Books for Young Activists:
7 Inspiring Reads for Kids Who Want to Change the World

by Sharon Holbrook

Photo credit: Alistair Berg, Iconica/Getty Images

Apparently, Chelsea Clinton and I have something in common. As kids, we both cut up those plastic six-pack rings after reading that they could strangle animals — in the very same book no less, 50 Simple Things Kids Can Do to Save The Earth. What an impression a book can make! In fact, Clinton has even gone on to write her own book for world-changing kids.its-your-world

It’s Your World: Get Informed, Get Inspired, and Get Going! combines facts, figures, photos, and stories to demonstrate what kids are doing — and what the reader can do — to make their own positive impact on the
world, from issues of health and equality to educational and environmental improvement.

In the spirit of Clinton’s book, here are six other sources of kid inspiration.

  • The New 50 Simple Things Kids Can Do to Save the Earth

    by The EarthWorks Group and Sophie Javna, illustrated by Michele Montez and Lorraine Bodger

    Of course we can’t forget this now-classic choice, updated from the original 1990 version that Clinton and I read as kids. It’s still chock-full of hands-on, earth-friendly actions that kids will be eager to do, and to prod their families into doing. New are lots of online resources, and updates to original statistics and some of the activities.

  • Real Kids, Real Stories, Real Change: Courageous Actions Around the World

    by Garth Sundem

    Written in a kid-appropriate, fun, conversational tone, this book highlights the stories of thirty remarkable children from around the globe. Even this adult is inspired by the grit and character of these kids, from the boy who escaped from slavery in a Pakistani carpet factory, to the British girl who realized a tsunami was on its way and cleared a Thai beach of 100 tourists in time to save their lives. Every profile brings the action home to the reader with a “Get Inspired!” sidebar, nudging the reader to get out there and take the next step.

  • Maddi’s Fridge

    by Lois Brandt, illustrated by Vin Vogel

    Sometimes, kids know best who is hungry — it’s my children who tell me which child brings a bag of chips and nothing else for school lunch. And, sure enough, in the midst of a touchingly ordinary story of friendship, it’s Sofia that sees her friend Maddi’s empty fridge. Sworn to secrecy, Sofia schemes and experiments with how to quietly get Maddi’s family some healthy food to fill that fridge. Brandt and Vogel pull off the ultimate balancing act on a tough subject — Maddi’s Fridge manages to be entertaining, kid-friendly, and never preachy, condescending, or frightening.

    Read this picture book with your kids, even those who can read — not only does it broach the serious issue of hidden hunger in America, but it also provides an opportunity to discuss secrets, and when it’s okay to break a promise to keep a secret from parents and trusted adults. Don’t miss the final page, filled with practical suggestions for things kids can do to fight hunger near home.

  • I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World

    by Malala Yousafzai with Patricia McCormick

    Your tweens may have heard of the remarkable Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teen who won the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize for her work advocating for the education of girls, work that brought on her shooting and attempted murder by the Taliban. But they should also hear her story in Malala’s own likable and articulate voice, as she tells of her formerly ordinary life, persecution by the Taliban, her emergence as an activist, the attack, and her recovery and new life in the United States.

    For an appealing picture book alternative for younger readers, try Malala Yousafzai: Warrior with Words by Karen Leggett Abouraya.

  • Wonder

    by R.J. Palacio

    Available from:

    I simply adore this book. All the books mentioned above are important, and address important social issues — but what issue is as important as our very hearts, and the kindness we can pour out (or not) to those we meet in our daily lives? Ten-year-old Auggie’s face is shockingly malformed — and he’s going to school for the first time, ever, as a middle school student. Palacio’s beautiful, deftly written story is engaging, funny, heart wrenching, and — dare I say? — potentially life-changing. Get it for your tween, and for yourself too.

    Also available from: