After a frantic search for books with strong and active female leaders for her two daughters proved to be unsuccessful, Lani Silversides, Instructor in Mathematics, decided to create her own storybooks. The book is scheduled to be published next week.
The book, titled “My Strong is Beautiful,” features photographs taken by Silversides of young girls from pre-school playing and being active. In one such photo, a young girl wearing patterned leggings is seen swinging wildly at a tennis ball, in another, three children are being taught the proper race starting position by Andover Track’s Co-Captain, Camille Little ’16.
“It feels like there’s a lot of, in terms of gender, boys being active and strong while the girls are playing dress-up or being quiet and coloring. My girls love to do those things as well but I started questioning, is it because it’s being modeled for them in these books. Are they doing this because it’s what they’re seeing?” said Silversides.
Silversides also created a website, mystrongisbeautiful.com as a supplement to her storybook. Featuring large, black and white photos of young girls exercising and playing sports, the website is targeted at toddlers and pre-school children. The website also hosts a page of activities such as coloring pages and crossword puzzles that surround the topic of girls in sports.
“My thought is that parents can access the website and they can show their kids and give them this interactive experience. The site is called ‘My Strong is Beautiful,’ but I believe that those adjectives can be interchanged and can be identified by whomever,” said Silversides.
Silversides hopes that these images of young girls playing and being carefree will help empower girls who feel insecure being athletic.
“The photos are really geared towards that active component. They show that these girls love to play. I don’t know if there’s a point where they stop being proud of that, but these photos show that they’re smiling and happy,” said Silversides.
As a child, Silversides was exposed to an athletic lifestyle through her constantly active brothers.
“What you can expose these young kids to, they’re such sponges that if there was a bigger exposure of sports and these strong athletic mindset, they’re going to imitate it or see it and know that they can do that or at least try,” said Silversides.
Silversides is currently searching for people among the Andover community to help her create content for her website. She also wants parents and girls anywhere to submit their own photos to add to the online gallery.
“My goal is to inspire young girls to be active. Empowering them to be proud of who they are and if part of who they are is athletic and active then I want them to be proud of that,” said Silversides.
In the future, Silversides plans to move beyond girls of the toddler and pre-school age and include middle school girls.
“I want to open doors for them that they might assume is closed because of the society and culture we live in. My hope is to start young and showing these young girls that they can be dirty or messy or active and ideally over time I want to work my way up,” said Silversides.