Every morning before my almost-four-year-old daughter heads out the door for preschool, we look each other in the eye and recite, “Harper is brave. Harper is kind. Harper is smart. Harper CAN DO HARD THINGS!” And then we both flex our muscles and give kisses goodbye.
Each time we perform her morning mantra, I hope those statements take root in her heart. I often wonder what else I can do to help shape her belief in her own inherent, unsurpassable worth. I hope that when she enters the years when that scary drop in confidence takes hold inside of girls, she will be armed with faith. Faith in her own abilities, faith that she is loved, and faith that the world needs her to be exactly who she is.
I know that Harper is watching me. She notices everything I do—how I react, the choices I make, the way I speak about myself and about others. She is learning, as she watches me, what it means to be a woman in this world. It is an extraordinary privilege to be observed like this, but I know she won’t always see me get it right. It is a tremendous source of comfort to me as a mother to know I am not the only source from which my daughter is learning (I can’t take that kind of pressure!) Harper is fortunate to have an incredible network of family members, friends, and neighbors to learn from as she grows.
Because I’m a former English teacher and a lifelong lover of books, I collect books for my children. Even though my kids are little, I believe in the power of stories to shape their ideas about themselves and the world around them. The bookshelf in Harper’s room is overflowing. Some books are hand-me-downs, many are new, and lots of them—the ones I love the most—tell stories that show her that it is a great adventure to be a girl in this world. These books, like the words of Harper’s morning mantra, contain messages I hope will take root in her heart: Harper can overcome obstacles. Harper can stand up for herself. Harper can make a difference.
Currently, four of our favorite books to read together are Finding Beauty; A Girl’s Bill of Rights; Fly, Girl, Fly!; and Awesomely Emma. Finding Beauty challenges girls to think about beauty in a different way. Beauty isn’t merely something we possess; it’s something we get to discover in the world around us—if we are paying attention. A Girl’s Bill of Rights is a confidence-boosting declaration of a girl’s right to her own opinion, feelings, and choices. Fly, Girl, Fly! tells the true story of Shaesta Waiz, a refugee from Afghanistan, who became the youngest woman to circumnavigate the globe by herself in a single-engine aircraft. In Awesomely Emma, a girl teaches everyone in her class a lesson about the transformative power of feeling confident in your own skin.
The books we read as children shape us. For Harper—for all our girls—may the books we choose to share with them encourage them to stand tall. We desperately need their light and their voices in this world.
Learn more about books centered on empowering young girls to be bold, brave, and confident: