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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. For the 10 and under crowd.

  • A is for Activist

    by Innosanto Nagara

    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)

  • Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt

    by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by James Ransome

    Oftentimes, activism looks like quiet resistance that directly serves others. That’s one of the many lessons in Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt, now available in a beautiful 25th anniversary edition. 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)

  • The Pink Hat

    by Andrew Joyner

    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)

  • Miss Paul and the President

    by Dean Robbins, illustrated by Nancy Zhang

    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)

  • She Persisted Around the World: 13 Women Who Changed History

    by Chelsea Clinton, illustrated by Alexandra Boiger

    Last year, Chelsea Clinton curated a list of 13 American women who spoke up and spoke out, even when it wasn’t easy, and put them together in one bestselling children’s book, She Persisted. Turns out, they weren’t alone. In this follow-up volume, Clinton brings in 13 more women from across the globe, from Marie Curie to Yuan Yuan Tan, to broaden our understanding of the fight for equality and women’s rights.
    (Ages 4 – 8)

  • Enough! 20 Protesters Who Changed America

    by Emily Easton, illustrated by Ziyue Chen

    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)

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

    by Rob Sanders, illustrated by Steven Salerno.

    Children’s books like Pride help us remember that the history of LGBTQ rights, gay pride, and the rainbow flag is relatively recent, and to 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)

  • Lillian's Right to Vote

    by Jonah Winter, illustrations by Shane W. Evans

    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)

  • The Little Book of Little Activists

    by Penguin Young Readers

    This intro to activism is book-ended by veterans of two iconic marches — a co-chair of the 2017 Women’s March on one end and an activist/author from the 1965 Selma Voting Rights March on the other. In between are inspiring photos of and quotes from kid activists doing their thing. Writes School Library Journal, “An inspiring reminder that people of any age can play a role in the quest for social justice.”
    (Ages 5 – 9)