Award-winning Author Releases New Children’s Book To Inspire The Next Generation Of Pragmatic Princesses

We’re all about disrupting and destroying the stereotypical princess paradigm, especially when it comes to raising the next generation of girls to know they can aspire to greatness beyond the narrow tropes cemented by Disney. There is often a lot of pressure on parents, and especially mothers, to set examples for their daughters that can be very stressful at times (as if there wasn’t already enough unrealistic expectations for parents to live up to!).

One woman who knows the feeling all too well is award-winning author and research psychologist Dr. Rachel Kowert, whose own experience as a mother became the inspiration for her new children’s book which presents tales of empowerment and self-reliance, the opposite of many stereotypical princess tales.

Inspired by her own frustration as a mother of two seeking reading content featuring female leads who weren’t superheroes or male-companion dependent, Rachel’s book“Pragmatic Princess: 26 Superb Stories of Self-Sufficiency” was inspired offers stories of everyday girls, solving everyday problems, with their everyday abilities. And the 26 stories represent children of all backgrounds, abilities and family types – each with a distinct personality – from Winnie the Wise who says, “…we are the ones who make our dreams come true, not other people, in the end it is up to you” to Xena the Xenial who reminds us, “We have so much to learn from one another, but only if we can listen to each other.”

After the author successfully raised more than $26,000 in just 30 days through a Kickstarter campaign, the book was developed with psychology and science in mind to maximize the potential for learning, as the characters in childhood stories are some of our earliest teachers. “Pragmatic Princess” is changing the narrative, moving beyond the tropes that female characters are best suited as damsels in distress or needing superpowers to be successful. And Dr. Kowert’s work pays particular attention to communities underrepresented in children’s books. More than 16 of the stories in the book feature a black, Asian or ethnic minority character in a central role, and two feature disabled children as the story leads.

“The symbolic models in our storybooks have a strong, long-lasting influence on our development,” Dr. Kowert says. “We need stories where female voices matter (no matter their ability or background) and where the diversity of the characters reflect the diversity of the world around us. By providing models that experience everyday challenging situations, ‘Pragmatic Princess’ also helps open the discussion for parents and teachers to talk about difficult childhood topics before they happen and provides the tools and strategies to successfully navigate these challenges.”

The mom and author spoke more about the idea behind her book, and the research she undertook while writing it.

How did you come up with the different characters and their names?

This was one of the most fun parts! More than half the characters are named after people I know or people I admire. For instance, Valerie is named after my mother, Gina is named after one of my dear friends, and Xena is named in honor of Xena the Warrior Princess (one of the very first strong and powerful women in the media that I was exposed to as a child).

We know that your daughter partially inspired this book, as you were looking for the kind of book you would want to buy for her. Is this book only for girls? What is your target audience?

This book is absolutely not just for girls! It is just as important that boys see girls solve their own problems as it is for girls to see girls solve their own problems. We read books to our daughters with male protagonists all the time and do not think twice about it! We should do the same for our boys (my son loves the book!). My target audience is those aged 3 -10+. The length is well-suited to keep the younger readers engaged whilst the topics become increasingly relevant for the older readers.

What does your daughter think about the book? Does she have a favorite princess?

My daughter loves the book! And despite the fact that “Zoe the Zealous” was named after her and designed to look like her, “Danielle the Daring” is her clear favorite. Though, I guess it is hard to compete with a girl who rides a motorcycle! 

How does your background as a research psychologist inform your work?

I drew from my background to develop stories that would be fun, entertaining, but also maximize learning. Childhood stories provide an incredible opportunity to teach children a range of skills and behaviors across various categories of human development – intellectual, social, emotional, and moral. I wanted to make sure to take advantage of this opportunity by enlisting diverse characters and storylines that reflect everyday situations. My educational background also allowed me to develop characters to model effective skills and strategies to navigate some of the more difficult situations in childhood – such as fear of missing out, feeling left out, and constructive confrontation.  

We know some of your past work has more of a parental audience; how was your process different when writing for children? Did anything surprise you?

It is definitely more fun writing for children! I was surprised at how much I was really able to integrate what I know about human psychology within the stories themselves. Being able to integrate a lesson or skill that I have picked up throughout my education and research career was a fantastic experience in walking the line between creative and technical writing. 

Source: Ferguson, D. (2018, June 13). ‘Highly Concerning’: Picture books bias worsens as female characters stay silent. The Guardian.

Can you explain to us the science behind this book and the research that went into it?

The science behind the writing is a mix of media studies and learning theory. There is a lot of research that has found that the stories we are told as children through the media, whether it be television, movies, or books, have a long-lasting impact on our development. Knowing this, I wanted to create stories that demonstrate self-reliance but also maximize the potential for the transfer of learning through social modeling. The diverse cast of characters makes it more likely that readers will relate to any particular character and research has found that people are more likely to emulate role models of the same sex, ethnicity, and skill level of any particular activity. The book also rhymes, which helps make the content easier to memorize for younger children, which can help transition them into the pre-reading stage of development. Rhyming has also been found to encourage the development of writing skills. 

You can empower the pragmatic princess in your life by purchasing “Pragmatic Princess: 26 Superb Stories of Self-Sufficiency” from Amazon, or by clicking HERE.

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