When my husband and I started having kids, we found ourselves drawn toward literacy-themed names. Our oldest daughter, Elliot, made us think of authors like George Eliot, author of Middlemarch, and T.S. Eliot, author of many modernist poems and books including ‘The Hollow Men,” which ends with one of my favorite stanzas in poetry- “This is the way the world ends/This is the way the world ends/This is the way the world ends/Not with a bang but a whimper.”  My son, Oliver, is named for Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist, who represents the qualities of kindness, honesty and virtue. And my youngest daughter, Harper Leighann, was named for one of the most influential female writers of all time, Harper Lee, author of the beloved Pulitzer Prize winning book, To Kill a Mockingbird  Teacher Resources Button.

As the world still mourns the loss of this great writer who passed on February 19th at the age of 89, I am reminded about one of her most well-known quotes:

I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.

This quote about courage really resonates with me as we begin to celebrate Women’s History Month. For centuries women have portrayed the kind of “real courage” Lee writes about in this passage. They have had to fight impossible battles with courage and strength to get to where they are today. Many women in different parts of the world still struggle to win these fights, yet they, “see it through no matter what.” And through their persistence, women have made huge strides, resulting in so many positive contributions to our world.

Students, primarily young girls, need to see this kind of strength and courage in the literature they are presented with. They need to see women, both young and old, overcoming great odds to achieve their goals so they can see that they too possess the strength and courage to pursue their dreams and stand up for those around them. During March, make it your goal to fill your classroom and home with stories of women and young girls defeating insurmountable odds. Inspire the young women around you and show them all they are truly capable of.

Here are fiction and nonfiction books you can use in your own classroom or with your own children to celebrate National Women’s History Month, evoking Harper Lee’s message of courage.

Harriet TubmanHarriet Tubman by Wil Mara (Grades K-2, Level I, Lexile 350) Teacher Resources Button by Wil Mara is a low-level biography about Harriet Tubman, a woman who defines courage. The book discusses how she became an integral part of the Underground Railroad and helped numerous slaves find freedom. Not only that, but she became a spy and a nurse to help the northern states during the Civil War.

Brave Irene Teacher Resources Button (Grades K-3, Level S, Lexile AD 630) by William Steig tells the tale of a young girl who must brave a fierce winter snowstorm to deliver a dress in time for the ball. Pair this fiction text with a true story about Annie Edson Taylor, a daring teacher who earned the title Queen of the Falls Teacher Resources Button (Grades 1-4, Level 4, Lexile 1060).

Brave Irene Queen of Falls by Chris Van Allsburg


Let It Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom FightersLet It Shine Stories Of Black Women Freedom Fighters by Andrea Davis Pinkney Teacher Resources Button (Grades 1-4, Lexile 940) by Andrea Davis Pinkney tells the stories of ten women of color who were leaders during the fight for civil rights.

Helen Keller: Courage in the Dark Teacher Resources Button (Grades 2-4, Level N, Lexile 520) by Johanna Hurwitz is the biographical tale of Helen Keller who overcame being blind and deaf with the help of her teacher and went on to become an author and an activist for women’s rights.

The Hundred Dresses Teacher Resources Button (Grades 3-6, Level P, Lexile 870) by Eleanor Estes shows the tale of a young girl being teased because of her name and being poor. Pair this fiction title with The House that Jane Built Teacher Resources Button (Grades 1-5, Lexile 810), a true story of Jane Addams, who opened her house as a community center and transformed a poor Chicago neighborhood.

The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes The House That Jane Built by Tanya Lee Stone


Sarah, Plain and Tall Teacher Resources Button (Lexile: 560, Interest Level: 3-6) by Patricia MacLachlan is a wonderful book of a young girl going through some big changes in her family. Pair this fiction text with a biography of real girl who lived the pioneer life, Laura Ingalls Wilder Teacher Resources Button (Grades 3-7, Level R, Lexile 1000).

Sarah Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan Laura Ingalls Wilder by William Anderson


Riding FreedomRiding Freedom by Pam Munoz Ryan Teacher Resources Button (Grades 3-6, Level P, Lexile 720) by Pam Munoz Ryan tells the real-life story of Charlotte Parkhurst, a 12-year-old girl who changed her identity and began living life as a boy in order to experience the freedoms and opportunities denied to her because of her gender.

Freedom Crossing Teacher Resources Button (Grades 5-7, Level R, Lexile 720) by Margaret Goff Clark is a great book about a young girl whose ideologies about slavery and people’s worth are challenged when she discovers that her home is a station on the Underground Railroad.

Number the Stars Teacher Resources Button (Grades 5-7, Level U, Lexile 670) by Lois Lowry takes place during the German occupation of Denmark and tells the story of a young girl who helps hide her Jewish friend from the Nazis. Pair this fiction text with Who Was Anne Frank? Teacher Resources Button (Grades 3-6, Level N, Lexile 660).

Number The Stars by Lois Lowry Who Was Anne Frank by Ann Abramson


Roll of Thunder, Hear My CryRoll of Thunder, Hear my Cry by Mildred. D. Taylor Teacher Resources Button (Grades 5-9, Level W, Lexile 920) by Mildred D. Taylor is an amazing story about a young girl named Cassie as she and her family fight to keep their land during the Great Depression.

Brown Girl Dreaming Teacher Resources Button (Grades 5-10, Lexile 990) by Jacqueline Woodson is a book of poetry that centers on her own experience growing up in the 60s and 70s during the days of Jim Crow laws and the challenges her and her family faced during a racially-charged time.

The Skin I’m In Teacher Resources Button (Grades 7-12, Level W, Lexile 670) by Sharon Flake is a story about a young girl who is teased relentlessly by her classmates about her hand-me-down clothes, good grades and dark skin. She meets a teacher who helps her learn to overcome this challenge and learn to love herself. Pair this fictional story with The Miracle Worker Teacher Resources Button (Grades 7-12, Level Z), the story of Anne Sullivan and Helen Keller.

All the titles in this article have Booksource Teacher Resources. Click the Teacher Resources Button icon to view the resource. Look for resources for books you already have by searching through our database on Booksource.com.

Booksource Recommendations

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