Whether you’re reading this post in March, to celebrate Women’s History Month, or any time of year — we believe in recognizing women’s contributions all year long. These 10 women’s history books plus related lesson ideas should do the trick!
Women’s History Books for Grades K-3
Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors?
Written by Tanya Lee Stone, illustrated by Marjorie Priceman
Tanya Lee Stone has written about many amazing women, and here she brings charm and wit to the life of Elizabeth Blackwell, the first female doctor. Kids will be fascinated by the unique details Stone discovered—such as the fact that Blackwell slept on the floor to toughen herself up—and inspired by Blackwell’s can-do attitude.
Activity to try: Ask kids what they want to be when they grow up. Then have them answer the prompt “Who Says I Can’t Be ______________,” listing five reasons why they can and will make their dreams come true.
Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909
Written by Michelle Markel, illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Your students may not realize that children as young as they are once worked in American factories making shirts and clothing under terrible conditions. This picture book biography will introduce students to this unjust time in history as well as to spirited Clara Lemlich, who organized the first large strike of the garment industry.
Activity to try: You might talk with students about how in other parts of the world, children still work in factories like the one in which Clara made history. However, there are many organizations that are working to stop child labor. Why do students think that is?
She Loved Baseball: The Effa Manley Story
Written by Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Don Tate
Born in an era of gender and racial inequality, Effa Hanley never dreamed she would one day grow up to own a professional baseball team and be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Her story is an inspiration for anyone hoping to achieve success outside of traditional boundaries.
Activity to try: Have students work in teams to brainstorm ideas for a different version of this book using the title “She Loved _________.” Encourage them to think of roles that have traditionally been held by men. Have each team create a book cover for their new story.
My Name is Georgia
Written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter
Georgia O’Keefe was a young girl who viewed the world in her own way, followed her dreams, and became one of our country’s greatest artists.
Activity to try: Watch the YouTube video Georgia O’Keefe: Flowers to view examples of O’Keefe’s beautiful flower paintings. Have students use watercolor paints to create an O’Keefe-esque flower gallery for your classroom.
The Tree Lady
Written by H. Joseph Hopkins, illustrated by Jill McElmurry
Read about how one determined young environmentalist helped turn San Diego from a dry, desert town into a lush, lovely city filled with gardens and parks.
Activity to try: Start a tree farm in your classroom! Have students plant seeds in small clay pots which they can decorate with paint or markers. Tend to your plants until the end of the school year, then students can take them home and plant their trees in their yard or neighborhood.
Women’s History Books for Grades 3-6
Louisa May’s Battle
Written by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Carlyn Beccia
Even if students are unfamiliar with Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women,” they’ll find interest in this story about how Alcott’s time as a Civil War nurse influenced her writing style and her decision to write her now-classic novel.
Activity to try: Listen to part of an audio recording of “Little Women.” Can students see the effect of the war on Alcott’s writing? How so?
For the Right to Learn: Malala Yousafzai’s Story
Written by Rebecca Langston-George, illustrated by Janna Bock
This powerful true story of how one brave girl named Malala changed the world and brought awareness to the issue of education for all will inspire your students with the message that one person truly can make a difference in the world.
Activity to try: The #withMalala challenge is a global digital art project encouraging young people to speak out about why every girl should have a right to an education. Create a video, art mural, or collection of poetry to submit to help raise awareness for the issue.
Miss Moore Thought Otherwise
Written by Jan Pinborough, illustrated by Debby Atwell
Can you imagine a public library without children and colorful picture books? Read this story about a brave librarian who worked tirelessly to ensure that all children were welcome at library programs and were able to check out books.
Activity to try: Have your students create a gallery of posters highlighting their favorite books. Each poster should include a brief summary and illustration of their story. Post your gallery in the hallway for other students to enjoy.
Women’s History Books for Grades 6-8
Rightfully Ours: How Women Won the Vote
Written by Kerrie Logan Hollihan
We adore the Chicago Review Press’s activity books for children, which illuminate scientific and historical topics through hands-on crafts and experimentation. In this installment, students will design a suffragette banner, make an oil lamp and even feel what it was like to wear a corset.
Activity to try: Invite students to research one of the suffragists mentioned in the book and to make a living biography of her.
Written by Jane Yolen and Heidi E.Y. Stemple, illustrated by Rebecca Guay
What fun! This collection looks at 26 “bad” women in history, ranging from Catherine the Great to Cleopatra to Lizzie Borden, and analyzes whether or not they deserve their infamous reputations. Comic book-style panels weigh the final evidence.
Activity to try: Challenge students to put another “bad girl” from history on trial, creating a comic book summary in the style of the book.
Are you recognizing Women’s History Month in your classroom? What women’s history books will you read? Plus, check out this women’s history scavenger hunt!