Ibram X. Kendi
From the award-winning author of How to Be an Anti-Racist comes a must-read picture book for the youngest of readers. Featuring thoughtful discussion prompts for families, Antiracist Baby helps readers recognize and reflect on their internal biases and take actionable steps for a more just, antiracist world.
A is for Activist
This ABC book is written and illustrated for the next generation of progressives: families who want their kids to grow up in a space that is unapologetic about activism, environmental justice, civil rights, LGBTQIA+ equality, and everything else that activists believe in and fight for.
Last Stop on Market Street
Matt de la Peña
Every Sunday after church, CJ and his grandma ride the bus across town. But today, CJ wonders why they don’t own a car like his friend Colby. Why doesn’t he have an iPod like the boys on the bus? How come they always have to get off in the dirty part of town? Each question is met with an encouraging answer from Grandma, who helps him see the beauty—and fun—in their routine and the world around them.
All Are Welcome
Celebrate diversity and inclusion with All Are Welcome, which follows a group of children through a day in their school. A school where kids in patkas, hijabs, and yarmulkes play side-by-side with friends in baseball caps; a school where students grow and learn from each other’s traditions. May all of our children go to a school like this one.
In this board book perfect for budding feminists, discover what iconic figures—Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Mae Jemison, and Frida Kahlo among them—might have looked like as adorable babies and toddlers. It carries an inspiring message that any baby can grow up to make the world a better place for all genders. (Follow it up with Baby Feminists Too.)
This beautifully illustrated book explores the unimaginable decisions families must make when they leave their homes—and everything they know—to escape the turmoil and tragedy brought by war. Based on a series of interviews with refugees, The Journey gives voice to a crisis and emphasizes the importance of welcoming others.
Horton Hears a Who!
Most of us remember the words of the kindhearted elephant in this Dr. Seuss classic: “A person’s a person, no matter how small.” But another takeaway worth discussing with young readers is the fact that the whole town of Whoville was saved by the determination and action of one little Who. One person can indeed make a difference, especially when that one person joins in with all their neighbors and friends.
Stonewall: A Building. An Uprising. A Revolution
In the early-morning hours of June 28, 1969, the Stonewall Inn was raided by police in New York City. This night would play a historic role in the gay civil rights movement, empowering members of the LGBTQ+ community to demand their equal rights as U.S. citizens. Movingly narrated by the inn itself, Stonewall is an essential story and an important reminder of the power of protests.
Shirley Chisholm Is a Verb
Shirley Chisholm famously said, “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.” This dynamic biography of the first Black woman in Congress illuminates how Chisholm was an vocal participant in our nation’s democracy and a force to be reckoned with. Readers will learn about her early years, her time in Congress, her presidential bid, and how her actions left a lasting legacy that continues to inspire, uplift, and instruct.
The Little Book of Little Activists
Penguin Young Readers
The Little Book of Little Activists is a primer on political activism. Filled with photos of children at recent rallies, it also includes inspirational quotes from kids themselves on topics of equality, diversity, and feminism, and an afterword by civil rights activist Lynda Blackmon Lowery, author of Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the 1965 Selma Voting Rights March.
I Am Jazz
Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings
From the time she was 2 years old, Jazz knew that she was actually a girl. This confused her family until they took her to a doctor who said that Jazz was transgender and that she was born that way. Jazz’s story is based on her real-life experience, and she tells it in simple, clear language that’s accessible for both the youngest and oldest of us.
Chelsea Clinton breaks down the concepts of health, hunger, climate change, endangered species, and bullying, so that readers can understand how to make a difference in their communities and the world at large. With photographs of real kids making a difference today and lists of ways to get involved, this book is the perfect introduction to young activists who want to make the world a better place.
Rad Women Worldwide
Rad Women Worldwide tells amazing tales about diverse figures who lived from 430 BCE to 2016, from Hatshepsut (the female king who ruled Egypt peacefully for two decades) and Malala Yousafzi (the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize) to Liv Arnesen and Ann Bancroft (the first women to cross Antarctica). An additional 250 names of international rad women are also included so readers can continue their own research.
Bud, Not Buddy
Christopher Paul Curtis
It’s 1936, in Flint, Michigan, at the height of the Great Depression. Times may be hard, and 10-year-old Bud may be a motherless boy on the run from a rotten foster home, but Bud’s got a few things going for him. He’s got a suitcase filled with special things. His momma never told him who his father was, but she left a clue: flyers advertising the musician Herman E. Calloway and his famous band. Bud’s got an idea that those flyers will lead him to his father. Once he decides to hit the road to find this mystery man, nothing can stop him—not hunger, not fear, not vampires, not even Herman E. Calloway himself.
R. J. Palacio
August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting fifth grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. In a world where bullying is an epidemic, this is a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance.
Brown Girl Dreaming
Raised in South Carolina and New York, Jacqueline Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, which created the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become.
Ellen S. Levine
In this collection, 30 Black activists who were children or teenagers in the 1950s and 1960s talk about what it was like for them to fight segregation in the South—to sit in an all-white restaurant and demand to be served, to refuse to give up a seat at the front of the bus, to be among the first to integrate public schools, and to face violence, arrest, and even death for freedom. As you teach your kids about the Civil Rights and Black Lives Matter movements, be sure to include these crucial perspectives.
Every activist started out as a kid. But even the world’s greatest champions of civil liberties had relatable interests and problems, often in the middle of extraordinary circumstances. Martin Luther King, Jr. loved fashion and argued with his dad about whether or not dancing was a sin. Dolores Huerta was once wrongly accused of plagiarizing in school. Kid Activists tells these childhood stories and more, proving to young people that every change maker was once just like them.
No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference
In August 2018, 15-year-old Greta Thunberg decided not to go to school one day in order to protest the climate crisis. Her actions sparked a global movement, inspiring millions of students to go on strike for our planet, forcing governments to listen, and earning her a Nobel Peace Prize nomination. Collecting Greta’s speeches that have made history across the globe, her book is a rallying cry for why we must all wake up and fight to protect the living planet. Our future depends upon it.
The Diary of a Young Girl
Following the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, the President of the United States defended racists and neo-Nazis, saying there were “two sides” to the story. Let’s be clear: Six million people—including hundreds of thousands of innocent children like Anne Frank—were murdered by Nazis because they were Jewish. There are not “two sides” to genocide or racism. Anne Frank’s diary is a record of two years in the life of a remarkable girl whose humanity in the face of unfathomable fear has made the book one of the most enduring documents of our time, and remains essential reading for all.
It’s a challenging time to parent right now. Racism and bigotry persist in a culture built on unequal power structures. Climate change is real, and its effects are becoming increasingly devastating. The presidential administration continues to malign and endanger the lives of immigrants and their families.
How do you help your children make sense of all this? How do we raise a generation of kids to be better humans than our current leaders are proving themselves to be? I try to live by a “Teach your children well” mindset, but man, it’s tough to parent from the fetal position, which is where I end up after reading the headlines. Where do I even begin?
The books on this list will help you tackle those tough topics. It’s never too early to begin teaching inclusion and activism. And it’s also never too late—every generation can learn something from this reading list.
Featured Image: Kaylani Juanita