- Associated Press - Sunday, March 27, 2016

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) - Self-esteem in girls peaks at age nine.

That’s what Birmingham native Lara Avsar learned when she was getting her Masters of Business Administration at Harvard Business School.

“That was a big stat for me… It was one that really shocked me.”

She also read in a PBS article titled “Raising a Powerful Girl” that parents should limit their young daughter’s exposure to the media, before “media’s messages start to get in.”

Again, this shocked Avsar. “It doesn’t say to limit a boy’s exposure, just girl’s. Why rather limit exposure to the media? Change the media,” she said.

The things Avsar learned inspired her to create a business plan in a class project for a line of children’s storybooks aimed for young girls. She said she loves things that women like Sheryl Sandberg are doing for millennial women, but that no one is doing that for young girls.

After the project, Avsar couldn’t let the idea go. It became all she focused on, and she soon dropped out of Harvard to dedicate her life to the project that she called Her Little Story.

“Why am I going to spend the next year of my life in a classroom when I could be doing something that I know I am going to want to do for the next 40 years? I had to reply on my gut and jumping in and knowing that I couldn’t imagine anything else. I was so focused; I couldn’t imagine anything else.”

The books, she said, are meant to show girls that they can grow up to be astronauts, scientists, writers, presidents, and anything else they want to be. Avsar said, “The glass ceiling has been broken in so many ways- its time to highlight the women who did it.”

She released the first book in the Her Little Story collection, titled Not So Perfect Deb, last year. Her goal is that a new book will be released every four months.

The first book focuses on Debora Spar, the current president of Barnard College. Spar spent 17 years teaching business and economic classes at Harvard.

Not So Perfect Deb tells Spar’s story, from a little girl who loved being in the classroom reading, to the president of a popular college affiliated with Columbia University.

The next book, which is currently in its final stages, stars Joanna Coles- the editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine and editorial director of Seventeen magazine. Coles’ story talks about her childhood love of magazines and how she grew up to be not only a magazine writer, but an editor.

“It doesn’t have to be a preachy way to give girls a biography… we need to show real women that are alive today. It shows flaws, it shows characters that are still accomplishing their dreams; it’s a different approach. The idea is to take real women and put them in character form. Eloise doesn’t just grow up at The Plaza, she owns The Plaza. Imagine if Dora wasn’t a fictional explorer, but Sylvia Earle exploring our oceans as a marine biologist.”

Avsar’s goal is for girls to identify strong, female role models (other than their mothers or family members) early on in life. She said that she didn’t develop her role models until 19- which is a decade too late, according to the statistic backed by The New York Times.

Books are not the only thing that Avsar wants in the Her Little Story brand. She said that she would love to introduce dolls and videos to go along with each book.

“Every character needs an entire ecosystem around it… These characters infiltrate our children’s lives, why can’t we be proud of them?”

Avsar said some women she hopes will jump in the projects include Joan Baez, Misty Copeland, Meryl Streep, and Alicia Keys.

“I get asked all the time, ‘Are you a mom?’ No, I’m not a mom. But I’m the little girl who wanted this growing up. I will be a mom, and I want this for my future daughter,” Avsar said.

“No no no. this is isn’t something were iterating on. This is what Her Little Story stands for. This is what Her Little Story is all about.”

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