Today we are fortunate to have access to a surplus of amazing children’s books.
Authors aren’t afraid to share real life injustices with children and hopefully, by having openhearted and frank conversations with our little ones, we will raise children who seek love, peace, and social justice for all.
Children’s books are becoming more accessible in different forms and we can check them out (sometimes for free) on YouTube, download on our kindles, or–my favorite thing to do–purchase a hard copy as a keepsake for generations to come.
I’ve been collecting children’s books for the past decade. Now I have an eager child who loves to listen to her family read to her (5 Ways to Use Board Books With Your 5 Month Old).
I believe that children’s books can be used to teach valuable lessons, combat racism and teach acceptance, embrace differences, and inspire us to be the best we can be. They are a way to teach us never to forget the past and to learn as we strive to do better. We can empower children to take a stand.
Here are some of my favorite children’s books right now that inspire me and yes…make me a little teary eyed (not hard to do these days, though)!
Wangari’s Trees of Peace by Jeanette Winter
A staple in my book collection, I’ve used this books so many times over the past eight years. I bought this book when I was heading to South Africa to teach and it’s been a wonderful example of courage, wisdom, and the power of ONE female who changed her country for the better.Can be used with all ages (just one educator’s view).
Life Doesn’t Frighten Me by Maya Angelou & Jean Michel Basquiat (editor: Sara Jane Boyers)
Can we say WOW!?!? This compilation is absolutely magical. Basquiat’s dark and soul touching artwork paired with Maya Angelou’s daring poem is nothing short of amazing. This book teaches children the power of expression through words and art. HIGHLY RECOMMEND!!!
Separate is Never Equal by Duncan Tonatiuh
Almost 10 years before Brown vs. Board of Education, Sylvia Mendez and her parents helped end school segregation in California. Awesome book to explain the importance of equality to children. Also an important book to inform so the past is NOT repeated. Unfortunately schools are more segregated now than they were in the 1970’s.
Feminist Baby by Loryn Brantz (coming in April, 2017)
Meet the irrepressible Feminist Baby in this refreshing, clever board book about a girl who’s not afraid to do her own thing, and wants to make as much noise as possible along the way!
One Plastic Bag by Miranda Paul & Elizabeth Zunon
One woman’s activism to end plastic bag use in Gambia has far reaching impact. This inspiring story follows Isatou Ceesay’s journey as she found a way to recycle bags & change her community (and the world) for the better.
Olivia and the Fairy Princesses by Ian Falconer
The Olivia series is one of my favorites for all ages. I used it when I taught fifth grade and even when I taught kindergarten. The message is clear in this book: gender expression is not fixed. Some kids like princesses. Some don’t. Some want to be a warthog for Halloween and scare other kids. Or maybe, instead of a princess, you dream of being the queen and ruling the kingdom!
Enjoy non-stereotypical lines, including:
“At Pippa’s birthday party, they were all dressed in big, pink, ruffly skirts with sparkles and little crowns and sparkly wands. Including some of the boys.”
“Why is it always a pink princess? Why not an Indian princess or a princess from Thailand or an African princess or a princess from China?”
My People by Charles R. Smith Jr.
Acclaimed photographer Charles R. Smith Jr. shares his talents with us as he pairs beautiful sepia photographs of Black Americans with Langston Hughe’s famous tribute.
RAD American Women from A to Z by Kate Schatz and Miriam Klein Stahl
This bad ass alphabet book features female trailblazers who shaped the American history for the better.
Dreams of Freedom by Amnesty International
This inspirational book contains 17 quotations about many different aspects of freedom, from the freedom to have an education to that not to be hurt or tortured, the freedom to have a home and the freedom to be yourself. All the chosen quotations are in simple words that can be understood by young children (amazon.com summary).
I Have the Right to Be a Child by Alain Serres and Aurelia Fronty
The illustrations in this book are gorgeous. Pair them with the simple, understandable text about the rights of ALL children EVERYWHERE and you have a perfect go-to book to read with your kiddos or students. Promote Inclusion. Embrace equality & truth.
One by Kathryn Otoshi
When a friend introduced this book to me about five years ago, I fell in love. The simplicity yet depth is astounding. This book explores the power of ONE individual to step up and say “That is NOT RIGHT.” We all have a choice to do the right thing.
Be the Change by Arun Gandhi
Written by the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, the civil rights leader, this breathtakingly illustrated children’s book offers the story about passive violence vs. physical violence in an understandable way. Arun doesn’t understand why wasting a pencil is such a big deal? Why is it? Find out when you read this book that focuses on cultivating the goodness within.
14 Cows for America by Carmen Agra Deedy
This story touches the heart and speaks to the connectivity among all beings everywhere. After the September 11th attacks, the Maasai people of Kenya want to offer America their most prized possessions to mend America’s aching heart.
Malala Yousafzai: Warrior With Words by Karen Leggett Abouraya
This inspiring true story of the Pakistani activist, Malala, shows all children everywhere that they have the ability to INFLUENCE their lives and the lives of others for the better. All children, everywhere, have a RIGHT to an education.
A is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara
A is for Activist is an ABC board book written and illustrated for the next generation of progressives: families who want their kids to grow up in a space that is unapologetic about activism, environmental justice, civil rights, LGBTQ rights, and everything else that activists believe in and fight for (amazon.com summary)
What are some of your favorite books that inspire and empower?
*This book list was written before I knew about Books for Littles, an incredible organization run by the one and only Ashia Ray! BFL seeks to smash the kyriarchy by helping parents find books that do not perpetuate problematic tropes, but instead help kids [and their parents] dismantle systems of oppression in their homes & beyond!