Children ask questions, demand answers, and seek tangible analogies to help them understand the complexities of the world in which they live. They are, undoubtedly, pint sized barometers of right and wrong. Let’s use their insatiable curiosity and unwavering moral compasses to teach them that though they may be little, they are, without question, more fierce than many people three times their size. We — parents, caregivers and educators — can harness their innate ability to view the world through righteous eyes by showing them they have the power to make a change if they see behaviors or events they believe are wrong. We can teach them that though they are small, their voices are mighty and they have the ability to make a difference in their school or their community. Whether they hold a hand out to a classmate being bullied, organize a book drive for schools that have been destroyed by natural disasters, or run a bake sale to raise money for a homeless shelter, there are things our kids can do to explore solutions to some of our society’s greatest challenges.
There are so many meaningful stories that can help our little ones find not only their voices, but ways to right the wrongs they see around them. Together we can build a community of children who believe in social justice and who are ready and willing to make important changes in their worlds. By facilitating this conversation when our children are young, we can build the foundation for greater understanding and activism as they grow. And now, without further ado, here are some of our top 10 favorite books to help children find their voices and learn to evoke change. Enjoy!
The Curious Garden, by Peter Brown: We love this book about one boy’s quiet determination to change the face of his dreary city by nurturing a forgotten garden and encouraging it to grow wild.
Maybe Something Beautiful, by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell and illustrated by Rafael Lopez: Based on the story of the urban Art Trail in San Francisco, This exquisitely beautiful book shows how art can transform not just a neighborhood, but the people living in it as well. For our full review of Maybe Something Beautiful, click HERE.
Extra Yarn, by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen: What happens when one little girl and her seemingly endless box of yarn knit one sweater, and then another and another? This understated yet stunning Caldecott Honor book is another gem and shows what happens when you share goodness with the people around you.
Be the Change: A Grandfather Gandhi Story, by Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus and illustrated by Evan Turk: With a fabulous look at how “passive violence” occurs frequently and is often a root cause of physical violence, this beautiful story explains how each of us can examine and modify our own actions to create even the smallest of changes for the betterment of society.
Nerdy Birdy, by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Matt Davies: Nerdy Birdy loves reading and video games- two passions which cancel his membership to the cool crowd. Nerdy Birdy eventually finds a flock of birds just like him, but what happens when a new bird comes to town who doesn’t quite fit in? Nerdy Birdy strays from the crowd, standing up for his new pal.
I am Martin Luther King Jr., by Brad Meltzer and illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos: part of Brad Meltzer’s Ordinary People Change the World series, this wonderful biography tells the story of MLK, and how even as a child he was shocked by the unfair and unequal treatment of African Americans. As he grew, he decided to do something about this problem, and with peaceful, powerful words and non-violent protests, one ordinary person made an extraordinary impact on society.
What Do You Do With a Problem, by Kobi Yamada and illustrated by Mae Besom: Another winner by the author of What Do You Do With an Idea. In this story, a problem follows a boy around, and with it comes struggle and anxiety. Until, that is, the moment he realizes that with every problem comes an opportunity. What a perfect message to impart to our kids that they have the power to make positive changes out of challenges they see in their own backyards.
Grace for President, by Kelly DiPucchio and illustrated by LeUyen Pham: “Where are the girls?” Tenacious Grace is determined to make a change when she learns there has never been a woman president. Need I say more?
Enemy Pie, by Derek Munson and illustrated by Tara Calahan King: Sometimes all it takes is spending a day with your “enemy” to change your attitude for good. We love this story of a young boy’s evolution from foe to friend– and, of course, his brilliant father’s ingenious idea!
One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia, by Miranda Paul and Elizabeth Zunon: This powerful picture book tells the story of a Gambian girl who recognizes a huge challenge in her village and seeks to combat it. One plastic bag– eventually discarded on the road- turns into ten which turns into thousands, killing goats and causing significant strife in the community. Isitou Ceesay finds a way to recycle these plastic bags by turning them into purses, which effectively transforms her village and beautifully imparts that one child can truly make an impact on the world around her.