Using books to spark conversations of social justice issues

This piece is a partner piece to another post. I didn't want to overwhelm readers with a super long post. Essentially, this is a list of books I've found recently to be good entry points to tough conversations about social justice with our kids. We need these conversations now more than ever. So, check with your local libraries or local bookstores to see if they have these titles! As my kids age, I'll continue to expand my list of books for older kids :) If you have a favorite book to teach kids about the world, leave the title and a brief description in the comments section!

Grades Pre-K-K: 
A is for Activist:  We haven't read this book, but I came across it when searching for books to add to our
library. From what I understand, it's a visually appealing board book that moves through the alphabet but not in a watered down, A is for apple fashion. For example, "A is for Activist. /Advocate./ Abolitionist. Ally./ Actively Answering A call to Action. [...] Y is for Your. And Youth./ Your planet. Your rights/Your future. Your truth./ Y is for Yes. Yes! Yes! Yes!"  The Amazon review says the book is for kids ages 2 and up; I never had a 2 year old, but it seems like these words might be too advanced for them, which is why I categorized it in Pre-K/K. In fact, I've even added it to our Amazon list to order for my almost 2nd graders. There's a similar book called Counting on Community that addresses the concept of community while also teaching numbers.

Malala Yousafzai: Warrior with Words: This is another book I found on Amazon but haven't read. However, it appears to have the same theme as A is for Activist. It's a board book that moves through the alphabet and introduces themes of justice while also telling a bit of Malala's story.

Peace is an Offering: This book is in our Amazon cart right now! The reviews indicate the book is appropriate for kids ages 3-5, but I'm pretty sure my 7 year-olds can learn from it, too. The images look beautiful, and it seems to discuss peace and cooperation in an accessible way without being overly slanted to a particular agenda.

I am Rosa Parks: This was the first book we read to the kids that so clearly articulated a racial injustice. As we read and discussed other unfair laws during the Jim Crow era, our kids kept screaming, "BUT THAT'S NOT FAIR!" We had a great discussion about recognizing injustice and why injustice exists (stems from fear of differences).

It's Okay to be Different: We love Todd Parr books in our home! His family book is an amazing introduction to the different kinds of families. The book uses simple language and bright illustrations to talk about individuality and characteristics that make each person unique.

Grades 1-4:
My Name is TruthBeautiful pictures and an accessible story about Sojourner Truth and slavery. For us, it opened up a conversation about slavery and then using our words to teach others about difficult things.

Who is Barack Obama: This easy to read chapter book gives is an excellent biography of President Obama while also touching on issues of race in an accessible way as it details Obama's own struggles with race. The book also includes one page biographies and descriptions of relevant historical figures/situations mentioned in the book. We've been reading through one chapter a day; while my kids are pretty good readers, I think it's best to read a biography like this together. One part of the book talks about how Obama was the only black kid in his classroom and felt like an outsider. It opened up a great dialogue about noticing differences and then how to be inclusive to these differences.

Let's Talk About Race: This one is in our Amazon cart, and I am SO excited to read it. The reviews rave about how the author Julius Lester skillfully tackles racial stereotypes by recognizing that each person has a story to tell. I am giddy at this find!

The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth, & Harlem's Greatest BookstoreSurprisingly, we found this book in our public library! I saw it on a shelf and snagged it for the kids. We read it the other night, and it allowed us to talk about Malcolm X--who he was, what he believed and why, how he was different from Martin Luther King Jr., and why MLK Jr. and his followers were able to change so many more laws. We talked about how MLK Jr. and his followers practiced non-violent direct action exercising incredible self-control in the face of violence and hatred (we talked about how in our family, we believe in the power of the Holy Spirit to give us strength to do the impossible) and how different this was from the violence happening all around them. We were able to draw some comparisons to recent events like the shootings of innocent black men and innocent police officers.

Rad American Women A-Z: Another public library find! The book is obviously organized in alphabetical order and features a different American woman who trail-blazed a new path, overcame obstacles, or stood up for justice. Because the book is geared more for kids grades 5 and up, I selected a few biographies to read/summarize to our kids. The book includes racially diverse women, which was cool for my kids to see.

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