her storytelling skills and tells a little lie about how she’s staying back as a special assistant. But the lie gets bigger and bigger, and before long, it’s snowballed out of control! Ultimately, Maple is forced to face the truth, but in the end she learns to truly accept and celebrate herself, dyslexia and all.
Why I love it: This book touches on so many important and relatable topics: dyslexia and learning differences, culture and identity (Maple is half Jewish and half Indian), friendships, and just navigating the world as a kid.
Favorite quote: “I guess I hadn’t considered all the many ways people can be different. It’s not just what you look like or how your brain works. It’s like there are infinite ways to be different. And maybe that’s a good thing. Otherwise we’d all be pretty boring.”
Ciarra Chavarria runs the Instagram feed @girlsreadtheworld, where she regularly posts her latest finds. She’s also a lawyer and the mom of two super cool girls who live in New Jersey