Girls Leadership Book Club: Pam Muñoz Ryan, Deborah Ellis, Sharon Draper

This month, we’ll read three stories about girls who transcend the roles that society had written for them.

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Historically, girls and women have been blocked from participating in government and holding positions of power. Likewise, people of color, disabled people, and young people are frequently given the clear message to leave the important work to others. Yet, think of all the accomplishments that these humans have contributed to our world and society! Every time someone works to overcome prejudice and external limitations, they pave the way for change, and for others to do the same.


In Riding Freedom and The Breadwinner, the main characters live in a time and/or place where being a girl means a life filled with domestic duties, so each of them decides to dress like a boy to accomplish her goals. In Out of My Mind, Melody doesn’t dress up like anyone else to prove what she can do. Rather, she has to find a way to show her family and friends that her disabilities don’t disqualify her from the kinds of activities in which she dearly wants to participate, like the school’s championship quiz team.


In each of these stories, the main character digs deep in herself to find the strength and courage to break with unspoken rules and written laws. And, in each book, an adult character cheers from the sidelines, encouraging and providing support when necessary.


We grown-ups can model both of these qualities. We can go after our dreams, even when it means challenging the rules.And, we can be cheerleaders and allies for our girls, believing wholeheartedly in their competence and giving them support when they need it.


I hope you enjoy this month’s book selections. Happy reading!


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2nd/3rd Grades

Riding Freedom by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Buy or borrow a copy of this book and read it before your next book club meeting.

About the book
Set in 19th century America, Riding Freedom tells the story of Charlotte, a girl with a strong will and a talent for working with horses. Unfortunately, girls aren’t allowed to do much beyond domestic chores. So, when Charlotte runs away from the orphanage where she’s grown up, she becomes a boy named Charley… and begins to make her dreams come true.

Riding Freedom was published in 1998. It won several awards, including the Teacher’s Choice Award, the Willa Cather Award, and the Parenting Magazine Reading Magic Award.

About the author

Pam Muñoz Ryan grew up in Bakersfield, California and is of half-Mexican heritage. She has written over forty books in her prolific career. Her most recent is the much-celebrated Echo. Ms Ryan lives in southern California with her family and dog Wally. For more information about Ms Ryan and her work, visit her website


4th/5th Grades

The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis

Buy or borrow a copy of this book and read it before your next book club meeting.

About the book

Parvana and her family live in Taliban-controlled Kabul, where girls and women may not attend school or even leave the house without express permission from a male relative. So, when her father is put in jail, the family has no way of buying food or earning money. Parvana decides to dress like a boy so that she can help her family survive. This role-playing is both liberating and terrifying, and while Parvana finds some satisfaction in helping her family, she also bears witness to some dark aspects of life that she was never meant to see.

The Breadwinner was published in 2000. Deborah Ellis later wrote three more books about Parvana’s quest for family and freedom: Parvana’s Journey, Mud City, and My Name is Parvana. In 2017, The Breadwinner was made into an animated feature film of the same name.

About the author

Deborah Ellis is a Canadian author, feminist, and activist. She has written more than thirty books of fiction and non-fiction for children. Her most recent book, Sit, is a collection of nine short stories of children from around the world who take courageous actions – some large, some small – to deal with their respective challenges.

Ms Ellis has won many awards, including the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award and the Vicky Metcalf Award for a Body of Work. She has donated more than a million dollars of her royalties from the Breadwinner series to non-profit charities working to help the disenfranchised, particularly women and children. To learn more, please visit her website


6th/7th/8th Grades

Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper

Buy or borrow a copy of this book and read it before your next book club meeting.

About the book

Melody can’t speak, and she doesn’t have control over her muscles. Because of what she can’t do, people assume that her mind is also underdeveloped. To them, she’s just a girl in a wheelchair.

But, Melody’s memory and curiosity and love of words are alive inside her, trying hard to get out. When she finally discovers a way to communicate with those around her, she has the opportunity to express all the thoughts and feelings she’s had to keep inside her whole life.

About the author

Sharon M. Draper is a teacher and a writer. She has received many awards and recognitions for her work in both areas, including the National Teacher of the Year award and the ALA’s Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime literary achievement. She addresses audiences all over the world, and represented the United States at the Book Festival in Moscow. Ms Draper has written many, many award-winning books for children of all ages, as well as titles for teachers. Her book Out of My Mind has been on the New York Times Bestsellers list for over two years (and counting!). For more of Ms Draper’s wonderful stories, visit


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