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Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member Jennifer Jipson’s Favorite Children’s Books

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By Jennifer Jipson, Ph.D.

Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

I delight in collecting picture books that teach, inspire, entertain and motivate. March is both National Reading Month and Women’s History Month, so I’ll share a few books that celebrate women’s accomplishments and inspire little ones to do big things. I hope you and your children enjoy these as much I do.

  • My Name Is Not Isabella: Just How Big Can a Little Girl Dream? by Jennifer Fosberry and Mike Litwin – In this book, Isabella imagines herself to be famous women throughout history, such as Sally Ride, Marie Curie and Rosa Parks. As you read it with your child, you will learn about how these women changed the world in their own unique ways. This is achieved with a story that is filled with humor, clever writing and engaging illustrations that provide clues about who Isabella will pretend to be next. My well-worn copy of this book is evidence of how much my family delighted in Isabella’s enthusiasm for the extraordinary achievements of women. As a developmental psychologist, I feel good that I exposed my children to role models who counteract racial and gender stereotypes;

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  • The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds – In The Dot, readers meet Vashti, a fictional young girl who is self-critical and thinks she can’t draw. One day, her teacher encourages her to make a dot with a pencil on a blank page, asks her to sign it and then frames and displays it. Her teacher’s support sparks Vashti’s confidence in her own creativity, and she goes on to paint more and more dots in increasingly innovative ways. Vashti embraces her newly unleashed creativity and inspires other children to do the same. In addition to highlighting a valuable lesson about overcoming insecurities, this book inspires children to engage in creative activities. Many schools celebrate Dot Day in which children make and display their own versions of dot paintings. At my house, our refrigerator once became a dot gallery that showcased and celebrated the creativity of our family members;

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  • Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed and Stasia Burrington – This picture book tells the story of Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman to go to space. It’s an inspiring story about how Mae pursued her dream of becoming an astronaut even when others teased her or doubted her abilities. The message of staying true to yourself and persisting in achieving your goals is powerful. Another reason that I love this book is because it provides a compelling example of a woman who overcame racial and gender stereotypes to achieve her dream. Families can use this book as an opportunity to talk about prejudice and to bring to light the achievements of women of color in the sciences. Research in child development shows that openness to exploring these topics is of critical importance in helping children develop positive attitudes about diversity, yet only about 10% of families have these conversations. There are many online resources available that can help guide parents in talking about race with children.

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12 Children’s Books That Celebrate Diversity and Differences

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We live in a diverse world, which makes fitting in and finding a place in your community a little easier. That doesn’t mean that children (and adults) don’t still struggle with it, though. Help your children channel empathy for others or navigate uncomfortable situations by reading one of these great books.

  1. All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold and Suzanne Kaufman
    This story follows a group of children through their day at a school where everyone is different and everyone is welcome.

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  1. The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson and Rafael López
    “There will be times when you walk into a room and no one there is quite like you” starts this book about accepting your differences and being brave because you embrace yourself.

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  1. Lovely by Jess Hong
    In this book, everyone is lovely, no matter what size, shape or color they are!

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  1. The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi
    New to America, Unhei wants to choose an American name to fit in. Her classmates are eager to help and fill a jar with suggestions. Unhei tries out names like Suzy and Amanda, but none seem to fit. When a classmate visits Unhei at home and learns the special meaning of her name, the name jar disappears and Unhei decides her name is perfect.

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  1. Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love
    After seeing three women dressed up as beautiful mermaids, Julián is mesmerized and decides that he, too, is a mermaid.

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  1. Introducing Teddy: A Gentle Story about Gender and Friendship by Jessica Walton and Dougal MacPherson
    This story follows a day in the life of Errol and his teddy bear, Thomas. One day, Thomas tells Errol that he wishes his name were Tilly, not Thomas, because Thomas is a girl teddy bear.

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  1. Stella Brings the Family by Miriam B. Schiffer and Holly Clifton-Brown
    Stella’s school is having a Mother’s Day celebration, but Stella doesn’t have a mom. She has two amazing dads!

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  1. Meet Clarabelle Blue by Adiba Nelson, Elvira Morando and Ilene Serna
    Clarabelle Blue may use a wheelchair, but she’s not defined by it. Clarabelle is just like other children.

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  1. Dreamers by Yuyi Morales
    This beautifully illustrated and lyrical book is about immigrating to America. A mother leaves Mexico with only her infant son. Through a public library, she learns how to speak English and how to make a home in a strange place.

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  1. Still a Family: A Story about Homelessness by Brenda Reeves Sturgis and Jo-Shin Lee
    A little girl and her family lose their home. The girl and her mother move into a homeless shelter, but her dad is separated from them because he must live in a men’s shelter. Throughout this book, the little girl reminds herself that no matter what, they are still a family.

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  1. Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña and Christian Robinson
    This story follows CJ and his grandma on their bus ride home from church. CJ has many questions, like why his family doesn’t have a car. Through it all, CJ’s grandma helps him see the beauty in their routine and their world.

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  1. Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors by Hena Khan and Mehrdokht Amini
    This beautiful book celebrates and teaches young readers about important elements of Islamic culture through the eyes of a young Muslim girl.

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