Some teachers and parents at my daughter’s school wanted to know if I had any recommendations for children’s books that have a social justice bent. This is the list that I prepared for them. I thought others might find some ideas and solace here as well.
The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade by Justin Roberts, illustrated by Christian Robinson. 978-0399257438 Extremely compelling exploration of what happens when one person chooses to stand up set in a context that young readers will understand. Subtle, powerful, best choice on the list.
Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson. 978-0399257742. Direct representation of people acting for social change. Highly recommended gift book, most critically acclaimed picture book of 2016, winner of the Newbery Award and a Caldecott Honor book.
Maddi’s Fridge by Lois Brandt, illustrated by Vin Vogel, 978-1936261291 Food scarcity in elementary school. Direct experience and action by protagonist and her family to a classmate in need.
The Peace Book by Todd Parr. 978-0316043496 Todd Parr is a great goto for big issue books. His work is bright, colorful, and never condescending.
A is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara. 978-1609805395 This alphabet primer of social justice concepts is a great conversation starter. It does treat complicated issues in a somewhat facile way however and one of my favorite early childhood librarians loathes this book so take it with a grain of salt. NB ISBN and link are for the Board Book edition. Our copy has held up well through repeat readings but a larger format picture book edition is available for kids who might feel that they have outgrown boardbooks.
We All Sing With the Same Voice by J. Philip Miller & Sheppard M. Green, illustrated by Paul Meisel, 978-0060274757 Mulit-cultural singalong, appropriate for the youngest readers and their families.
Children Just Like Me: A New Exploration of Children Around the World by DK Publishing. 978-1465453921 Striking visual encyclopedia of how kids around the world live, what they eat, do for fun, and go to school. This is a fairly advanced text for our community but it is a great one to have on the bookshelf, to use as a visual guide for discussion, for older siblings, and as a book to grow into. NB ISBN and link lead to updated 2016 edition.
I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy, illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley. 978-1481465595 While not strictly a social justice title this book has been getting rave reviews.
Brave Irene by William Stieg. 978-0374309473 This is not a social justice book but it IS an excellent exploration of courage and how even the smallest of us can have the stoutest of heart.
The Three Robbers by Tomi Ungerer. 978-0714848778 Beautiful and moving picturebook about the redemptive power of choice.
The Lorax by Dr Seuss. 978-0394823379 A classic children’s book about environmentalism this one offers a chilling commentary on remaining silent in the face of disaster.
There are numerous works for all ages about the history of the civil rights movement, the suffragettes, GLBTQ rights, and the immigrant experience. If you would like further details about any of these topics please feel free to contact me directly. Any excellent titles which you may know of that are missing here have been left off unintentionally. I have only listed titles here that I am familiar with and have used in our household with our daughter Sydney.