by Cheyenne Mathews
Growing up as a girl, it is important be provided with strong female role models and examples of the kind of woman they could become, and there is no better way to do this than through books. In the list below, are five books I think every girl should read before she graduates and leaves home to be on her own. With the exception of one nonfiction book, all of the books on the list are tales led by strong female characters that have helped me grow and could help other girls branch out and figure out who they are and could be.
1. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith has been called a ‘modern classic’ which is a very fitting description. ‘Tree’ follows the Nolan family through the eyes of the oldest child Francie. Francie wants to be a writer. She sees the story and the drama in things that most people just glaze over and forget. Since this novel is semi-autobiographical, we are swept along in the journey of growing up in the early 20th century. Times were hard in America. For the Nolans, meals were not always easy to come by, especially with a charismatic– but alcoholic– father. This is a wonderful novel, filled with multiple facets of life in Brooklyn at the time.
This book follows Francie as she grows up, and as I young reader, I benefited from learning how Francie changed overtime. I read this book right before graduating high school, and I found that despite the generational divide, the things Francie was going through were very similar to the things I was experiencing.
2. How to Win Friends and Influence People for Teen Girls
Everyone, especially the teenage girl, could benefit from reading this book about how to win friends and influence people. Making friends and advocating your ideas can be hard if you don’t know how to frame your perspective in a way that other people can relate to. This book, presented by Donna Dale Carnegie, walks teenage girls through some very simple, but effective, techniques to handle everyday life interactions in a positive and productive manner.
3. Two Old Women
Two Old Women by Velma Wallis is a little known Athabascan legend based off the Gwich’in tribe. This story follows a year in the life of two old women. These women are weak and constantly complain about old aches and pains. During a very harsh winter, the tribe comes to the tough decision to abandon these women in order to conserve their resources and energy. The two old women are left for dead but instead of laying down and submitting to their fate, they decide to persevere and survive. I think this short tale is good for a growing girl to learn because it demonstrates how challenges always arise but when they do there is always the option to be like these two old women and persevere.
4. Anne of Green Gables (Anne of Green Gables, #1)
Anne of Green Gables was a personal favorite of mine, because I saw the sassy little Anne as someone I could look up to. Anne faces small challenges that all girls face, and even in the simplest example of boys making fun of her red hair, she shows that you can overcome and learn from those experiences. Anne of Green Gables is a classic tale of growing up and a good example of a strong female lead. Readers who love Anne should also check out Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women for some more strong female leads with similar narrative styles.
5. The Bean Trees (Greer Family, #1)
My final pick for highly recommended books for growing girls is The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver. Kingsolver is one of my favorite authors so one of her books had to make my top five list. The Bean Trees, like all of the other books on this list, is lead by a strong female character who faces the challenge of an unexpectedly adopting a child straight after finishing high school. Even though this young female protagonist never expected to care for someone else’s baby, she decides to use her innate compassion and rise to the challenge of raising a left behind baby. This is another good book for seniors in high school to read right before graduation because it puts the outside ‘real world’ in perspective and shows you how your priorities in life change.
I have always loved reading, and I think the person I am today has been inspired by everything I read in my early, formative years. I think these five reads combine to make a good starter package for any young, curious female mind who wants to read more about the world through the eyes of strong women.
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