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