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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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