10 Books to Empower Girls

One Pen and One Book Can Change The World

On her 16th birthday in 2013, Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai spoke to a United Nations’ audience about the rights of women and girls and about the importance of freedom of education and tolerance. She strongly stated, “We call upon our sisters around the world to be brave – to embrace the strength within themselves and realize their full potential.” 

As a mother, I take Malala’s words to heart. I want to inspire my young daughter to stand up for what is right and to believe in herself. I want to encourage her to dream big and to live her best life. In Malala’s speech, she said that “one pen and one book can change the world,” and that is an amazing message. A great way to empower girls is to introduce them to books that are inspiring and that present strong female heroes and storylines. 

The books listed in this article all feature female role models that encourage girls to challenge the norm and to celebrate their individuality. Some of the titles are based on the lives of real people, including poet Maya Angelou, hockey star Hayley Wickenheiser and Malala herself. Other books feature fictional heroines – like little Molly Lou Melon and the inquisitive Ada Twist – that deliver powerful messages to girls all over the world. Inclusive of diverse perspectives, these books demonstrate that girls come in all shapes and sizes, but they’re all mighty and wonderful beings. 

Any of these titles would make for a great gift or a meaningful trip to the library with that special girl in your life. Boys can learn from these books too. These stories emphasize that girls are just as creative, intelligent, and strong as boys are. From kindergarten to grade school, these diverse titles will be sure to inspire and empower girls to be the best they can be.

5-Minute Stories for Fearless Girls by Sarah Howden (K to Grade 3)

This anthology features the stories of 12 influential women from around the world, including Tanya Tagaq, Viola Desmond, Hayley Wickenheiser, Princess Diana and Michelle Obama. Howden’s book shows girls that many women before them endured and overcame great struggles to be the amazing heroes they are today. It inspires young readers to pursue their dreams and to realize their full potential. 

I Like Myself! by Karen Beaumont (K to Grade 2)

The girl at the centre of this book joyfully celebrates who she is, inside and out. She loves herself unconditionally and shows girls just how liberating that can be. Beaumont’s rhymes make reading this book fun for both kids and adults. It’s a great little story with a big and powerful message.

The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch (K to Grade 3)

It’s no surprise that this book has sold millions of copies worldwide. It has all the trappings of a classic fairy tale – a princess, a dragon and a prince – but, it isn’t a traditional story. Munsch’s heroine is a feisty and resourceful princess who sets out to make her own destiny. The Paper Bag Princess is a childhood favourite for many and will likely remain that way for many generations to come.

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison (Grades 3 to 7)

Harrison’s book introduces readers to a series of strong Black women in history who have made great changes and overcome adversity. Pilot Bessie Coleman, chemist Alice Ball, mathematician Katherine Johnson, and poet Maya Angelou are just some of the inspiring women this book features. Bold Women in Black History will educate as well as empower any young girl. Be sure to check out Harrison’s other inspiring titles: Little Dreamers: Visionary Women Around the World and Little Legends: Exceptional Men in Black History.

Girls Can Do Anything by Caryl Hart (K to Grade 3)

There are no limits to the things girls can do. They can be healers, fighters, explorers, thinkers and more. Hart’s book emphasizes that every girl is different, and they should be celebrated as such. It will have your child shouting, "I'm a GIRL! I'm FANTASTIC!" This poetic picture book is sure to entertain and inspire any girl.

Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty (K to Grade 3)

Ada Twist is a smart and inquisitive problem-solver. She’s not afraid to ask questions and test theories, even if they don’t always work out. Beaty’s rhyming style and powerful narrative is a joy to read. Be sure to also check out the adventures of Ada Twist’s equally curious and intelligent classmates: Rosie Revere, Engineer and Iggy Peck, Architect. These characters show girls that, if they set their minds to it, they can be anything.

We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom (K to Grade 3)

What would you do to protect what you loved? The main character of the book is a little Indigenous girl with a big and important role – to help protect Earth’s water. This book encourages children to be a part of making great changes in the world. It’s a good conversation starter about environmentalism and the call to activism.

Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell (K to Grade 2)

This delightful book has a powerful message: it’s ok to be different from everyone else. Molly Lou Melon is a small and clumsy girl with buck teeth and a funny-sounding voice. When the school bully starts to taunt her for her differences, Molly Lou Melon goes on being her wonderful self. Her grandma taught her to keep her head up and love herself. Lovell’s book encourages readers to be proud of themselves and to refuse to let anyone steal their joy.

The Girl Who Thought In Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin by Julia Finley Mosca (Grades 2 to 4)

Diagnosed with autism as a child, Grandin struggled to speak, but she had a mind for visual thinking that set her apart from others. Though doubted by some, she went on to become a world-famous scientist and animal behaviouralist. This book about Grandin shows that being different doesn’t make you weaker or any less intelligent. The story encourages children and adults alike to embrace what makes them different and to persevere against all odds. 

Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai (K to Grade 2)

In this story, a young Malala wishes for a magic pencil to make the lives of those around her happier. She would draw a soccer ball for her brothers to play with and erase the smell of a nearby garbage dump. As she ages, she realizes that there are bigger wishes she could make, such as equal access to education. Eventually Malala finds magic in the words that she uses to stand up for what is right. Malala encourages young people to be vehicles of change and to never give up. Be sure to also check out these other equally empowering books written by Malala: Malala: My Story of Standing Up for Girls' Rights (Grades 1 to 5) and I Am Malala (Young Readers Edition) (Grades 5+). 


Michelle Filice is a writer from Toronto. She has a Ph.D. in Canadian history and has worked in the educational sector for many years. A mother of two, Michelle has taken a special interest in all things motherhood and parenthood.