As Charles W. Eliot said, "Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counsellors, and the most patient of teachers." While the enjoyment and magic of diving into a new book, new world, and new characters speaks for itself, there is also a lot of evidence indicating that reading to children, from their earliest years, matters.
Not only has research found that having books in the home is as important as parents' education levels when it comes to seeing how far a child will go academically, other studies have shown that all it takes is a single, brief exposure to good reading material for a child's enthusiasm for reading to increase significantly.
Of course, reading something — anything — is better than nothing at all, when it comes to raising the next generation of girls, some books have just the right combination of wit, fierceness, and courage. Whether they do it by subverting typical gender expectations or showing girls they can have any adventure they want, these books should be part of every parents' rotating library.
And once those girls get older and start reading on their own, Laura Bates has written the girl bible of all girl bibles, "Girl Up," a funny feminist survival guide that takes on all of the pressures facing young women today, from body image to media representations of women to sex.
Don't miss the 12 empowering books every girl should read below.
1. "Rosie Revere, Engineer" (by Andrea Beaty; illustrated by David Roberts and published by Abrams Books for Young Readers)
"The only true failure can come if you quit," urges Rosie Revere's Great-Aunt Rose in this colourful book about a girl inventor whose inventions don't always come out so rosy.
After creating hot dog dispensers and cheese-copters, Rosie takes on her biggest challenge — a plane that actually flies — with mixed results. A must-read for all of those girls who love to take things apart and tinker with them, those yearning to invent (even if they're not sure what it is they're making yet) and everyone who's ever felt the first sting of failure, brushed themselves off and gotten right back up again. Look out for the newest release from Beaty and Roberts: "Ada Twist, Scientist."
2. "The Princess in Black" (by Shannon and Dean Hale; illustrated by LeUyen Pham and published by Candlewick Press)
Little girls may love princesses, but some princesses are better to aspire to than others. The Princess in Black kicks monster butt, has a glitter stone ring that doubles as a monster alarm and has ninja moves she calls the Princess Pounce and Sparkle Slam. Perfect for young readers starting to read on their own - and enjoy their own independent streaks.
3. "The Worst Princess" (by Anna Kemp; illustrated by Sara Ogilvie and published by Simon & Schuster Children's UK)
Another playful twist on the princess genre, "The Worst Princess" is a catchy story in verse about Princess Sue, a girl who's got the princess script covered (hair down to the floor, waiting longingly for her prince to arrive) and can't wait to be rescued from her tower. Unfortunately, the prince that comes to save her is a total dud, so Sue - with the help of a fire-breathing dragon - takes matters into her own hands. Fans of the story will love the follow-up adventure of "Sir Lilypad, " a small frog who desperately wants to be a real knight.
4. "Pearl Power" (by Mel Elliot; published by I Love Mel)
For everyone who's tired of hearing that girls can't be fast and boys can't cry, this story about a feisty five-year-old does a great job of showing how awesome girls and boys - with their similarities and differences - are. The book also reclaims that old-time phrase "like a girl" - "throwing like a girl," or "doing maths like a girl" - and turns it into a message of strength and empowerment.
5. "Stephanie's Ponytail" (by Robert Munsch; illustrated by Michael Martchenko and published by Annick Press)
In a world where it sometimes seems so much easier to be like everybody else, there's nothing like a book that reminds girls of how powerful they are just being themselves. "Stephanie's Ponytail" has a witty way of relaying this message, through Stephanie's different ponytail looks each day. Not only does Stephanie fight to maintain her sense of self in the face of copycats, she also stands proud when people tell her that her hair looks "ugly, ugly, ugly."
6. "The Paper Bag Princess" (by Robert Munsch; illustrated by Michael Martchenko and published by Annick Press)
Another gem from the team of Munsch and >Martchenko, there's a reason this book has become a modern-day classic. Princess Elizabeth saves her Prince, not the other way around. And after saving him, she realises he just isn't worth it.
7. "Detective Dot" (by Sophie Deen, published by Bright Little Labs)
Dot is a girl coder on a mission to change the world and make it a better place. Since Dot can talk to everyday objects, from memory chips to footballs (she has a special power), she's perfectly equipped to solve the mysteries of where these objects came from and what they are. Dot goes to some pretty amazing places: tea fields in India, copper mines in Uganda and cotton crops in Uzbekistan, using computer science to solve problems. The books are designed for 7-9 year-olds and are available as hard copies and digital interactive stories.
8. "Grace for President" (by Kelly DiPucchio; illustrated by LeUyen Pham and published by Hyperion Books)
You don't need to be in the USA to appreciate what's happening in the world at the moment: with a female PM imminent in the UK and a female presidential hopeful fighting for the top spot in the US, women are the future of our political landscape. Unfortunately, as Grace notices, there aren't any girls in the top seat yet. This book explains the basics of what it takes to campaign and win a student election, and also breaks down the American electoral system for a lesson in U.S. history.
9."Clara Button and the Wedding Day Surprise" (by Amy de la Haye; illustrated by Emily Sutton and published by V&A Publishing)
It's a reality that lots of little girls love clothes and dressing up, and those girls will love Clara Button, who does girly a little better than the rest. She marches to the beat of her own drummer, dyes her hair pink and turns splodges of hair dye into a funky printed dress to wear to a Hindu wedding. Clara Button is all about embracing individuality - something we love encouraging in the next generation.
10. "My Name is Not Isabella: Just How Big Can a Little Girl Dream?" (by Jennifer Fosberry; illustrated by Mike Litwin and published by Sourcebooks: Jabberwocky)
Isabella uses her imagination to channel some of history's most important, game-changing women, like Rosa Parks and Marie Curie. This book provides a useful introduction to powerful women throughout history, seen through the lens of a strong-spirited little girl.
11. "Eloise" (by Kay Thompson; illustrated by Hilary Knight and published by Simon & Schuster Children's UK)
Everyone's favourite precocious scamp originally appeared in 1955 and has captured our hearts since. The Plaza-dwelling Eloise appeals to children and adults alike - she may be naughty, and undisciplined, but she has more than enough personality to appeal to everyone.
12. "Hello Ruby: Adventures in Coding" (by Linda Liukas and published by Feiwel & Friends)
Part picture book, part activity book, "Hello Ruby" introduces programming concepts to children to help them problem solve. It explains coding in simple language that's appealing and supplemented with online exercises. And yes, that includes designing your own computer and keyboard.
Photo Credit: andreabeaty.com; Simon & Schuster UK; Bright Little Labs; Kelly DiPucchio; V&A Publishing; Simon & Schuster UK; HelloRuby.com; HelloRuby.com (lead image)