Inspired by her own frustration as a mother of two seeking reading content featuring female leads who weren’t superheroes or male-companion dependent, Dr. Rachel Kowert wrote a children’s book that presents tales of empowerment and self-reliance.
Pragmatic Princess: 26 Superb Stories of Self-Sufficiency 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.
Here’s what she had to say about her book. Learn more about Dr. Kowert at rkowert.com.
What inspired you to write “Pragmatic Princess,” and why is it so important to you?
As a psychologist, I know that the characters in our childhood stories are some of our earliest teachers. As a mom, I wanted books for my daughter that celebrated the powers and abilities of the everyday girl. However, when I went to find those kinds of books, they were few and far between. I wanted my daughter to have a storybook with characters that looked like her, reflected the world around her, and showed her what she was capable of doing with the skills and abilities she has right here and right now. Since that wasn’t available, I decided to write it myself.
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.
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.