Making Our Voices Heard: Books About Activism for Kids

by Laura Lambert

What does activism look like to a preschooler — or a fifth grader? How do we teach them what it means to stand up for our rights, for social justice, for greater equality and protections? How do we articulate the values and ideas we believe are worth fighting for — especially in ways that a kid can truly hear?

Well, through books and stories, for one. Here are some titles to jumpstart the conversation of what it means to show up, speak out, resist, and persist on behalf of our own beliefs — and for those who may not have a voice.

  • A is for Activist

    by Innosanto Nagara

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    While A is for Activist uses alliteration and rhyming to get its message across, this isn’t your typical ABC book. Instead of apples, dogs, and frogs, you have “activists,” “little d democracy,” and “feminists.”

    F is for Feminist.
    For Fairness in our pay.
    For Freedom to Flourish
    and choose our own way.

    Oakland-based author Innosanto Nagara, who was born and raised in Indonesia, originally wrote the book to help capture and convey progressive values to his own son. Now, this bestselling board book is helping to frame up young activism for the preschool set.

    If you like A is for Activist, check out Nagara’s follow-up counting book, Counting on Community.
    (Ages 3 – 7)

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  • Show Up and Vote

    by Ani DiFranco, illustrated by Rachelle Baker

    From singer-songwriter, activist, feminist, and bestselling author Ani Di Franco comes a lyrical picture book that sensitively portrays a young girl's experience accompanying her mother to vote, emphasizing the significance of this civic duty in an authentic and relatable manner.
    (Ages 3 – 7)

RELATED: Picture Books About Elections and Voting

  • Rocket Says Speak Up!

    by Nathan Bryon, illustrated by Dapo Adeola

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    Motivated by the impending closure of her town's library, Rocket channel's Rosa Parks' pioneering activism to mobilize her community, organizing a peaceful protest that garners attention, generates funds, and saves the library. It's an uplifting story to teach kids about taking a stand.
    (Ages 3 – 7)

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  • Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt

    by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by James Ransome

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    Oftentimes, activism looks like quiet resistance that directly serves others. That’s one of the many lessons in Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt. When Clara learns about the Underground Railroad, she uses her skills as a seamstress to create a map that shows the way — a map that only those looking for the secret route will understand. Through her actions, Clara demonstrates the importance of bringing others along on the journey to freedom.
    (Ages 3 – 7)

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  • The Pink Hat

    by Andrew Joyner

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    Inspired by the 2017 Women’s March, author Andrew Joyner put together this tale of one iconic pink hat, the only pop of color in this black and white illustrated book. The hat itself travels from one feminist into the hands of another feminist, a generation or two removed. The origin of the pink hats is not discussed, and the tone and style are a positive take on girl power, and the women’s movement it rolls up into.
    (Ages 4 – 8)

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  • Change Sings

    by Amanda Gorman, illustrated by Loren Long

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    Amanda Gorman stunned America when she delivered her powerful poem during the presidential inauguration. Now, you can share her inspirational message with your children. Her picture book shows readers of all ages that we can change the world for the better when we work together.
    (Ages 4 – 8)

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  • Stand Up! Speak Up!

    by Andrew Joyner

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    Another great story by Andrew Joyner, this one focusing on taking action to fight climate change. Follow along as a young activist participates in a march, organizes community clean-ups, speaks at town halls, and more. The back matter features profiles of global youth activists who have raised their voices on environmental issues. The book jacket even doubles as a march sign, the underside reading "Marching for My Future."
    (Ages 4 – 8)

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  • Miss Paul and the President

    by Dean Robbins, illustrated by Nancy Zhang

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    As a young girl, Alice Paul couldn’t help but notice that her mother didn’t join her father at the voting polls. After studying the Constitution and learning that women weren’t allowed to vote, Alice decided it was time for change. She organized protests and parades, wrote to her representatives, and even met with President Woodrow Wilson, who wasn’t interested in Alice’s proposition. But Alice persisted, as recounted in this picture book with vivid artwork by Nancy Zhang. To keep discussing Votes for Women, see also Around America to Win the Vote and Bold & Brave.
    (Ages 4 – 8)

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RELATED: Rise Up! Picture Book Biographies About Prominent Change-Makers

  • Enough! 20 Protesters Who Changed America

    by Emily Easton, illustrated by Ziyue Chen

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    This galvanizing collection of portraits introduces young readers to some of the most influential protestors in our country’s history and of today. From Harriet Tubman and Martin Luther King Jr. to Colin Kaepernick and transgender teen Jazz Jennings, budding activists will learn about these incredible and brave leaders who shaped — and continue to shape — a brighter tomorrow through their varying forms of protest. The book opens with a foreword from a Parkland shooting survivor and concludes with additional context about each protestor and their respective causes.
    (Ages 5 – 8)

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  • Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag

    by Rob Sanders, illustrated by Steven Salerno

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    Children’s books like Pride help us remember that the history of LGBTQ+ rights, gay pride, and the rainbow flag is relatively recent, and hold up the bravery and leadership of people like Harvey Milk — whose activism paved the way for greater equality.

    After Pride, add Stonewall to the conversation: a picture book by the same author-illustrator team that explains the powerful history behind the 1969 Stonewall Uprising, as narrated by the Stonewall Inn itself.
    (Ages 5 – 8)

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  • Lillian's Right to Vote

    by Jonah Winter, illustrations by Shane W. Evans

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    It’s Election Day, and Lillian, a 100-year-old African American woman, is taking an uphill journey to her polling place. She’s determined to make her voice heard, and as she walks, she invites the reader on flashbacks into her family’s past. We see her great-grandfather voting for the first time after the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment, her parents meeting pushback on their own voter registrations, and Lillian marching in the 1965 civil rights protests in Selma, Alabama. Blending the personal and historical, Lillian’s Right to Vote encourages us to celebrate victories while also remembering the past.
    (Ages 5 – 9)

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RELATED: Books To Help Kids Understand the Fight for Racial Equality

RELATED: Middle Grade Books for Environmentally Conscious Kids

  • Who Was Martin Luther King, Jr.?

    by Bonnie Bader and Who HQ, illustrated by Elizabeth Wolf

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    As one of America’s most famous activists, Martin Luther King, Jr. was a leader in the Civil Rights Movement until his untimely death in 1968. An advocate for advancing civil rights through nonviolent and peaceful tactics, he organized people across the country against racial and economic injustice. Informative yet fun, this book in the Who Was? series outlines King’s impressive life as a model for young activists.
    (Ages 8 – 12)

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  • Stand Up and Speak Out Against Racism

    by Yassmin Abdel-Magied, illustrated by Aleesha Nandhra

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    How did racism start? What does racism look like today? These are the questions activist Yassmin Abdel-Magiedv set out to answer in this comprehensive guide to fighting racism. Names Best Book of 2023 by School Library Journal, it's described as "A straightforward yet encouraging discussion on the fight against racism with a uniquely global perspective."
    (Ages 9 – 12)

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Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in 2019 and updated in 2024.