July 26, 2018
"Rad Girls Can": How children's books can inspire activism
Originally posted on Salon. By Lauren Schiller.
You can’t walk into a bookstore these days without being confronted with an onslaught of books empowering girls. You almost could get cynical about it.
Is someone trying to make money off girl power?
Are they just revisiting the same ol’ same ol’ women we always hear about?
But now and then a book pops up that is truly inspiring and, better yet, timely. And even better, written by actual feminists, parents, and educators who want to use their books to incite change by creating role models our daughters and sons can relate to.
Sounds pretty rad, right? That’s actually the name of a book series. “Rad Women A to Z,” “Rad Women Worldwide,” and this July, Kate Schatz and her co-author the rad Miriam Klein Stahl are out with a third book called “Rad Girls Can: Stories of Bold, Brave, and Brilliant Young Women.”
Because as rad as those other books were, they all featured mostly adults.
This book is all girl.
I was able to talk with Kate and Miriam at a benefit for children’s literacy hosted by Reading Partners, an organization that mobilizes communities across the California Bay Area to help students read at grade level by fourth grade.
I was blown away to find out that nationwide only 35 percent of incoming fourth graders can read at grade-level proficiency or above. And without these skills by fourth grade, students are four times more likely to dropout of high school.
So we started our conversation about the books that inspired a lifelong love of reading.
“My mom worked in a children’s bookstore where I grew up in San Jose,” Kate told me. “There was this old claw-foot bathtub full of pillows. And she put me in this old bath tub of pillows and give me a stack of books and then she would go work the register and sell children’s books. And I that’s where I taught myself to read.”
Reading in a bathtub in a kids’ bookstore introduced Kate to titles like “Harriet the Spy” and “The Island of the Blue Dolphins,” in which girls took the lead and ran with it.
“I gravitated towards stories about strong, adventurous, independent girls, which is what I wanted to be,” she said. “The book series that really rocked my world was the Anastasia Krupnick books by Lois Lowry and it is literally where I first encountered the word ‘feminist.’”
Now Kate and Miriam are introducing more kids to strong, adventurous, independent girls with their series of Rad Women and Rad Girls books.
Harriet the Spy would be proud.
Listen to my on-stage discussion with Kate and Miriam recorded live for Inflection Point.
And when you’re done, come on over to The Inflection Point Society, our Facebook group of everyday activists who seek to make extraordinary change through small, daily actions.
If you want to help elementary schools with one-on-one reading support, consider becoming a volunteer or donating to Reading Partners, a national nonprofit that helps students with the one-on-one tutoring they need to read at grade level by fourth grade.