Our top picks of books for children and teens starring Mighty Girls who love to read!
For 50 years, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization has celebrated International Literacy Day. On their Literacy Day web page UNESCO emphasizes why literacy is so important: it is “the foundation of all learning... a human right, a tool of personal empowerment and a means for social and human development.”
To mark International Literacy Day, A Mighty Girl has put together a collection of our favorite books about reading, libraries, and literacy featuring Mighty Girl characters. These books celebrate the love of reading, the value that books bring to our lives, and the incredible joy and pride that comes with learning this critical skill — as well as the haven of all book lovers, the local library! Along with numerous recommendations for children and teens, we also highlight a number of books for parents offering tips and strategies to help foster your children's love of reading and information on how to support those children that might be struggling.
Book Lovers: Books, Libraries, and Literacy
Whether these Mighty Girls are just learning to read or are passing on their love of reading to others, each of these books celebrates the joy and connection to others that books can bring.
Special trips to the library are often the spark that starts a love of reading! Tuesdays are library days for Lola and her mother, and every moment is exciting, from packing her backpack with books to return, to storytime and songs, to picking the perfect new story for Mommy to read at night. The simple text and bright illustrations follow this library-loving little girl every step of the way. Fans of Lola can also follow her as she journeys towards being an independent reader in Lola Loves Stories and Lola Reads to Leo.
Naoko Stoop's beloved character Red Knit Cap Girl inspires a community project in this story when she leaves her book in a hollow tree, saying "I will keep my book in this nook so everyone can read it." Soon, other animals are adding their own books — or contributing in other ways, like when Beaver gnaws a shelf or when the sheep bring warm blankets for the readers. The final touch is a special sign for the new library, a reminder that these books are for everyone to use. This charming story captures the power of libraries not just for encouraging literacy, but also as gathering places for friends and neighbors.
Children may be amazed to learn that even many adults face struggles with literacy. Anna and Grandma have been huddled together for ages, planning a special surprise for Daddy’s birthday. When the big day finally comes, he thinks he’s received all his presents... until Grandma stands up and reads him a story for the very first time, thanks to the dedication and support of her very proud granddaughter! This lovely story is a great way to introduce kids not only to the value of working for literacy, but also to the idea that illiteracy can exist in surprising places, even among seemingly all-knowing adults.
When children first start to learn the power of letters and words, it can really seem like magic! In this book, Alice discovers magic in her alphabet cereal — the letters in her spoon can make words! With her magic spoon and a little word magic, Alice helps a little boy get home, turning an ocean into a canoe and making a horse when they reach the shore. A lovely introduction to wordplay and anagrams, the book ends with a note that teaches kids how to collect letters from newspapers and magazines and become Word Wizards themselves!
Librarians can be heroes for literacy, but the librarian in this book takes that heroism to new heights! Lil has loved books since she was born, so nobody’s surprised when she grows up to be a librarian. She even gets the whole town — who used to sit staring at the TV all day — interested in reading. But when Bust ‘Em Up Bill and his motorcycle gang roar into town, everyone is worried: Bill loves TV and hates books. What will happen when the motorcycles are parked in the bookmobile’s spot? Will Lil meet her match? Or will she end up with a brand new assistant librarian? The tongue-in-cheek story and hilarious illustrations are sure to make this a favorite tall tale.
Sometimes, interruptions are the biggest obstacle for an eager young reader! In this book, the main character realizes it’s hard to read when you’re surrounded by elephants, ibises, monkeys, and lions. She's surprised, scared, amused — and exasperated that her precious time with her book keeps getting interrupted. But when the animals want to take a turn with a book, she knows just how to show them how she feels — turnaround is fair play, after all! This fun book will have kids giggling, and parents will love that a portion of the proceeds goes to fund community and school libraries in Mozambique.
At first, only the largest city centers could have a library, so in the 1930s, a dedicated group called the Pack Horse Librarians brought books to people in isolated areas of the US. Cal lives in the Appalachian mountains, and doesn’t see the point of books. He’s got nothing but disdain for his sister, Lark, who’d avoid real work to read books all day if she could. But when That Book Woman comes, not just in good weather, but in rain and snow and wind, riding up the mountain over dangerous and difficult terrain just to bring books, Cal figures that if she is willing to go through all that, there must be a lot more to books than he sees. This story is a fitting tribute to the determination of the Pack Horse Librarians to bring literacy to every corner of their country.
In this gorgeously illustrated picture book, based loosely on the author's experience of moving from Xalapa, Mexico with her American husband and their infant son to San Francisco in 1994, a woman travels with her son to the United States. There, she discovers an oasis of hope: the public library. Book by book, she untangles the language of this strange new land, and learns to make a home within it, observing that at the library: “We learned to read,/ to speak,/ to write,/ and/ to make/ our voices heard.” Five-time Pura Belpré Award winner Yuyi Morales uses poetic language and elegant illustrations to capture both an immigration journey and the importance of libraries as a welcoming home for new members of a community.
Madeline really does not like to read — not at all. But she really wants a gold star from her teacher, and gold stars are only for kids who can read the words out loud. Then Madeline meets Bonnie, a library dog, who's patient and quiet and never minds if Madeline needs a few minutes to figure out a word. With Bonnie's help, Madeline realizes that she doesn't like reading because she finds it hard — but that with the right supportive friend, one who gives her the space to go slow when she needs to, she can develop both her reading skills and her love of the written word. Fans of Madeline (and Bonnie) will also enjoy the sequel, Madeline Finn and the Shelter Dog.
Part of the magic of books is how they can help us imagine amazing worlds. Imaginative, purple-haired Isabella is diving into the pages of classic children’s books. Will she host a tea party in Wonderland or travel through Oz? Will she be Peter Pan or Goldilocks? Wherever she goes, you can bet she’ll be the star! Notes at the end introduce kids to the classic stories these characters come from. And fans of Isabella can find more adventures in My Name Is Not Isabella: Just How Big Can A Little Girl Dream?, which explores historical figures, and Isabella: Girl on the Go, which explores famous places around the world.
Elizabeth Brown was a book-loving girl; where other kids loved skating or playing with dolls, she "learned to read quite early / and at an incredible rate." As she grows, Elizabeth amasses a beautiful collection of books... until one day, as an old woman, she realizes that her books are starting to block the door and she is literally out of space! What's a book lover to do? Why, start her own public library! This funny tribute to the joy that reading can provide — not just in childhood, but through our whole lives — is accompanied by clever illustrations full of intriguing detail that ensure kids will want to read this book again and again.
A little girl sails her raft across a sea of words, arriving at the house of a small boy and calling him away on an adventure. Through forests of fairy tales and across mountains of make-believe, the two travel together on a fantastical journey that unlocks the boy's imagination. Now a lifetime of magic and adventure lies ahead of him... but who will be next? Combining elegant images by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston's typographical landscapes shaped from excerpts of children's classics and lullabies, A Child of Books is a stunning prose poem on the rewards of reading and sharing stories — an immersive and unforgettable reading experience that readers will want to pass on to others.
Most people who love reading have treasured a particular book; this unique story looks at that special relationship from the book’s perspective. A brand new book arrives in the library, and at first it rarely even spends a day on the shelf. But as the years goes by and new books arrive, eventually the book is lonely and forgotten. But then one little girl rediscovers the lonely book, reading it every night for the whole week and even taking it to show and tell! When the book is returned, though, it’s accidentally sent to the basement with other faded books for the book sale. How will the book ever find a home now? Fortunately, on the day of the sale, there is still a happily ever after for both book and girl. This is the perfect story for anyone who has ever cherished a favorite book.
There's a plot afoot: a villain is planning to destroy every book in the world! Even the world's best secret agents can't stop Doctor Glockenspiel and end up captured by his henchmen. But mysterious things are happening: a dissatisfied henchman gets a book called Your Boss Can't Do That from a plumber, and one of the agents finds a copy of How to Pick Locks in a bowl... Of course, it's all the work of Lyric McKerrigan, the Secret Librarian who is here to save the day! This clever mash-up of comic book-style hero and devoted reader is full of action, even as it reminds young readers about the power of having the right book at the right time.
This beautiful book features a real-life librarian: Pura Belpré, the first Puerto Rican woman hired by the New York Public Library system. Hildamar and Santiago have just arrived in New York, and find their new home cold and unwelcoming. Their beloved Three Kings Day holiday is approaching; how can they celebrate it here? But when Belpré comes to their classroom, she shows them that libraries are open to young and old, English- and Spanish-speakers alike. Soon, the library is not just a place of learning for Hildamar and her cousin, but also a place of community and friendship. For another picture book about Belpré, check out Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré for ages 5 to 9.
RoseAleta Laurell was eager to start her new job at the Dr. Eugene Clark Library in Lockhart, Texas — but when she got there, she was shocked to find out that the library had no children's section! So she came up with a bold plan: for a week, she would work and live on the roof as a fundraiser. Living on the roof for seven days poses big challenges, from how to get up there to making it through a dangerous storm, but when the librarian came down, she had raised $39,000 with the help of an eager, engaged community. This fun true story, accented by cartoonish illustrations, is sure to delight kids with the tale of just how far librarians will go to make sure children are welcome.
This simple process of reading, which so many of us take for granted, is a tremendously complicated feat — and when a child faces a challenge like dyslexia, words sometimes become a frustrating adversary. Trisha can’t wait to go to school and learn to read — until the words are just a jumble on the page, no matter how hard she tries. Her classmates call her “dummy” and it’s not long before she believes them; after all, no one else is struggling this much just to read a simple book. Fortunately, the new teacher, Mister Falker, not only recognizes her artistic talent, but also figures out why Trisha finds reading so hard. With a little special help, Trisha finally knows the joy of reading all by herself. This is a touching story of the impact a dedicated teacher can make, especially for a student with extra hurdles to overcome.
For kids who grew up going to the children’s room at their local library, it will astound them to hear that there was a time that reading wasn’t considered important for children. In this picture book biography of Anne Carroll Moore, kids will learn the story of the woman who created the first children’s library. Her children’s room at the New York Public Library, with its bright colors, comfortable seating, and borrowing privileges for books written for children, became the model for children’s library programs everywhere. This fascinating biography celebrates the woman whose work helped millions of children develop a love of reading.
As a little girl runs home with a new book from school, all the words go tumbling out of the book! But when she stares, perplexed, at pages full of nothing but pictures, she hears a whisper that tells her to imagine her own words. Tentatively at first, but emboldened by the voice's assurance that there are no rules, the girl decides to give it a try and discovers the power of imagination and storytelling. Zagarenski, a two-time Caldecott Honor artist, makes an impressive debut as an author in this contemplative and beautifully-illustrated tale.
In this clever book log, the bookworm "eats" its way through the pages as you read! Every time you finish a story, your Mighty Girl gets to fill out a journal page with details like the title, the author, and their rating of the book, as well as whether someone read the book to them or they read it themselves. Then they tear off a perforated corner and watch the bookworm crawl through their reading log! It's a fun way to get kids eager to read, and makes a great keepsake to show how far their reading skills have come.
Stella is so crazy about books that her farmer pa says, "you need your own library to hold those books" — and he builds her one! At first, people are a bit skeptical of The Mermaid's Purse library, but slowly, it becomes a beloved community institution. So when a tornado destroys both the library and Stella's precious books, all of the neighbors get together to help. Based on the life of beloved author-illustrator Patricia Polacco's grandmother, this book celebrates a love of reading and the power of a community coming together to support one another in times of need.
Polly Diamond loves reading — and writing her own stories — but right now her life is busy with the upcoming arrival of a new sibling. Then, a blank journal shows up... and Polly discovers that whatever she writes in it happens in real life. It's not long before Polly experiments with turning herself invisible — and turning her new little sister into a banana. But as every author knows, if you don't choose your words carefully, your meaning isn't clear, and when the book's magic gets a little too literal, Polly has to do some very careful writing to resolve the problem. This clever early chapter book celebrates the day to day magic of storytelling.
In Yasmin's Indian neighborhood, there's one place to go if you want the perfect book: Book Uncle's little library stand! The retired teacher has set up a free lending library, and he loves helping readers find a fascinating tale. But as everyone is talking about the upcoming mayoral election, Yasmin makes a horrifying discovery: Book Uncle is being forced to close down because he can't afford a permit. Just like that, Yasmin's interest turns from books to activism, and soon she and her friends are running a grassroots campaign to get Book Uncle back up and running. This unique story combines the joy of reading and friendship with the power of communities coming together, and remind young readers that they too have the ability to make change.
Clever little Matilda is a precocious reader, but her parents don't appreciate books or their daughter. when she starts school, her teacher Miss Honey encourages Matilda's remarkable gifts — including one that defies all expectation. But with the bullying headmistress Miss Trunchbull out to force Matilda into submission, and her uncaring parents refusing to acknowledge their daughter's talents, how will Matilda ever get to enjoy the books and learning she loves? This modern classic Mighty Girl story has delighted generations of children with its intelligent, book-loving main character.
Bookmobiles have brought libraries and literacy to thousands of rural residents — but did you know that the first Book Wagon was created by a woman? Mary Lemist Titcomb worked for the Washington County Free Library in Maryland, and knew that people who lived outside of town struggled to access the books she had to offer. So she started a horse-drawn Book Wagon that would go to them! The idea caught on, and by 1922 the idea of a mobile library was widespread. This biography recognizes the forward-thinking woman who knew that distance should be no obstacle to literacy.
When 12-year-old June's parents decide one of the books from her school library is inappropriate, they pressure the administration of the school into suspending the librarian and start pulling books off the shelves. June normally follows the rules, but she knows this is wrong, even if her crush and her best friend want her to let it go. When she discovers a Little Free Library on her walk to school, she's inspired to create her own in an abandoned locker, and she discovers many students agree with her, too. June didn't expect to lead a movement, but she might just be able to save both her beloved librarian and her classmates' right to read. This fun and empowering book encourages kids to ask questions about censorship and recognize their own power to act.
In 2003, Alia Muhammad Baker was the chief librarian of the Central Library in Basra, Iraq, and she was facing a potential tragedy: war was coming, and with it, the possibility of losing thousands of volumes that tell Iraqi history and culture. So she took a daring step: with the help of her community, Baker smuggled over 30,000 irreplaceable books out of the library to safety. Kids will be inspired by this graphic novel telling of this inspiring true-life act of heroism. For another telling of this story for younger readers, check out The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq for ages 5 to 10.
Amy Anne considers herself shy, but when she learns that her favorite book in the whole world, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, has been banned from the library, she decides it's time to find her courage! So she recruits her friends to make their point: they start a secret banned books library in her locker and even make arguments why every single book in library should also be banned. It turns out that when Amy Anne finds a cause that's important to her, she's ready to take on the world! Middle grade readers will laugh and cheer as they read this stirring defense against censorship.
13-year-old Lora has made up her mind: she's going to join Castro's army of literacy teachers, no matter what her parents think. To her parents, the idea is crazy; Lora has never even been outside of Havana! But with backup from her abuela, Lora points out that her parents have always told her to share with those in need. Life as a brigadista is more difficult than Lora expected, especially with unrest and possibly even war on the horizon. Despite it all, Lora is determined to be part of something bigger than herself. Set in 1961, this story sheds light on a little-known aspect of Castro's Cuba, and includes an author's note about Cuban history.
Amal dreams of being a teacher, but as the oldest daughter in her Pakistani family, she has to stay home from school to care for her siblings. She plans to find other ways to continue her studies, but an accidental run-in with the son of the village's corrupt landlord turns her life upside down: she is forced into indentured servitude at his estate to pay off her family's debt. But Amal's ability to read provides her with a shocking — and dangerous — opportunity to expose the Khan family's corruption. This powerful novel with a courageous and intelligent main character celebrates how literacy can empower an individual — or a community — to take control of their lives.
Fefa has dyslexia — or as her Cuban doctor in 1912 calls it, word-blindness — and she’s been told she’ll never read or write. She’s still determined to try, but every time she does, the words jumble and scramble around the page. But Fefa’s mother has an idea: she gives her daughter an empty book and says, “Think of it as a garden.” Soon Fefa is cautiously planting words on the pages, one here, then a few more there. With every day there are more words — and Fefa is more confident. And when Fefa’s family needs help, Fefa’s wild book will be the key to rescuing them all. A beautiful mix of history, mythology, and one child’s personal struggle, this book captures the joy of reading and writing in a totally unique way.
Ally is clever — she knows that, if she's enough of a disruption in class, no one will figure out just how little she can read. But how can she be smart if she can't even read the simplest things? Her newest teacher, Mr. Daniels, seems to see past her brash, troublemaking exterior, and even puts a name to her reading problems: dyslexia. Lynda Mullaly Hunt provides a compassionate look at life with a learning disability, with an ending that's realistic: Ally's happy ending will involve small changes and a lot of hard work! Her reminder that great minds don't always think alike — and that struggles with literacy can affect surprising aspects of a person's life — will provide Mighty Girls with dyslexia with hope, and encourage those without similar struggles to have empathy for the challenges they pose.
The most important lesson we can teach is exactly why literacy is so critical — and why it’s so common for those who want to oppress people to deny education. Memer lives in Ansul, a town that was once full of libraries and schools. But when the conquerors claimed Ansul long ago, they declared reading and writing punishable by death. Now, the only place with a few remaining — carefully hidden — books is Oracle House, which most people consider haunted by demons. For Memer, though, it’s a sanctuary, the only safe place she knows. Then, when an Uplander poet arrives, everything Memer knows is turned upside down. Can the knowledge Orrec offers be the key to helping the people of Ansul be brave enough to rebel? Perhaps reading really is just as dangerous as everyone thinks — but for the conquerors, not the conquered.
Reading can also be an escape at a time that the world is scary or confusing. Liesel is a foster child living outside Munich in the midst of World War II Germany. She’s eking out survival by stealing what she can. But one day she steals a book, and after her foster father reads it to her, her mind is opened to a vast, new world — one that helps her manage the fear and grief she’s living with every day. Soon she is determined to learn to read herself...and share her stolen words with her neighbors, her friends, and the Jewish refugee hiding in the family’s basement. Liesel’s personal love of reading, even when facing the most desperate of times, illuminates books for what they truly are: treasure.
When 14-year-old Dita is sent to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, she is selected for the propaganda 'family camp,' a front to convince the Red Cross that the camp is just for internment, not murder. After one of the prisoners sets up a secret school, he entrusts Dita with the job of block librarian, caring for eight precious books that have been smuggled past the guards. Her secret role as Librarian of Auschwitz gives Dita a sense of purpose — and the courage and hope she needs to survive one of the darkest chapters of human history. Based on the experience of real-life Auschwitz prisoner Dita Kraus, this book captures the incredible power of the human spirit to overcome hatred and violence.
Raising A Reader: Parenting Books About Literacy
The best way for all of us to show our gratitude for the amazing gift of literacy is to help children develop facility with — and a love for — reading. These books for parents will give you tips and strategies to help make sure that reading will be a family legacy.
Time reading together is a treasured ritual for many children and their parents, and there are ways to take that special time and use it to form a life-long love of reading and books. This book provides tips for using this time not just to enjoy stories together, but also to encourage imagination, comprehension, and conversation. Included is a list of great books to read together, from wordless books and simple picture books for infants and toddlers to full-length novels and anthologies for older kids. After all, even once kids are reading on their own, reading aloud together is still a great way to share a love of books!
Guiding children to find an appropriate book and talking with them about the story helps them connect with what they read. In this engaging guide, educational consultant Diane W. Frankenstein shares advice for parents, teachers, librarians, and caregivers on how to help children find what to read, and then through conversation, how to find meaning and pleasure in their reading. The book includes more than 100 great book recommendations for kids from Pre-K through grade six, along with related conversation starters, providing anyone who wants to support children's literacy with a toolbox to create lifelong readers.
Creating a book club is another great way to share a love of reading — and learn more about your Mighty Girl! This book is full of tips for organizing a club — everything from how many mother-daughter pairs will work best, to how to keep the club going as the daughters get older — as well as book lists for four different age groups, online resources, and even recipes for special book-club snacks. It’s a great way to learn more about each other and to develop close friendships with other book loving moms and daughters.
Not every child will leap into reading; some children find reading more of a chore, especially once they start school and find their reading choices limited — and reading itself associated with worksheets and drills. Teacher Donalyn Miller says that every child can learn to love reading — and she’s proved it in her own classroom, year after year. Miller recommends allowing “reading freedom” — letting kids pick from books that interest them — and provides tips and questionnaires to help you and your Mighty Girl figure out what books she might enjoy. She also suggests activities other than highly regimented book reports and comprehension questions, replacing them with ways to encourage kids to talk to adults — and other kids — about the books they love. By following her advice, even reluctant readers will discover the joy books can bring.
Why Can’t My Daughter Read?: Success Strategies for Helping Girls with Dyslexia and Reading Difficulties
Why Can’t My Daughter Read?: Success Strategies for Helping Girls with Dyslexia and Reading Difficulties
If a child is facing dyslexia or other problems with the reading process, special guidance may be necessary to overcome her frustration. Ellen Burns Hurst tackles a common problem for girls who struggle with reading: that they are often very good as masking their difficulties from teachers, parents, and peers. By helping debunk the myths around dyslexia and other learning difficulties, including the idea that children facing these problems can never learn to read, or can only learn with expensive therapies, this book will provide reassurance and hope for any parent — or girl — who feels like reading will forever be just out of reach. Instead, Hurst provides techniques to ensure that every girl can succeed at — and love — reading.
Whether your Mighty Girl is a toddler or a teen, spend some time together today and celebrate the amazing gift of literacy. Encourage them to share their love of reading and books with their peers, their community, and beyond. After all, with the help of Mighty kids around the world, hopefully someday illiteracy will be a thing of the past.
Additional Recommended Resources
- For books about educational access, check out our blog Honoring Malala: Mighty Girl Books on Children’s Fight for Education or our Educational Access section.
- For more Parenting books to support readers, check out our Literacy / Book Clubs section.
- If this blog has inspired you to read aloud to your Mighty Girl, check out our list of the Top Read Aloud Books Starring Mighty Girls. These great books can be read independently by older children as well — or, have her read aloud to you!
- If you’re interested in forming a book club, why not make it a Mighty Girl book club? Our book club page includes tips for setting up a club, reading lists for a variety of age groups, and an option to sign up for our ongoing book club newsletter.
- When you’re helping your Mighty Girl choose books, make sure you browse our full selection of Mighty Girl books. With categories and subcategories to help you find books on almost any theme, both fiction and non-fiction, you’re sure to find some unexpected titles that your Mighty Girl will love.
- And you can encourage reading and literacy through play as well as through books! In our Toy section we have a section of Reading / Literacy toys that focus on letter recognition, storytelling, and word play. Or, get your Mighty Girl writing her own stories by checking out the toys and journals in our Writing / Journaling section.
- She can show off her love of reading by checking out our selection of Literary Themed clothing. This section includes a series of shirts from Out of Print, a company that makes T-shirts featuring vintage book covers which will donate one book per shirt purchased to a community in need.
- And if your Mighty Girl wants to share her love of reading with the world, one great way to do it is by supporting the African Library Project. By sending her gently used books to a book drive, she can help the project start new libraries in communities in Africa. It’s a great way for her to help kids everywhere end up with great books in their hands!