Our Friends' Favorites: Chelsea Clinton on Books with Great Female Characters
For the latest in our new Our Friends' Favorites series, where we ask Common Sense Media friends and partners to share their top media picks, we asked Clinton Foundation leader (and Common Sense Media board member) Chelsea Clinton to tell us about the books and female characters from her childhood that made a lasting impression on her.
Chelsea has devoted her career to building healthier, safer, more equitable world for all people. Through her work with the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative University, she's empowering the next generation to take action on some of the world's most urgent challenges. So it comes as no surprise that Chelsea's favorite books feature strong, bold female characters. We're delighted to have her share her feelings about a few of her classic picks:
Many books come to mind when I think of my favorite female characters who kept me company in elementary school and who remain with me today: Ramona Quimby from Beverly Cleary's Ramona books; Meg Murry from Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time; Claudia Kincaid from E.L. Konigsburg's From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler; and all the Nancy Drew books!
All of my favorite female characters are adventurous, tough, curious, and determined. They all either have or develop their own sense of independence, and while they all have serious tasks -- from figuring out a mystery to rescuing a younger brother to convincing their father to stop smoking -- they manage to not take life too seriously, to see the wonder in the world and laugh along the way.
Not incidentally, after I read of Ramona's campaign to get her father to quit smoking, I asked my grandmother to stop smoking when she asked me what I wanted for my eighth birthday. And she did! (Thank you, Ramona!) And sometimes, if I'm stressed about a situation, I still do multiplication tables in my head to calm my mind and refocus my energies (thank you, Meg).
I hope that anyone who reads these books with their daughters or sons experiences the same joy I recall as a child, imagining myself spending the night at the Met, cracking a case, or venturing out to new terrain, somewhere far away or just around the block. And I hope that kids have the same ineffable knowledge that I never doubted: that all my favorite characters were there cheering me on along the way, as I had cheered them on through their stories.
What were your favorite books as a kid? Have you read them with your children? Share your thoughts and other suggestions for books with positive female role models in the comments below. We'll select one commenter to receive a book of his or her choice from our Essential Books for Kids and Teens guide and email you July 29 if you've won! (And remember, we don't send emails to kids under 13.)
For more on gender stereotypes and positive role models, check out our new white paper.