World Changers

100 years since some women in this country were permitted to vote, my youngest son and I have been enjoying Kate Pankhurst's colourful picture book, "Fantastically Great Women who Changed the World". So, it was great to see a workshop with the author as part of this year's Bournville Bookfest, Birmingham's children's book festival and annual celebration of storytelling fun.

Kate's book - and the new sequel, "Fantastically Great Women who Changed History" - introduces a cast of inspiring and adventurous female world changers, who have been too long overlooked by history. I recommend them. As we listened to Kate talking about her inspiration for the books and the way she learned about the characters she chose to include, it occurred to me how important it is that boys and girls are given both male and female role models. Seeing men and women visibly engaged in varied work and roles inspires our children to believe they can do anything.

Another favourite with my six-year old shark-obsessed little boy is, "Shark Lady" by Jess Keating, "The True Story of how Eugenie Clark became the Ocean's most Fearless Scientist" beautifully illustrated by Marta Alvarez Miguens. We love the story of how Eugenie's childhood fascination with sharks grows with her until she is exploring the oceans and making new discoveries as a leading ichthyologist. The way the world is right now, how important it is that children are presented with stories of courage and boldness, that they may find their own passion, their own voice and raise it fearlessly.

Listening to Kate Pankhurst, I am thinking of brave little Naomi Wadler and others, who spoke out in Washington this weekend against gun violence. I think of the legacy of Michelle Obama, a role model girls like Naomi have grown up watching. I am sure this has helped them believe they, too, can and should raise their voices and stand up for what they believe in. We need to see women speaking and leading with courage and conviction.

In Kate's books we read of Boudicca and of the Suffragettes, of Marie Curie, Ada Lovelace and many other courageous women in times gone by, but the battles are still there to be fought, and the voices of courage are still so needed. Naomi gives me hope for the future. She reminds us to keep showing our children that our values and our voices matter.