“From the first settlers who came to our shores, from the first American Indian families who befriended them, men and women have worked together to build this nation. Too often the women were unsung and sometimes their contributions went unnoticed. But the achievements, leadership, courage, strength and love of the women who built America was as vital as that of the men whose names we know so well. [The stories of women in American history] is an essential and indispensable heritage from which we can draw pride, comfort, courage, and long-range vision.”
That’s an excerpt from the presidential proclamation by President Jimmy Carter in 1980, declaring the week of March 8 to be Women’s History Week. It has since grown to a month-long celebration!
As much as I love women’s history, sometimes I find it challenging to distill the significant lessons and events into child-sized conversations. One of my favorite ways to begin talking about big, important topics is by reading books together as a family. We asked Stories Bookshop in Brooklyn for some timely recommendations to bring Women’s History Month into our own homes.
Stories was founded by Maggie Pouncey, a writer with a bookshop fantasy. After having her two boys, rediscovering stories of her childhood, and entering the world of children’s literature, Maggie and her husband, Matt Miller, opened Stories Bookshop in Brooklyn. Their goal was for the shop to become a community center for Brooklyn families — part well-curated shop and part one-room schoolhouse to celebrate storytelling in all forms.
Maggie hand-picked these books in honor of Women’s History Month:
Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison
From Harriet Tubman to Oprah, these 40 mini-biographies by author/illustrator Vashti Harrison are so powerful to read and so sweetly illustrated.
Shaking Things Up: 14 Young Women Who Changed the World by Susan Hood
Another gorgeous compilation of mini-biographies of female change-makers, including Maya Lin and Malala Yousafzai, told in poems, and each illustrated by a different female illustrator.
This is the super-chic and totally inspiring story of feminist icon Gloria Steinem that tells her life story and urges readers to “Be strong and proud of who you are!”
Offering a selection of distinctive books like these is one thing Stories does best. “When I’m shopping, I want a sensibility and a distinct point of view, not an algorithm,” Maggie says. “I want to go into a shop where so many good choices have already been made for me, where I almost can’t go wrong. That’s what you get when you shop small.” And that’s exactly what you get at Maggie & Matt’s beautiful bookshop.
In addition to being an artfully curated bookstore, Stories is also part storytelling lab.
“We believe childhood should as much as possible be a time of play and deep engagement with the world and one’s community,” Maggie says, “Rather than plugging into a device and tuning out. And what better way to do that than through stories?” Wonderful things happen in the Storytelling Lab, things like art, poetry, chess, movement, and animation. “It’s a place dedicated to the hand-made, to sharing the ancient art of storytelling.”
Stories offers storytime six days a week — stories and songs are led by staff on weekdays and they welcome an author or illustrator to host storytime every Sunday.
We believe childhood should as much as possible be a time of play and deep engagement with the world and one’s community. And what better way to do that than through stories?
Maggie said it’s both challenging and exciting to be a bookstore in the midst of our online world. As a brick and mortar shop, Stories can offer quality experiences and personalized recommendations that can’t be found online. But the online connections have broadened Maggie’s bookshop friends beyond the brilliant and supportive stores in her own Brooklyn community.
“I have come across some really terrific children’s bookstores around the country — Second Star To The Right in Denver, Wild Rumpus in Minneapolis, and The Curious Reader in Glen Rock, New Jersey. Most of these I’ve found through social media and I’m totally inspired by the work they do, and the deep knowledge and passion they have for the power and wonder of children’s books.” Stories is a wonderful example of community, and I’m sure your neighborhood bookstore has a similar focus on community building and hand-picked stories.
Take a step into conversations about the bravery of women in America’s history by reading books like these and others that you find with the help of your local bookstore. They’ll probably spark conversations with your children, and together you’ll learn and understand and appreciate the history of our nation and the iconic women who have charted its course.
Find Stories on Instagram at @storiesbk.