When I think about girls in literature, I always think about the influence I have on my own kids. I am a mom to two boys so I don't have a daughter to celebrate girl power with. I believe strongly in teaching my sons about equity and equality when it comes to gender and I am very conscious about words or phrases or messages we send that might lead towards a gender bias. My every hope and dream is that I model for them that girls can do anything boys can do...and maybe even bettter (just kidding!).
Since, I'm not a mom to girls, I thought I would invite my great friend, Colby Sharp (SharpRead) to talk to me about girls in books. I love talking to Colby about books and knew he would have a lot to say about strong girl characters.
JEN: Hi Colby! Thank you for being part of our discussion about girl power in literature!
COLBY: My pleasure. I am a pretty gigantic fan of powerful girl characters in children’s literature.
JEN: As a mom of two boys, I love to read books with strong female characters to them because I know it’s great for my sons to see girls portrayed as independent and curious and intelligent just as much as boys are. I hope to help them value everyone regardless of gender, race, status, etc. Then I started thinking about my own father who raised two girls. He has always believed in us and encouraged us helped us to see our own potential. And that made me think of you because you have three kids and two of them are girls. And, I have to add, your wife is an Iron Man. What comes to mind when you think of your daughters or your wife and girl power in literature?
COLBY: I am very lucky that my girls have such a strong female role models, both in their mom and their two grandmothers. I think that it is important that our young readers see strong characters of multiple genders, race, cultures, and religions. We live in a beautiful melting pot, and our readers need to see that awesome comes in all forms.
JEN: I agree! We need all kinds of role models! I believe each and every one of us can make a difference and that we learn so much from reading about how people struggle and how people succeed. There is such inspiration in seeing the effort and energy it takes to do something great or how someone overcomes a challenge.
This makes me think of Mattie from Hound Dog True because she is so shy and unsure of herself in the beginning of the book but she is a remarkable example of girl power. She fights her own battle and is so brave. Jenni Holm's characters, especially May Amelia and Babymouse, definitely have spunk! It's no secret that you love Jenni's writing, what stands out to you about her girl characters?
COLBY: I love that they are strong and powerful. I wouldn’t mess with Penny, Turtle, or May Amelia. But at the same time I like that they have their imperfections. Nobody is perfect, and I think that it is important for young readers to be able to relate to the faults in the characters they read. Jenni captures this beautifully.
JEN: So true. Nobody is perfect. I think we support each other (as kids or as adults) better when we accept our shortcomings and are open about how we can overcome or manage them. I have always taught my kids to ask for help. When they were little they knew sign language for more, please and help. It's amazing how determined we as people can be to do things on our own but I think it's important to see how much more we can accomplish with help from others or at least some cheerleading from someone who believes in us.
What other strong girl characters come to mind when you think of girl power and what do you admire about them most? Name three...go!
1. Hattie from Hattie Big Sky and Hattie Ever After
I love Hattie’s perseverance and grit.
2. Sarah from Sarah, Plain and Tall
I love how Sarah is different from the stereotypes Anna and Caleb expect from a mother.
3. Claudette from Giants Beware!
Love her spunk.
JEN: Colby, our conversation reminds me of our great discussions about books when we were doing the I-94 Book Club! Thank you so much for sharing your perspective on girl power in literature as a dad of two adorable girls!