These books don’t necessarily star characters who are Scouts themselves, but they do match up with the Girl Scout mission of building girls of “courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.” Even if you’re not a Scout (or don’t have Scouts in your family), these books are sure to inspire young readers and get them interested in changing the world for the better.
This reading list includes books about scientists, pioneers, sleuths, adventurers, and strong and intelligent women both real and imagined. There are non-fiction books as well as fiction, with even a few graphic novels thrown in the mix! Reading levels range from kindergarten to 12th grade, the same age ranges for membership in the Girl Scout program
If you’re a Girl Scout and have a suggestion for this list, please leave a comment below!
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Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13 by Helaine Becker. A picture book biography of Katherine Johnson, an African-American mathematician who worked for NASA during the space race. A good option for kids who are slightly too young to watch(/read) Hidden Figures, and for those who are interested in science and outer space. Grades K-4.
How the Girl Guides Won the War by Janie Hampton. Girl Guides, the sister organization to Girl Scouts in the United Kingdom, were essential to Britain’s victory in World War II. Helping and inspiring the nation in a multitude of ways, this narrative nonfiction book is full of stories and funny anecdotes sure to entertain any modern Scout. Grades 9-12.
I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai. A memoir by the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, this inspirational book about Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai is essential reading for every modern Girl Scout. Grades 5-8.
>> Younger readers might want to try Who Is Malala Yousafzai? by Dinah Brown.
It’s Your World: Get Informed, Get Inspired & Get Going by Chelsea Clinton. Former First Daughter Chelsea Clinton writes about current issues relating to Poverty, Climate Change, Gender Equality, Health, Endangered Species, how kids today are working towards solutions– and how the reader can get involved as well. Great for kids who are interested in social activism. Grades 5-8.
Juliette Gordon Low: The Remarkable Founder of the Girl Scouts by Stacey A. Cordery. A biography and history of the founder of the American Girl Scouts organization, this book covers her life as a young girl in Civil War Era Georgia through her death in the late 1920s. Grades 9-12+.
>> Younger readers might try Shana Corey’s Here Come the Girl Scouts.
A Lady Has the Floor: Belva Lockwood Speaks Out for Women’s Rights by Kate Hannigan. The first woman to run for President of the United States, Belva Lockwood never stopped fighting for equality for women. This picture book biography is a good introduction to women’s suffrage and historical activism. Grades 2-5.
The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever by H. Joseph Hopkins. Kate Sessions, the first woman to graduate from the University of California with a degree in science, knew that San Diego desperately needed trees. So she started a movement to transform it from a dry desert town into the lush, garden-filled oasis we know it today. Good for girls interested in science, social movements, and the power of plants. Grades K-5.
Proud by Ibtihaj Muhammad (Young Readers Edition). Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad was the first Muslim American woman to win a medal and she did it while also being the first American to compete wearing a hijab. This autobiography showcases her early life as a child in suburban New Jersey through her Olympic win, overcoming obstacles and learning the importance of hard work, self-reliance, and never giving up. Grades 3-7.
>> The unabridged version of Proud would be good for older readers.
Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World by Rachel Ignotofsky. This compilation of mini-biographies of trailblazing women has some fantastic art, and includes info about well-known figures like Jane Goodall and Marie Curie– but also lesser-known (but still important!) women like Edith Clarke and Grace Hopper. Grades 4-7.
Shaking Things Up: 14 Young Women Who Changed the World by Susan Hood. A book of poems about fourteen inspiring young women throughout history, each illustrated by a different female artist. Some of the girls included: Ruby Bridges, the 6-year-old who helped end segregation in the South; Frida Kahlo, the enormously talented Mexican artist; Mae Jemison, the first black woman to travel in space; Malala Yousafzai, the noted Pakistani education activist. Grades 1-3.
Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol [graphic novel]. Vera wants to fit in at her Russian summer camp, but “cool girl” drama and dealing with endless Russian history lessons makes doing that more difficult than she expected. Great for fans of Smile and other similar autobiographical-inspired stories. Grades 4-7.
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly. Newbery Award winner. In 1899, eleven-year-old Calpurnia is curious about the natural world outside her door. With the help of her grandfather, a cranky yet avid naturalist, Calpurnia learns not only how the [something] works, but what it means to be a girl on the cusp of a new century. Perfect for readers who like historical fiction, animal stories, science and nature. Grades 4-6.
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell. In the early 1800s, a young Native American girl named Karana is left behind on an island off the coast of California. She must learn how to survive on her own with only her animal friends to keep her company. One of my favorites as a child, I’d recommend this to girls who are particularly interested in living outdoors and being self-reliant. Grades 3-6.
Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson et. al. [graphic novel]. Five best friends spend the summer at Lumberjane scout camp, where things like yetis, giant falcons, and supernatural shenanigans aren’t all that unusual. Free to read with a Kindle Unlimited subscription. Grades 4-7.
Matilda by Roald Dahl. Everybody thinks Matilda is a nuisance, but she has an unbending spirit and remarkable powers. This quirky book was another of my favorites as a child. Highly recommended! Grades 3-6.
Nancy Drew Diaries series by Carolyn Keene. Updated and fresh for a new generation of Nancy Drew fans, this is the newest series in the ND world. Nancy is a super sleuth, and along with her friends George and Bess, she solves mysteries using her powers of observation, deductive skills, and intelligence. Grades 3-7.
>> For those who prefer the original Nancy Drew books, check out this reissued box set with AMAZING covers!
Sammy Keyes series by Wendelin Van Draanen. Sammy is a magnet for trouble– and mysteries. Feisty, fearless, and forever curious about the people around her, Sammy is a heroine for girls who like to dig deep into the world around them. Grades 5-7.
Smile by Raina Telgemeier [graphic novel]. Raina is a girl who wants to be a normal sixth grader, but after a fateful Girl Scouts trip she falls and damages her two front teeth. A long and highly frustrating journey to healing the damage follows, compounded by troubles with friends, boys, and school. Based on the author’s own experiences as a child. This book is one of the MOST popular at every library I’ve worked at, and is highly recommended. Grades 5-7.
The Tiffany Aching series by Terry Pratchett. Young witch Tiffany must defend her home against monsters and nightmares, with the help of some six-inch-high people called the Nac Mac Feegle (the Wee Free Men). Mixing the mystical with the mundane, this series is good for girls who are looking for books with a more fantasy angle. Grades 7-10.
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. Meg Murry’s father is missing after working on a secret project for the government. Meg, her younger brother Charles Wallace, and her friend Calvin go on a rescue mission through time and space. Recently made into a movie directed by Ava DuVernay and starring Storm Reid as Meg. This book would be a good companion to one of the non-fiction science-y books listed above. Newbery Award winner. Grades 6-9.
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