Women’s History Books for Elementary Students
Every March, we celebrate the contributions women have made. Below, we’ve provided backgrounds about notable women across disciplines, plus Women’s History Month books for elementary students to help celebrate the month. We’ve broken down our list into three categories of women throughout history.
Women Who Have Shaped Literature
Reading about diverse cultures and experiences allows us to develop empathy for others who are different from ourselves. The women below invited others into their worlds through their literature.
1. Anne Frank
German-born Jewish diarist Anne Frank (1929–1945), along with her family and four others, spent over two years hiding in an Amsterdam attic during World War II due to the German occupation of the Netherlands. During that time, she kept a diary, which was published by her father after the war and later translated into around 70 languages.
Book: Anne Frank’s Story: Her Life Retold for Children, Grades 4–5
Anne Frank’s Story: Her Life Retold for Children discusses Frank’s life before and after she and the others in hiding were captured. Additionally, the book includes a wealth of details about life during that period for Jews, plus details about the other characters besides Anne Frank. Students can use our timeline graphic organizer to note key dates of Frank’s life discussed in the book.
2. Emily Dickinson
Emily Dickinson (1830–1886) lived most of her life in isolation. However, she was a prolific American poet who wrote almost 1,800 poems even though only ten were published during her lifetime.
Book: Poetry for Kids: Emily Dickinson, Grades 3–5
Poetry for Kids: Emily Dickinson features famous Dickinson poems, including “I’m Nobody! Who Are You?” “A Bird, Came Down the Walk,” and “Hope Is the Thing with Feathers.” The book includes illustrations and introduces the poet to young readers. Students can analyze their favorite poems and determine more about Dickinson, her view of the world, and her life through her words.
3. Jacqueline Woodson
Black American author Jacqueline Woodson (1963–) is well-known for her Newbery Honor-winning title Brown Girl Dreaming. She was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2020 and has written 30 books for children and adults.
Book: The Day You Begin, Grades K–3
The picture book The Day You Begin describes moments that we all can relate to—times when we might feel different than others around us. But there are also moments we can connect with others too. After reading this book, students can pair up and complete a Venn diagram. Each side should contain information about only one student—traits and details about their lives. The overlapping portion of the graphic organizer can contain features that both students share.
4. Pam Muñoz Ryan
Mexican American author Pam Muñoz Ryan (1951–) has written over 40 books for children and young adults. She has won many prizes, including the Newbery Award and the National Education Association’s Civil and Human Rights Award.
Book: Esperanza Rising, Grade 5
The historical fiction novel Esperanza Rising shares the story of Esperanza, a wealthy girl who starts her life off in Mexico but flees to a Mexican farm labor camp in California with her mother after her father’s death during the Great Depression. Students can use a T-Chart to organize events in Esperanza’s life before and after she immigrated to the United States.
Life before Immigration
Life after Immigration
Life before Immigration
Life after Immigration
Ask students: how do you think Esperanza changed after immigrating to the United States? Then, have students think about an experience in their lives that changed them and have them write a reflective narrative.
Teaching the upper grades? Explore this resource from Into Literature that highlights women’s perspectives and contributions to literature—with engaging stories and thematic pairings.
Women Who Have Impacted STEM
Seeing women succeed in STEM can inspire others to do the same. The women below made significant impacts in fields overly represented by men.
1. Amelia Earhart
American aviator Amelia Earhart (1897–1937) blazed a trail in the aviation space. She was the first woman and the second pilot to fly solo nonstop across the Atlantic.
Book: Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart, Grades 3–5
Amelia Lost switches back and forth between the search for Earhart and events in her life. While alive, Earhart was incredibly popular and often appeared in the papers. Ask students to think about how we consume news about famous people today (through social media, news sites, or videos). Then, after reading about Earhart’s life, have students choose an event from her life and write about it.
First, instruct students to choose a media outlet; then, have them identify an event that happened in Earhart’s life discussed in the book and write about it as if it would appear in the media outlet of their choice. Facilitate a discussion not just about what they wrote but about why they chose the writing form they did and how their writing would change if it were to appear in a different media outlet.
2. Dr. Wangari Maathai
Kenyan environmentalist Dr. Wangari Maathai (1940–2011) was the first African woman to receive a Nobel Prize, in her case for her contributions to sustainable development, democracy, and peace. She’s celebrated globally for her advocacy for human rights and environmental conservation.
Book: Planting the Trees of Kenya, Grades K–3
Planting the Trees of Kenya discusses the inspiring story of Dr. Maathai, the founder of The Green Belt Movement. Dr. Maathai noticed in problem in her community and found a solution that required teamwork. Have students think of problems in their community and brainstorm ways residents can work together to solve those problems. For example, perhaps littering in parks is a major issue in their community. What are ways they can help resolve this issue?
3. Marie Curie
Polish-French scientist Maria Skłodowska Curie (1867–1934) was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize for physics and the first person to win two Nobel Prizes; she won her second prize in chemistry. She’s recognized for discovering the elements radium and polonium; the element curium was named after Curie and her husband, Pierre.
Book: The Story of Marie Curie, Grades 3–4
The Story of Marie Curie describes Curie’s life—from her childhood to when she became a scientist. The book weaves in various scientific terms; students can familiarize themselves with these words and even create a journal with the definitions and illustrations.
4. Mary Golda Ross
Engineer Mary Golda Ross (1908–2008), a member of the Cherokee Nation, is considered the first known Native American aerospace engineer. She was a member of the top-secret Skunk Works program at Lockheed, where she was involved with cutting-edge research during the Space Race.
Book: Classified: The Secret Career of Mary Golda Ross, Cherokee Aerospace Engineer, Grades 2–5
Classified: The Secret Career of Mary Golda Ross discusses Cherokee values, such as gaining skills in all areas of life, working cooperatively with others, remaining humble, and helping to ensure equal education and opportunity for all, and weaves them throughout the book to display how these values inspired Ross to excel in learning and eventually become an aerospace engineer. Discuss how values can help us live focused and meaningful lives and help students identify any values they’ve been taught to honor, such as respect for others and honesty.
Download our posters and read more about famous women who have impacted science.
Women Who Have Made a Stand
Women worldwide have continuously worked to establish better conditions for all. The women below took the world by storm because they strove to make it a better place for everyone.
1. Anna May Wong
Actress Anna May Wong (1905–1961) was the first Chinese American film star in Hollywood. She appeared in over 60 movies and used her fame to protest racism in Hollywood.
Book: Shining Star: The Anna May Wong Story, Grades 1–2
Shining Star: The Anna May Wong Story discusses the life of Wong, from childhood to international stardom, her relationship with her father, and her fight for more authentic images of Asians onscreen. As a child, Wong watched movies as escapism from school bullies and her work at her family’s laundry. Wong eventually fulfilled her dream of becoming a film star. Start a discussion:
- What do you like to do for fun?
- What goals do you have in life?
- How do you think you can accomplish your goals?
2. Malala Yousafzai
Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai (1997–), the youngest Nobel Prize laureate, is recognized for her fight for equality in education. TIME magazine featured her multiple times as one of the most influential people globally.
Book: Malala: My Story of Standing Up for Girls’ Rights, Grades 1–5
Malala: My Story of Standing Up for Girls’ Rights delves into her fight for the right of girls to obtain an education. Yousafzai shares intimate details about her life that might make her relatable to other young people, such as her hobbies and talents. Have students independently think of traits that describe Yousafzai. Then have them write down their traits as a list. Now facilitate a discussion with the whole class about how others view Yousafzai similarly and differently from each other.
3. Ruby Bridges
Civil rights activist Ruby Bridges (1954–) was the first Black American student to attend a formerly segregated school. She established the Ruby Bridges Foundation to inspire young people to unify their communities.
Book: I Am Ruby Bridges, Grades Pre-K–3
I Am Ruby Bridges is told from the perspective of her six-year-old self. Start a discussion with the following questions:
- Place yourself in her shoes. How would you react if encountering similar situations that she faced in the book?
- Think about a challenging situation you’ve faced. How did you react, and what helped you remain as brave as Ruby Bridges?
4. Sonia Sotomayor
Lawyer and jurist Sonia Sotomayor (1954–) broke barriers when she became the first Hispanic and third woman appointed to the Supreme Court. She’s vocal about issues concerning race, ethnicity, gender, and criminal justice reform.
Book: Just Ask!: Be Different, Be Brave, Be You, Grades Pre-K–3
Sotomayor was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at a young age; Just Ask! celebrates children of all ages with different abilities. In the book, the children introduce themselves and their disability, challenge, or what makes them different; they explain how they might interact with those around them and their environments.
Just Ask! teaches the importance of asking others about themselves. Sotomayor and the children in the book ask questions that can lead to a discussion. Choose any of the questions and use our social and emotional anchor charts for early primary and primary students that offer classroom discussion support.
Book: Turning Pages: My Life Story, Grades Pre-K–3
Another book option is Turning Pages: My Life Story, where Sotomayor writes about her love of books and how they inspired her throughout her life. Ask students: what are some of your favorite books? How have these books and their characters inspired you?
Share Your Favorite Women’s History Month Books
What literature about women do you like to use in your classroom? Please share your favorite women’s history books for elementary students on Twitter (@HMHCo) or Facebook or email us at email@example.com.
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