It’s getting harder and harder, waking up to the world we’re living in today. Some of our best defenses are, and will always be, empathy and information. I was inspired to create my own list of books to cultivate young activists by CuriousCity’s Books for All of Us post; I hope these books inspire you, too. Remember what J.R.R. Tolkien told us: even the smallest person can change the course of the future.
Available in board book or hardcover, A is for Activist is a rhyming abcedary of activism. The book introduces little ones to ideas like Co-Op, Equal Rights, Grassroots, Indigenous, and Justice. Best for pre-k and up in terms of grasping the concepts, but it’s never too early to get an ABC book in front of the little ones. The illustrations are loaded with new things to find with each reading.
One of my storytime constants, Change the World Before Bedtime is loaded with ways for kids to make positive changes in their world, from eating locally to visiting a sick friend, to donating money from a lemonade stand to a good cause. It’s another rhyming text, with homespun, cozy artwork that immediately evokes the warm fuzzies.
Everyday activism! Carmelita is a little girl going to visit her abuela. As she walks through her neighborhood, she and her neighbors greet one another in their native languages: “Buenos días!”, “Konichiwa!”, “Shalom!”, and other joyful salutations embrace the multicultural world in which we live. Say Hello! will have kids sharing their own greetings with one another.
Little Sally McCabe may be the smallest girl in the smallest grade, but she’s making big things happen when she decides to speak up when she sees bullying at the playground. This rhyming story lets kids of all sizes know that we can all make a difference.
This wordless picture book is inspired by human rights organization Amnesty International’s letter writing campaigns. A man is arrested during a peaceful protests and languishes in jail. A cruel guard burns letters that would sustain the man, inspiring more letter writers to come together and create a winged army of written support that overwhelms the guard and lifts the prisoner up and away. The book illustrates the power of the written word to sustain as well as to take a stand.
Middle graders have more of a grasp on the world around them, can take action in different ways. Marnus, the 13-year-old protagonist in A Good Day for Climbing Trees, and a friend take action to save a local tree from demolition by petitioning and holding a sit-in, which alerts others to their cause. Readers get a more involved view of activism, and some potential results, here.
This is just a small handful of the growing number of books out there. I encourage you all to read these books, read them to your kids, and add them to your collections.