Learning about Social Justice

Back at the end of May, when our nation’s focus was on George Floyd and racial injustice, I decided to start a study of social justice issues with my 6 year old through the use of picture books. There are many, many picture books out there about every topic that you could think of.

Sometimes books bring up uncomfortable topics, but they are useful for sparking conversations. Together we have learned about different people in history who have worked for change.

It can be hard to explain to her how or why certain things happened, since she doesn’t have the historical and social knowledge to put it in context. But I hope the main thing she takes away from our book studies is to always treat others with respect and to work and advocate for change in our world.

This is certainly not a comprehensive list of the books available on these topics, but I wanted to share the list of books we read. Perhaps they will inspire you to check some of them out and learn some new things.

Emmanuel’s Dream:  The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah by Laurie Ann Thompson

Disability advocate in Africa.

Drum Dream Girl:  How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music by Margarita Engle

A Cuban musician who broke down gender barriers

Free as a Bird: The Story of Malala by Lina Maslo

Advocate for the right to education of girls

 I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes her Mark by Debbie Levy

Fighting for change as a supreme court justice

Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai

Malala’s story in her own words about standing up for what you believe

 Pride:  The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag by Rob Sanders

Advocate for gay rights

Harlem’s Little Blackbird:  The Story of Florence Mills by Renee Watson

A singer during the Harlem Renaissance who used her voice to help others

We’re All Wonders by R.J. Palacio

Kindness towards everyone

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena

Seeing gratitude everywhere in the world

We Are All Born Free: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Pictures Put out by Amnesty International with different contributing artists

My Two Blankets by Irena Kobald and Freya Blackwood

A refugee moving to a new country and having to adapt to a new world

Wangari’s Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa by Jeanette Winter

One woman who made a difference by planting trees

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909 by Michelle Markel

Advocate for worker’s rights

Martin and Mahalia: His Words, Her Song by Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney

Shows how both MLK Jr. and Mahalia Jackson used their voices for change

We March by Shane W. Evans

A short book about marching for rights

Be the Change: A Grandfather Gandhi Story by Arun Manilal Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus

Extreme nonviolence, including passive violence as taught to him by his grandfather

La Frontera: My Journey with Papa by Deborah Mills and Alfredo Alva

The story of crossing the border from Mexico to the U.S.

Same, Same, but Different by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw

Pen pals from across the world compare their lives

A Sweet Smell of Roses by Angela Johnson

Story of children going to a protest march

Crossing Bok Chitto: A Choctaw Tale of Friendship and Freedom by Tim Tingle

A story of Choctaws rescuing slaves

The Youngest Marcher:  The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist by Cynthina Levinson

A story of the youngest girl to march against segregation and be arrested

Grandfather Gandhi by Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus

Arun, Gandhi’s grandson, learning a lesson about using your anger in a positive way

The Case for Loving:  The Fight for Interracial Marriage by Selina Alko

The family that made it to the supreme court to allow interracial marriage

One Plastic Bag:  Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia by Miranda Paul

A woman who learned to recycle the plastic bags in her community

Two White Rabbits by Jairo Buitrago

A simple story about a girl and what she sees on the journey as a refugee

My Heart Will Not Sit Down by Mara Rockliff

A story of sharing with those who need it even when they themselves have little

Dreams of Freedom: In Words and Pictures by Amnesty International

A collection of quotes about freedom paired with art

Her Right Foot by Dave Eggers

A story about the Statue of Liberty and how she is walking to welcome all to our country

Stepping Stones:  A Refugee Family’s Journey by Margriet Ruurs

Told in English and Arabic and illustrated with stones arranged artfully

Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson

Tells the story of Mandela and his fight for justice in South Africa

Preaching to the Chickens:  The Story of young John Lewis by Jabari Asim

John Lewis preached to the chickens as a young boy

Steamboat School by Deborah Hopkinson

Inspired by the true story of a freed slave who started a school for black children in Missouri

As Good As Anybody:  Martin Luther King Jr. and Abraham Joshua Herschel’s Amazing March Toward Freedom by Richard Michelson

Shows the parallels between the stories of MLK’s life and Herschel’s life as a Jew in WWII Europe and how they come together to walk in Selma, Alabama.

Counting on Katherine:  How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13 by Helaine Becker

About Katherine Johnson, an extraordinary mathematician

Not Quite Snow White by Ashley Franklin

A young girl who wants to play Snow White in the school play even though she is “too tall, too chubby, and too brown”

Stolen Words by Melanie Florence

A granddaughter learns from her grandfather how his native language was taken away from him

My Name is Truth: The Life of Sojourner Truth by Ann Turner

A slave turned influential speaker

Lillian’s Right to Vote: A Celebration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by Jonah Winter and Shane Evans

An old woman reflects back on the history of voting rights as she prepares to vote

The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson

A story of two girls who become friends despite being from opposite sides of the fence

Dolores Huerta: A Hero to Migrant Workers by Sarah Warren

A teacher who works tirelessly to help migrant workers go on strike for fair working conditions

The Girl with a Mind for Math: The Story of Raye Montague by Julia Finley Mosca

A woman of color who became a successful engineer designing ships for the navy, despite the roadblocks

Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman

A young girl realizes that she can be anything she wants to (including Peter Pan in the school play)

Touch the Sky: Alice Coachman, Olympic High Jumper by Ann Malaspina

A young black girl becomes an olympic gold medalist

Sister Anne’s Hands by Marybeth Lorbiecki

A story of what a girl learns from having a teacher of color

Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe by Vivian Kirkfield

How two women lifted each other up.

One Green Apple by Eve Bunting

An immigrant girl adjusts to life at her new school.

Playing to Win: The Story of Althea Gibson by Karen Deans

The rise of a successful African-American tennis player.

The World is Not a Rectangle: A portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid by Jeanette Winter

An Iraqi woman and her unique designs

The Whispering Town by Jennifer Elvgren

A story of a Danish town who helped to hide Jews and smuggle them to Sweden during the Holocaust.

Two Friends: Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglas by Dean Robbins

The friendship between two advocates for change

The Tree in the Courtyard: Looking Through Anne Frank’s Window by Jeff Gottesfeld

The story of the tree and how she lives on.

Nobody Owns the Sky: The Story of Brave Bessie Coleman by Reeve Lindbergh

A woman of color who became a pilot despite people telling her she couldn’t.

Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist by Jess Keating

A scientist who was told she couldn’t succeed because she was female and went on to swim with and train sharks.

Not So Different: What You Really Want to Ask About Having a Disability by Shane Burcaw

A man with SMA answers some of the most common questions he gets about life with a disability

Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed

A young African-American girl’s dreams to become an astronaut come true.

Parrots, Pugs, and Pixie Dust: A Book about Fashion Designer Judith Leiber by Deborah Blumenthal

A Jewish woman from Hungary who went on to design fun and sparkly handbags

The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin by Julia Finley Mosca

How a young girl with autism became a great inventor and speaker.

Rescue and Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship by Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes

A story of a girl and her service dog

The William Hoy Story: How a Deaf Baseball Player Changed the Game by Nancy Churnin

A baseball player who advocated for the use of sign language during the game to accommodate him

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