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Queens Girls Dream Big with 'Rad Girl Revolution'

Queens Girls Dream Big with 'Rad Girl Revolution'

Learn more about this inspiring book for girls!

In the 1980s, Ozone Park, Queens, native Cyndi Lauper swept Billboard charts with her hit single, “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” And she’s right—they do. However, they also want to be taken seriously, especially when it comes to their career aspirations. With this notion at the forefront of their minds, two Forest Hills moms, Sharita Manickam and Jen Bruno, hope to challenge gender stereotypes with their in-development hardcover children’s book, Rad Girl Revolution.

Rad stands for Rise Above Doubt and Reach Any Dream; and their motivational book will feature 30 inspiring storybook-style photos of real little girls in occupations that are generally male-dominated, or assumed to be, such as Scientist, Judge, Artist, Astronaut, Doctor, and more. A diverse group of girls are featured in the book, with a majority of them from Queens.

Manickam, who has a background in Marketing, wrote the catchy copy, which is in rhyme; and Bruno is the book’s photographer and illustrator. The two moms befriended each other three years ago when their kids wanted play dates.

“As a mom of two girls, I believe it’s important to teach them about the incredible women of the past, but also feel it’s essential for young girls to picture themselves as the inspiring women of the future,” said Manickam. “Our research found that gender stereotypes are set in children as early as age 6, so it’s crucial to expose them to empowering books and reach them during the critical developmental ages of 3 to seven.”

As mom to a young son, Bruno believes Rad Girl Revolution is a book boys will also enjoy. “For me, raising a little boy provides an opportunity to really change the dialogue and perceptions of gender in our future,” she says. “We can't overcome societal imbalances unless we all work together, so I think it's just as important for little boys to believe in the capabilities of girls as it is for girls to believe in themselves. Someday, I hope my son uses his voice to uplift and to demand equality for everyone.”

Most of the book’s photo sessions took place in Queens.  Four-year-old Sofia posed as a chef at Tuscan Hills, a beloved Italian restaurant in Forest Hills co-owned by her father. During her photo session, Sofia proudly stated she wanted to be a chef like daddy. “We are very happy that Sofia had the opportunity to participate in a project like this that encourages girls to dream big,” says her mother Juliana Ramirez.

“What I love most about this book is that it depicts real girls, from my own neighborhood, in careers typically dominated by men,” says Forest Hills mom Anilsa Sanchez. Her daughter  Luna, 2 ½, posed as a firefighter (her father is a member of the FDNY) and her photo session was at the Forest Hills Fire Department, FDNY Engine 305 & Ladder 151. “It broadens girls’ views on what they can be when they grow up. Everyone always asks my son, ‘Do you want to be a firefighter like your daddy?’ They never ask my daughter that same question. I want to teach Luna that her being born a female does not limit her in any way possible.”

Adds Sanchez: “Luna enjoyed her photoshoot; she liked touching the equipment and walking around in clunky boots—she didn’t want to give them back! Wearing the fire gear and having her photo taken made her feel special.”

More than anything, Forest Hills mom Farah Lyner loves “the spirit” of Rad Girl Revolution. “It’s at once daring, fun, sassy, colorful, smart, inspiring, and inclusive. It gives kids a sense of pride and accomplishment; as you flip through the pages, you're left with a feeling of ‘anything's possible’ by the time the book’s finished.”

Lyner’s daughter, Frankie, 3, has Down syndrome. “I hope when she sees herself pictured next to other girls in the book it gives her a sense of confidence and lights a fire within her,” says Lyner. “Today's generation of children with Down syndrome have bright futures ahead of them as a result of hard fought battles for inclusion and educational opportunities. More and more we are seeing young women with DS become small business owners, actors, models, teachers, and, of course, artists.” Frankie portrayed an artist in her Rad Girl photo; her shoot was held at Little Pulp, a collaborative art and printmaking workshop for kids located at The Shops at Atlas Park in Glendale, Queens.

On April 5th, Manickam and Bruno launched a $15,000 Kickstarter campaign for the publication of Rad Girl Revolution—at press time they’ve reached their goal and are still accepting pledges. The book is slated for publication in the fall; the Kickstarter concludes on May 5, 2018 and funds will be used to finish the remaining photoshoots and print and ship the first 1,000 copies of Rad Girl Revolution. Currently, the book and additional rewards can be pre-ordered on Kickstarter, and the devoted mompreneurs will donate 100+ copies to a charity that distributes books to at-risk children. 

“We are encouraged by the increased momentum toward gender equality, and feel that putting these images and rhymes in front of today’s youth can help better level the playing field from the start,” stated Manickam. Adds Bruno:  “Photographing the girls in our book has been an honor. I'm able to watch these already brilliant and charismatic girls transform into fuller, more confident versions of themselves.”

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