I love reading stories about inspiring leaders with my children, including great picture books for Women’s History Month in Chinese and English.
For centuries, women have been working hard to prove that they can make a difference inside and outside of the home. Children like my daughter and son need to learn about real women thriving in various roles!
These English and Chinese picture books about female leaders are geared for 3 to 9-year-old children. Of course, picture books can inspire beyond childhood. When I read these Women’s History Month books, I learned about many new amazing female heroes with my children.
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Why are books for Women’s History Month important?
Ever year, March is the designated Women’s History Month to honor female contributions in United States history.
The history behind Women’s History Month
Women’s History Month initially began as a week-long celebration in 1981. Eventually, the United States Congress designated the recognition for the full month of March.
As the Washington Post reports: “While today’s textbooks certainly include more diverse perspectives than a generation ago, textbooks still generally present our shared national history as a story by and for white men….Women’s History Month was designed to bridge these gaps in knowledge, with the understanding history always has political ramifications in the present.”
How Women’s History Month improves representation in school books
In 2017, research from the Women’s History Museum revealed that United States social studies standards “do not reflect current trends or ideals in girls’ education. While there is an increasing public interest in motivating girls to embrace science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, social studies standards provide few historical examples of women or their achievements in these fields.”
White women are most commonly named in their role with voting rights, followed by Black women in the Abolitionist and Civil Rights movements. No Asian American women were included.
International Women’s Day
Globally, International Women’s Day falls on March 8th with similar goals to celebrate female achievements, raise awareness about persistent inequality, and support charities and organizations. Books are a wonderful way to honor International Women’s Day as well.
Women’s History Month picture books in Chinese and English
Since we’re raising bilingual kids, we want them to learn about important topics in both Mandarin Chinese and English. I’ve included the ISBN and links to popular online bookstores that carry these books, but I hope you can find some in your local library!
物理天后 推翻宇宙定律的吳健雄 Queen of Physics: How Wu Chien Shiung Helped Unlock the Secrets of the Atom
My daughter is fascinated by science, and this book became a new favorite the moment we got it. Born in China over 100 years ago, when few females went to school, Dr Wu Chien Shiung was encouraged by her parents to pursue her passion for science. Eventually, she immigrated to the United States for her PhD and made countless contributions to physics while facing sexism and racism.
Author Teresa Robeson does a wonderful job weaving in Dr. Wu’s science work in an approachable way for children. Rebecca Huang’s Illustrations beautifully capture Dr. Wu’s journey from qipao to a white lab coat.
Malala Yousafzai Women’s History Month picture books
There are two popular picture books about Malala, and I’ll compare them below.
马拉拉的神奇画笔 / 馬拉拉的魔法鉛筆 Malala’s Magic Pencil
Malala herself wrote this beautiful story about the magic of the pen, the power of the human voice. She begins the story with a television show that inspired her to dream of a magic pencil. As she grows up, she realizes the magic is her own voice and bravery to speak up. In this picture book, the shooting isn’t mentioned, but Malala alludes to it on one page: “My voice became so powerful that the dangerous men tried to silence me. But they failed.”
My daughter loves this book, and I teared up watching Malala’s introduction of her book in this YouTube video.
- Where to buy:
Malala, a Brave Girl from Pakistan / Iqbal, a Brave Boy from Pakistan
TRIGGER WARNING: Shooting and death
Author-illustrator Jeanette Winter set up this historical book in a unique way. One cover features Malala Yousafzai, while the other cover shows Iqbal Masih. Both are young and brave children in Pakistan who speak out for human rights.
Between detailed author’s notes on both sides of the book, we learn about how the Taliban is aggressive and bans girls from school. Malala speaks up, but the Taliban targets and shoots her. Miraculously, she survives to tell her story.
On the other hand, Iqbal is a young boy whom his impoverished parents sell to a factory for child labor. When he eventually becomes free, he bravely speaks out about his experience. At the young age of 12, he is shot while riding his bike.
观察者 / 黑猩猩的好朋友：珍‧古德 The Watcher: Jane Goodall’s Life with the Chimps
Another lovely book by Jeannette Winter that celebrates the passion and work of Jane Goodall! The Women’s History Month book emphasizes the power of observation: Ms. Goodall grows to love animals by watching the animals around her home for hours on end. When Goodall grows up, she saves money to travel to Africa to study chimpanzees. Troubled by forests being destroyed and chimps being poached, she travels around the world to advocate for animals.
和平树 / 和平樹 Wangari’s Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa
This picture book celebrates Nobel Peace Prize winner, Wangari Maathai, who was an environmentalist. Growing up, Wangari’s hometown in Kenya was filled with trees. Years later when she visits her home, she is devastated to see the destruction of entire forests. She begins to plant her own tree, and her passion for environmental activism grows.
用圖像思考的女孩：動物科學家天寶‧葛蘭汀的故事 The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin
Julia Finley Mosca is one of our favorite authors! Told in rhyme, this picture book biography details Dr. Temple Grandin’s life at a level that’s appropriate and interesting for children. Dr. Grandin was a scientist with autism, and her special way of thinking helped her connect with animals and invent improvements for farms worldwide.
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眼光獨到的女孩: 派翠西亞‧巴斯醫師的故事 The Doctor with an Eye for Eyes: The Story of Dr. Patricia Bath
This inspiring story is based on Dr. Patricia Bath’s life experience. Dr. Patricia Bath is an ophthalmologist, laser scientist and inventor, and she pursued her talent and dreams while facing racism. Like author Julia Finley Mosca’s other books, this book also rhymes in English.
有數學頭腦的女孩：工程師瑞‧蒙特固的故事 The Girl with a Mind for Math
Throughout her life, Raye Montague faced racism and eventually overcame many challenges pursue her career as a navel engineer. In English, the story is written with rhyme. We do not have this book in Chinese, so I’m not sure if it rhymes in this language. Please share your review in the comments if you’ve read Chinese version!
水公主 / The Water Princess
International fashion model Georgie Badiel spent her childhood in Africa, walking miles to collect water for her family. She wonders why the water is so far away and not clear. The end of the book shows real photographs of children in Africa working hard to collect clean water.
These experiences eventually inspired her to create the Georgie Badiel Foundation, a charity that provides clean water, sanitation, and education to a country in West Africa.
自由的苹果 An Apple for Harriet Tubman
In the 1800s, Harriet Tubman spent long hours picking apples that she was not allowed to eat. But she was determined to be free someday and grow her own apple trees. Eventually, she escaped to the North and repeatedly risked her life to return and lead many African Americans to freedom.
TRIGGER WARNING: Some pages in this book have illustrations that suggest whipping.
普通人改变世界 Ordinary People Change the World
The Chinese set of biographical picture books includes the following female leaders (in addition to male heroes):
- Amelia Earhart 我是阿梅莉亚·埃尔哈特
- I am Lucille Ball 我是露西尔·鲍尔
- I am Rosa Parks 我是罗莎·帕克斯
- I am Helen Keller 我是海伦·凯勒
- I am Jane Goodall 我是珍妮·古道尔
The style of these picture books remind me of comic books, with cartoonish illustrations and speech bubbles. The downside is small font in the Chinese version.
In English, this series of books includes more heroes and heroines sold individually or as a set, and the font is more readable.
小弗里达 Little Frida: A Story of Frida Kahlo
Born in Mexico, Frida Kahlo was known for her talent in painting portraits, self-portraits, and cultural art. There are many picture books about Frida Kahlo, and we like this version because she is shares details of her overcoming illness and discovering art.
Women’s History Month Picture Books in English
These amazing picture book biographies are currently not available in Chinese. Hopefully they will be translated from English to Chinese in the future!
Asian American Women in Science
This middle grade book could be a great read aloud for Women’s History Month or AAPI Heritage Month! Fifteen AAPI scientists are thoughtfully illustrated and span a diverse spectrum of ethnicities, such as Chinese, Filipina, Indian, Japanese, Korean, Taiwanese, and Vietnamese. The featured female leaders include:
- Dr. Margaret Chung
- Dr. Kazue Togasaki
- Chien-Shiung Wu
- Isabella Aiona Abbott
- Dr. Jacqueline Whang-Peng
- Roseli Ocampo-Friedmann
- Angelita Castro-Kelly
- Joan Block
- Josephine Jue
- Fan Rong King Chung Graham
- Kalpana Chawla
- Alice Min Soo Chun
- Tuyet-Hahn Schnell
- Reshma Saujani
- Maryam Mirzakhani
Where to buy: English ISBN 9781638782124: Amazon
Shark Lady: How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist
Author Jess Keating’s biographical picture book celebrates Eugenie Clark’s love of sharks. Eugenie Clark was a Japanese-Caucasian-American marine biologist who devoted her life to studying sharks. The bold animal pictures are attractive for my toddler son, while the personal and science facts inspire both of my children.
Dinosaur Lady: The Daring Discoveries of Mary Anning, the First Paleontologist
Both Dinosaur Lady and Shark Lady are among my children’s favorites. If you have children who are resistant to books about people and history, try this book for Women’s History Month! Author Linda Skeers highlights Mary Anning’s passion for dinosaurs that begins with discovering a fossil and blossoms with a career as a paleontologist.
The Fearless Flights of Hazel Ying Lee
Author Julie Yeung and Illustrator Julie Kwon do a wonderful job sharing Hazel Ying Lee’s inspiring story. Hazel was the first Chinese American female pilot in the United States military during World War II. In addition to Hazel’s family worrying about the dangerous job, she also faced discrimination for being Asian. But Hazel was braved and loved being in the sky. After she died in a plane crash, her family struggled to find a proper burial due to their race.
Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines
This stunning picture book about Chinese American architect Maya Lin’s reveals her talent and passion as well as the power of a name. However when her design for the Vietnam Memorial is selected, she overcomes backlash and scrutiny. Dr. Dow Phumiruk’s illustrations are captivating. This book should definitely be included for Women’s History Month or any time of the year.
Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation
Sylvia Mendez was a Mexican American child who was discriminated at school due to race and skin color. Her parents work hard for justice so that children like Sylvia Mendez can go to any school, which eventually led to the 1947 California ruling against public-school segregation.
What are your favorite Women’s History Month books in Chinese and English?
We’d love to hear your thoughts! If you read any of these Women’s History Month picture books, please share in the comments below. And if you have other picture book biographies to recommend, we’d love to check them out!
More reading resources for bilingual kids
- How I Taught My Child 1000+ Chinese Characters as a Non-Fluent Speaker
- Websites and Apps with FREE Multilingual Books
- Why is My Child Not Paying Attention to Books in the Minority Language?
- Where to Buy Chinese Books for Kids? Our Favorite Online Bookstores