5 Empowering Pictures Books For Girls

5 empowering picture books every girl should read! @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Em’s birthday is three days away, and as with all holidays in this house, I made sure to buy her at least one fabulous book that resonates with her age, her sensibilities, and her awesomeness.  I saw Bloom by Doreen Cronin and David Small in a book store months ago, and knew then and there that this was the book for my girl.  It arrived yesterday, and when I read it cover to cover, I discovered something magical, something worth sharing.  Which got me to thinking…I have more than one magical book worth sharing, and there are so many girls who need books like these in their hands.  These are five empowering pictures books to buy your daughter, niece, loved one, even yourself.  These books teach girls more than plot, character, setting.  There are deep, significant messages within them, and those messages are powerful and important for girls of all ages to hear.

5 picture books for girls @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Bloom is the story of a powerful magical fairy who protects her kingdom, but she isn’t frilly or girly or what the king and queen conceive as “magical,” so she leaves the kingdom to live on her own, which is fine by her.  After the kingdom is left to its own devices, the king and queen realize they need Bloom, but she will not return.  Only a young girl named Genevieve, considered to be so ordinary, can persuade Bloom to share her powers, and save the kingdom.

5 picture books for girls @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors? is the true story of Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman doctor in the United States, who defeated the odds and all the naysayers to do what no one thought could be done.  In the face of adversity, she never backed down.  It’s a remarkable story for any young woman, especially one who is interested in nonfiction.

5 picture books for girls @ Rub Some Dirt On It 5 picture books for girls @ Rub Some Dirt On It 5 picture books for girls @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Every little girl will want to be Elizabeth Blackwell when they grow up!

5 picture books for girls @ Rub Some Dirt On It

We gave Little H The Gardener for her third birthday–not because it was necessarily appropriate for her reading level, but because it’s a story that both my girls should grow up reading.  The main character, Lydia Grace, grows up in the years after the Great Depression and has to leave her farm to live with her uncle in the city. She has to be brave, braver than any young reader could probably imagine.

5 picture books for girls @ Rub Some Dirt On It 5 picture books for girls @ Rub Some Dirt On It

The epistolary format makes the difficult subject matter easier for younger readers.  I love this book because of Lydia Grace’s strength in the face of so much hardship, and her continued love of beauty, no matter how dark her surroundings.  It’s a subtle, but critical, reminder to everyone that every cloud has its silver lining.  Lydia Grace’s character is one worth sharing.

5 picture books for girls @ Rub Some Dirt On It

5 picture books for girls @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Oh, Extra Yarn.  This is one of my favorite books that we own.  If you like books illustrated by Jon Klassen (I Want My Hat Back, for example), this book is possibly my favorite yet. Annabelle discovers a magic box of yarn that never runs out, no matter how much she knits.  She lives in a dark and dismal little town, but even in the face of total incredulity and disdain, with a little persistence, a bit of kindness, and some extra yarn, Annabelle makes some big changes.

5 picture books for girls @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Even when the evil Archduke arrives to buy her magical yarn, Annabelle cannot be swayed.  She is a simple, yet badass, character worth emulating and sharing with all the little readers in your life.

5 picture books for girls @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Annabelle is probably one of my favorite characters yet for young readers.  You don’t think she’s going to be as awesome as she is, but just wait for it.  Extra Yarn is a book I cannot recommend enough for readers of all ages.

5 picture books for girls @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Last but not least is The Whisper by Pamela Zagarenski.  Did you notice that I didn’t even comment on the awards these books have won for illustrations or merit, but am focusing solely on my opinion?  Well, there is more than just awesome language in these books.  The illustrations are just remarkable.  We gave this book to the big kids for Christmas this past year, because I just can’t imagine an early reader’s library without it.

5 picture books for girls @ Rub Some Dirt On It

After all the words fall out of the book her beloved teachers loans her on the walk home, the little girl has to imagine all the stories behind the amazing illustrations.  Every page has a line or two to begin the story, then the readers have to finish it, resulting in a different tale every time you read! The clever teacher is a very minor character, but I can only hope my kids have teachers as intuitive as this.

5 picture books for girls @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Without any kind of compensation or affiliate link, I give you my five favorite books for young girls because, along with The Princess In Black, these are stories that every young girl should hear.  I own all these books and truly love them.  These photos are just simple cell phone shots of well-loved pages, not propaganda or what’s hot right now.  For every book like these worth recommending, there are a dozen passive princesses asleep in their towers or awaiting true love’s kiss.  Heroines in picture books are even more important than heroes, if for nothing more than their singularity.  The girls in your life deserve better.  Show them the world is theirs for the taking, the appreciating, and the commanding.  They deserve to see themselves empowered in every story told.

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The Princess In Black

The kids’ school had a literacy spirit week this week, and on the last day they were supposed to dress up as their favorite book character.  As expected, Jax dressed up as Harry Potter, just like he did last Halloween, but Em totally surprised me! I thought for sure she’d love a chance to dress up as Fancy Nancy, but instead, she chose another favorite female character–and one I love!–The Princess in Black!

PicMonkey Collage

The Princess In Black is girly, frilly, and covered in pink from head-to-toe when she is Princess Magnolia, but when the monster alarm rings, she becomes The Princess In Black!  Em owns all three of the books in the series, and let me just say that when she chose to be a badass princess who doesn’t need protecting rather than some lame Disney princess, I couldn’t have been happier!


Plus, the costume is way cooler.

PicMonkey Collage

So proud of you, Em, for doing something different and for wanting to be like somebody that doesn’t need rescuing.  The world is yours, little girl!  Nobody’s going to stop in your way!


PicMonkey Collage

Love my brave and strong (and silly!) Princess In Black!

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An ABC Egg Hunt

I would say one of the hardest things about being a parent to more than one kid is the need to remember that your third kid needs just as much of your time, energy, attention, and patience as your first one (or second, or third…).  Because there are so many people around to entertain her–her days spent with me, afternoons with brother and sister or friends, bedtime with Em–she isn’t the best at playing independently, but she’ll get there.  Her constant need for attention sometimes has the undesired effect of me just throwing up my hands and saying, “Can’t you just go play!?” instead of encouraging me to dream up some fun activity for the two of us.  I have been working on renewing my teaching credential–a process which has kept the blog low on my totem pole of priorities–so I have been even busier than usual, fielding emails and requesting transcripts during time that I used to spend perusing Pinterest for fun literacy activities like I did for Jax or Em (cue the Mommy guilt).  I could have just as easily spent this morning encouraging Little H to keep herself occupied, but with the recognition that both she and my blog were being grossly neglected, I pulled out an old favorite to meet the ever-increasing needs of my very bright three-year-old.

Alphabet Egg Hunt Matching Game @ Rub Some Dirt On It

I have come up with many upcycling uses for last week’s plastic Easter eggs that help my kids with various needs–spelling, counting, rhyming.  Little H already knows her letters, upper case and lower case, but I thought this would be a good exercise in letter sounds.  First I wrote all the upper case and lower case letters on egg halves, like so, and spread them all over our front deck.  Hooray for a warm spring day!

Alphabet Letter Matching Game @ Rub Some Dirt On It IMG_6452

Then she and I hung out, matching letters, matching colors, talking and smiling.  Since she does already know her letters, we focused on the sounds they make.  She would find a letter, I’d point out what color it is so she could find the match, then we should brought it to me she’d tell me what sound the letter makes.

Alphabet Egg Hunt @ Rub Some Dirt On It Alphabet Egg Hunt @ Rub Some Dirt On It

For a three-year-old, she’s one smart cookie, my H.

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Last kids deserve all the love and enrichment and attention as the first ones.  I’m lucky enough to be home with her, and I need to make every day matter, in big ways or small.


 It’s good for both of us.

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Silver Bells Memory Game

Any excuse to buy candy at the holidays, right?

Silver Bells Memory Game @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Silver Bells Memory Game!

I found this game years ago on Pinterest here, and I have always tried to remember not to eat the entire bag of silver Hershey Kisses before I had a chance to play it.  Lo and behold, this was the year!  All it took was to play the game the second we got home from the store, and we had success!  Here’s how you play:

I wrote matching upper and lower case letters on the bottom of our “silver bells,” to spell out the letters in the kids’ names.  You could also do the words “Christmas” or “Happy New Year” if you are so inclined.  The goal is to choose a “bell,” then find its corresponding upper or lower case letter, remembering which letters are where, as in the game Memory.

Silver Bells Memory Game @ Rub Some Dirt On It Silver Bells Memory Game @ Rub Some Dirt On It

They’re so cute! I must eat them!

My original intention was to play with Little H to help her letter recognition (sugar with a dash of literacy!) but she was incapable of restraining herself from eating the candy.  So, like Cindy Lou Who, I gave her a treat, patted her head, and sent her on her merry way.

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The big kids were much  more patient since they know the drill.  Do whatever crazy thing Mom asks for her blog, allow her to take really random photographs of us and the things we are playing with, then get rewarded with candy.  They’re savvy, those school-aged kids.

Whether they initially thought it was silly or not, they both had a lot of fun playing the game,  matching the upper and lower case letters together, and spelling out words.  They especially liked finding the letters of their names.

Silver Bells Memory Game @ Rub Some Dirt On It IMG_2801 Silver Bells Memory Game @ Rub Some Dirt On It Silver Bells Memory Game @ Rub Some Dirt On It Silver Bells Memory Game @ Rub Some Dirt On It

This holiday season I condone tricking kids into learning, one kiss at a time!

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Book Worms

With summer here and vacation half over, our schedules are way more lax than I have allowed in summers past.  I now realize Little H can skip her nap and all hell will not break loose, and am confident that if the big kids watch an extra half hour of TV while I get some work done, it will all come out in the wash when we have one of those bustling days when they don’t watch TV at all.  Also, as I am looking over my photos from the past month, I realize that I see a pattern emerging.  My house in infested with Book Worms, even the less common paternal version, Daddy Book Worm.  It’s clear that although I am being less stringent about our exact allocation of reading every day, I needn’t worry.  Everyone in this house loves a good book.

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 Note: not pictured, Mommy Book Worm, Patient Zero with the book-loving bug.  No need to worry; she is enjoying many good reads this summer as well!  She just loves photographing her little family and their love of books!

I love a carefree summer where, although there are MANY things I must nag my family about, reading is not one of them!

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Clothespin Literacy Games

Oh, clothespins with letters written on them.  How I have taken advantage of you!  And now with three kids, the benefits of these nifty little letters are that much more impressive–teamwork, literacy, fine motor skills–but most of all, watching the big kids help Little H and all of them having to work together to build words and share (since there is only one clothespin per letter).  I think I’m going to start giving packages of alphabet clothespins and flashcards to friends as baby shower gifts–seriously.  It’s a gift that keeps on giving!

So without further ado, watch my kids have a blast clipping letters to flashcards, sounding out words and unknowingly working on their phonemic awareness as they go!  If you need some ideas on how to make a set of your own and what to do with them, just click here and check out some of our past clothespin fun!  There is even a set of spring sight words just waiting to be printed out.

Clothespin Literacy Fun @ Rub Some Dirt On It Clothespin Literacy Fun @ Rub Some Dirt On It Clothespin Literacy Fun @ Rub Some Dirt On It

My favorite part was watching Little H as these letters that she knows and loves to point out to me literally came together to form words before her eyes.  She was so excited to participate (so thrilled, in fact, she may have broken a clothespin or two).  It’s okay, Little H.  I get overexcited about reading, too.

Clothespin Literacy Fun @ Rub Some Dirt On It Clothespin Literacy Fun @ Rub Some Dirt On It Clothespin Literacy Fun @ Rub Some Dirt On It Clothespin Literacy Fun @ Rub Some Dirt On It

And even though we have done this a dozen times, Jax and Em never tire of it either.  I think it’s because every time they are more confident about their power to read (to quote Super Why) and they can step into the role of teacher (Jax to Em and Em to Little H).  You can never underestimate the power of confidence, especially in a burgeoning reader.

Clothespin Literacy Fun @ Rub Some Dirt On It IMG_9982

And the power of an activity that keeps kids happy, busy, and learning! Everybody wins!

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Step, Hop & Read!

After rereading my 15 awesome literacy ideas I shared last month, I knew that there were definitely one or two that could help Em with some sight words that are causing her a bit of trouble.  The, there, then, they all seem to blend together, as do where, when, and what.  I know she just sees the first two letters and takes a guess.  I thought maybe doing a little fun sight word practice–with a splash of moving around–might motivate her to remember a word or two.  So we took an old favorite literacy activity and improved it, and created Step, Hop, Read!

Step, Hop, Read @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Instead of just drilling Em on sight words, I find it’s much more effective to get her body involved.  So I took those tricky words and wrote them on construction paper hearts (since we were still excited about Valentine’s Day).  Then I also wrote the alphabet so Little H could get in on the fun.

Step, Hop, Read! @ Rub Some Dirt On It

We scattered them across the floor, and I’d call out a letter for Little H and a word for Em, then tell them how to get there.  Hop to the letter M!  Skip to the word “where”!  The gross motor element really made them laugh and encouraged them to play together and for longer than I would have thought.

IMG_5983 Step, Hop, Read! @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Then they’d wait on their word or letter for the next instructions.  Learning patience is a great skill for this age, too!

Em was happy to help her sister when she needed a helping hand.

Step, Hop, Read! @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Step, Hop, Read! @ Rub Some Dirt On It

But then Little H made the predicable move of stealing all of the purple hearts, regardless of what was written on them, because purple is her favorite.  When she started hoarding the hearts, I knew the game was over.  Attention span spent.  Back to H’s favorite pastime–sorting.

Step, Hop, Read! @ Rub Some Dirt On It


I was finally able to extricate the words from Little H and left her to happily organize her heart alphabet.  Em and I gave her sight words one last go.


This time, playing hopscotch!  She would yell the word and then hop over them.

Step, Hop, Read! @ Rub Some Dirt On It Step, Hop, Read! @ Rub Some Dirt On It

We love to read, and jump, and skip, and play, and it shows!


Now it’s your turn to get reading.  Hop to it!

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