The recent events in Charlottesville—and the ongoing struggle our country has with racism and other forms of oppression—underscore the importance of raising children who are accepting and inclusive of all, and have the strength to stand against the actions of those who are not. Here are a few reading ideas.
- Let’s Talk About Race, by Julius Lester. A lovely introduction that focuses on race as only one component of a person’s identity.
- We March, by Shane Evans. Simple yet powerful prose about the 1963 March on Washington, where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his historic “I Have a Dream” speech.
- March: Book One; Book Two; Book Three, by John Lewis. While Evans’ book is best for elementary school-age children, Lewis’ graphic novels are aimed at middle schoolers and up. Now a member of Congress, Lewis recounts his lifetime commitment to justice and nonviolence and his time in the civil rights movement marching with Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation, by Duncan Tonatiuh. Mendez, an American citizen of Mexican and Puerto Rican heritage who spoke and wrote perfect English, Mendez was denied enrollment to a “Whites only” school in California in 1944. Her parents took action by organizing the Hispanic community and filing a lawsuit in federal district court, a challenge that not only ended segregated education in the state, but also helped pave the way for national desegregation.
- Terrible Things: An Allegory of the Holocaust, Eve Bunting: When the Terrible Things capture all animals with feathers, Little Rabbit wonders what is wrong with feathers, but is silenced by his fellow animals, who tell him, “Just mind your own business, Little Rabbit. We don’t want them to get mad at us.”
- I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark, by Debbie Levy. A biography of the Notorious RBG, focusing on her dissents that show her standing up against inequality and for what is right for all people.
- She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World, by Chelsea Clinton. Simple but powerful profiles of women from a variety of backgrounds, and a great jumping-off point for further reading and discussion.
- A is for Activist and Counting on Community, by Innosanto Nagara. Board books for the very youngest that convey messages of justice and standing up for what one believes. Also in Spanish as A de activista.
- My Night in the Planetarium, also by Innosanto Nagara, is for slightly older (elementary school) children, and tells the true story of Nagara’s having to hide from soldiers seeking to arrest his father for writing and producing a play critical of the government in Indonesia.
- Fred Korematsu Speaks Up, by Laura Atkins. The story of the Japanese American Korematsu, who resisted going to an American internment camp during World War II, was jailed, and finally won a lawsuit for his rights 40 years later.
- ¡Si, Se Puede! / Yes, We Can!: Janitor Strike in L.A., by Diana Cohn. In this bilingual story, a boy whose mother is a janitor goes on strike for better wages to support her family, and his teacher shows him and his classmates how they can help support the workers, too.
- When You Look Out the Window: How Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin Built a Community, by Gayle Pitman. LGBTQ-rights pioneers Lyon and Martin helped transform San Francisco and its LGBTQ community. The picture book begins with them falling in love, buying a house, and observing the lack of rights for women and gay people in their neighborhood. “So we worked to change that,” they say.
- We March: A Coloring Book of the Women’s March, by Vivienne Wan, is a now-funded Kickstarter project that offers approximately 25 hand-drawn coloring pages of scenes from the March, with diverse and lively images of people speaking out for various aspects of social justice.
There are many more books on similar themes; leave your favorites in the comments!
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