Raising Readers: Real Heroes Not Superheroes

Raising Readers: Real Heroes Not Superheroes

I know a few things about raising readers. I have two daughters. My older daughter started a bookmobile that turned into this bookstore. You’re right here looking at the product of her hard work and passion for books! Clearly my oldest reads a lot, but her youngest sister reads with less greater passion because her early reading journey included struggling with a speech impediment. When you have to work to read successfully, sometimes you develop a practice and habit that others who come more naturally to reading perhaps don’t pick up.

Still, one area that has always plagued me as a mother is the lack of real and diverse heroes presented specifically to little girls in literature. When my daughters naturally were interested in Disney princesses, I indulged them while spicing up the books stack with some non-fiction designed for children.

Here are a few K-4th grade titles to begin with, each featuring an everyday hero! Click on the photo to view the book and add to your cart:

Sharice’s Big Voice book cover featuring illustration of an American Indian child yelling

Sharice’s Big Voice by U.S. Congresswoman Sharice Davids and Nancy K. Mays with illustrations by Joshua Mangeshig Paris-Steckley

We love the bright and bold illustrations in this book, but our favorite part is how this book puts an accessible face on a high-profile person in political leadership. It’s so valuable to have real life heroes that you can reach out to, write a letter to, or see on television. It’s even more valuable that Congresswoman Davids appeals equally to boys and girls, as she’s the only person working in Congress with a Mixed Martial Arts fighting record and this sets her apart it makes her something kids want to marvel at! Her unlikely story as an American Indian child of a single mom appeals to all varieties of kids who think they don’t look like the stereotypical leaders they see running the country. 

Fauja Singh is wearing a yellow turban and long black pants, running across a finish line.

Fauja Singh Keeps Going by Simran Jet Singh with illustrations by Baljinder Kaur

Unlikely Fauja Singh is over age 100 and didn’t begin running until his senior years. He’s an athletic superhero who happens to wear a turban in line with his Sikh religious faith. So this book introduces children not just to the idea that they can push their bodies at any age, but it opens their minds to the idea that the most athletic person in the room might just be the oldest person in the room!

Meet Miss Fancy by Irene Latham with illustrations by John Holyfield

The gorgeous paintings throughout Meet Miss Fancy grab everyone, but the story shines even brighter because it’s not a work of fiction. There was a real elephant and there was a real boy, who really did save coins to earn the opportunity to see her. Kids need to know that sometimes children can be the hero. Children just like them! This is also a general way to introduce kids to the concept of Jim Crow, segregation, and how it affected children in the South in simple ways like not being able to go to the zoo.

Dumpling Dreams by Carrie Clickard with illustrations by Katy Wu

Many middle-aged parents like me might remember Joyce Chen cooking on TV, however I imagine few have any idea about her immigration story or how she came to own her first restaurant. And if you pay attention at all to the programming created for kids these days, there are loads of cooking competitions geared for child viewers. Cooking is universal! Across age groups, ethnicities, languages, and cultures… Food has a way of reaching kids Innoway that so many other subjects can’t. This book comes with recipes in the back. And again, this is a real female entrepreneur story.

Shirley Chisholm Dared by Alicia D. Williams and April Harrison

When I saw a video of Shirley Chisholm, I was enchanted by her spirit and spunk. And when I introduced this children’s book to my own children, without the benefit of photos or videos they felt the same flavor and the same love. Shirley Chisholm was not just the first black woman in Congress, she’s the reason we have a Congressional Black Caucus, the reason we have a Congressional Women’s Caucus, and she’s the first woman to run for President. It doesn’t matter that it was unsuccessful. She dared to do it when others wouldn’t and that’s heroic by superhero standards no matter how you slice and dice it!

Fall Down Seven Times, Stand Up Eight by Jen Bryant with illustrations by Toshiki Nakamura

Title IX is something that you might be familiar with if you have a kiddo that plays in sports. It ensures the same opportunities provided to boy athletic programs are also provided to girl athletic programs. And in a world where we talk about trans athletes, this early building blocks sometimes is important to re-emphasize just to show us how we got where we are today. Title IX is one of the first building blocks for sports equality! Girls were not always allowed to play basketball, softball, lacrosse, or rugby. And it was an Asian American woman who made sure those doors were thrown open.

I hope a few of these books interest and intrigue you, and I especially hope you feel inspired to expand your children’s shelves to include everyday heroes like these. 

To support our store you can click the photos above and add these books to your cart. Or, find a wider selection of titles on bookshop.org where we have compiled a thematic list just to make your job a little easier. Shopping on bookshop.org still supports independent bookstores like Seven Stories. Happy reading! 

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