by Phebe Myers, AmeriCorps member on the Bank of America team with Young Achievers Science and Math Pilot K-8 School
Growing up all of my books were filled with heroines. I scoured through Matilda, devoured Lyra in The Golden Compass and learned about stealth from Harriet the Spy. But I know how often our young students, and many young scholars in general, get hooked on books about male heroes. The shelves of libraries across the globe are stacked with the tales of fierce men saving women, the heroic knight saving the damsel in distress. It often leaves our young women with ideas that they need saving, or help.
As an AmeriCorps member, I want our books to teach all young people that they matter and that their ideas are valuable, so when I was picking a new book for my 8th-grade boys reading club, I chose The Hunger Games. I knew that the action-packed excitement of the book would keep them interested, and the power of Katniss Everdeen would slowly seep into our conversations. It is important to have all students—regardless of their gender identity—see role models in books and media that represent them.
So far during our reading groups, the scholars have loved delving deep into the dystopian world of Panem, debating the horror of the Hunger Games themselves, and critiquing Katniss as a hero. It’s been powerful to have students see a female character as strong and important just as we all see the women in our own lives. The more that we empower students to chose books with narratives from perspectives other than their own, the more we can work toward a world with true equality.