You know how the saying goes: our children are our future. They hold the fate of the world in their tiny, sticky hands, and based on the way 2017 is going so far, they're going to need all they help they can get today to become effective leaders of tomorrow. Give the young ones in your life a leg up with these picture books on activism that will teach them how to be brave, how to be strong, and how to make a difference in the world.
When you think of family-friendly activities, what do you typically imagine? My childhood was filled with trips to the zoo, afternoons at the aquarium, and nights at the movies with my parents and sisters. For the children growing up in this moment, however, their weekend activities are starting to look a little different. Instead of play dates at the park, they're attending protests with their politically engaged parents. Rather than watching St. Patrick's Day parades, they're standing alongside their mothers in marches for women's rights. The world is spinning a million miles an hour around today's kids, and they're having to face the realities of an unfair world sooner than the generation before them. How will they handle it? That depends on how well they're prepared.
To help kids understand what is happening in the world around them, and to teach them how they can get involved, here are 11 children's books on activism you can both learn from.
1'We Are All Born Free: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Pictures' by Amnesty International
Signed on December 10, 1948 following the global devastation of World War II, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was created to protect the rights of people from every country all over the world. In this collection, its declarations are celebrated in vibrant pictures perfect for sharing with children of all ages. We Are All Born Free is a bright, beautiful, and diverse book that is a must-have for every activist-in-training.
2'¡Si, Se Puede! Yes, We Can!: Janitor Strike in L.A.' by Diana Cohn
In this inspiring bilingual picture book, one young boy learns what it means to make a difference in the fight for equality and fairness. ¡Si, Se Puede! Yes, We Can! follows the story of Carlitos and his mother, a struggling janitor who decides to lead a strike for fair wages, as they both figure out how to stand up for what they believe in. Told in both English and Spanish and accompanied by bright and bold illustrations, this story — based on the 2000 L.A. janitor's strike that drew attention to the struggles of working-class Latino families — sends a beautiful message to any child learning how to fight for change.
3'Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family's Journey' by Margriet Ruurs
Inspired by the stone artwork of Syrian artist Nizar Ali Badr, Stepping Stones is an extraordinary picture book about the gut wrenching realities of the modern Syrian refugee crisis. It tells the story of Rama and her family, who are searching for safety and a new home in Europe after being forced out of their village by the raging civil war. Published in English and Arabic, Stepping Stones is as breathtaking as it is relevant, a required read for adults and children today.
4'For Every Child' by Caroline Castle
Another official document-turned-picture book, For Every Child is the United Nations' formal fifty-four principled policy about the rights every child has all over the world represented in both words and in bright, diverse illustrations and photos perfect for sharing with kids. Simple yet inspiring, it's the perfect guide for children who want a preliminary course in human rights and, more specifically, their rights.
5'Counting on Community' by Innosanto Nagara
From the author the the unique alphabet book, A is for Activist, comes another socially-conscious picture book, Counting on Community. Counting up from one to ten, this creative, community-focused read uses numbers to explore diversity and giving back though fun, lyrical text and vibrant illustrations. Fun and simple, this little book packs a big punch.
6'Child of the Civil Rights Movement' by Paula Young Shelton
Take children inside the Civil Rights movement from the perspective of one of their peers in Paula Young Shelton's autobiographical picture book about growing up during one of America's most important moments in history. The daughter of an activist and niece of movement leader Martin Luther King, Jr., Shelton uses her own experiences as a child to create a moving, poignant picture book about the birth of the Civil Rights and some of its most crucial moments, including the march from Selma. A fun and empowering picture book, Child of the Civil Rights Movement should be on every kid's bookshelf.
7'We the People: The Constitution of the United States' by Peter Spier
Before any young activist can make a real difference, they have to understand the document that defines the rights and liberties of every American: the Constitution. Teach them the ins, outs, changes, and controversies surrounding this crucial document with Pete Spier's We the People, a comprehensive illustrated guide to the piece of writing that defines freedom, justice, and equality in this country.
8'Malala Yousafzai: Warrior with Words' by Karen Leggett Abouraya
Share the inspiring true story of Malala Yousafzai with children off all ages with Karen Leggett Abourayo's remarkable picture book about the young activist's extraordinary life. In Malala Yousafzai: Warrior with Words, readers will learn about the Nobel Peace Prize winner's non-stop fight for the rights for girls education, and be empowered to make a difference in their own world.
9'Elizabeth Leads the Way: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Right to Vote' by Tanya Lee Stone
In this fun and bright picture book, readers will get to know Elizabeth Cady Stanton, one of America's most extraordinary women and one of the leaders of the suffrage movement. An enjoyable lesson about her contributions to women's rights and the ability for one person to make a big difference, Elizabeth Leads the Way is sure to inspire young activists to fight for their own causes.
10'Giant Steps to Change the World' by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee
In this inspirational book from director Spike Lee and his wife Tonya, children get a crash course in activism. Giant Steps to Change the World uses real-life examples of people throughout history who have made a difference to show kids that, no matter how scary or hard it may see, they can start taking small steps to change the world in a big way.
11'Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez' by Kathleen Krull
In Harvesting Hope, readers become familiar with one of the country's most influential civil rights leaders, Cesar Chavez. An exciting account of his remarkable life, from his short-lived childhood to his years as a laborer in the fields to the incredible 340-mile march to protest working conditions of migrant farmers, this bold picture book is a thrilling and educational read for children of all ages.