10 Books About Equality for
Kids Ages 9-12
by Jennifer Garry
As parents, teachers, and caregivers, we often want to shield the children in our lives from the ugly parts of the world. We sweep away the scary, the unfair, and the mean to a dark corner — not wanting our young ones to know it exists. While well-meaning and done out of love, there are a number of problems with this method. First, not everyone is privileged enough to be able to simply lock all bad things away. Second, things that are swept into a forgotten corner don’t change for the better. They fester and rot.
If we want the world to be a better place for our children, we have to actively do something to make it a better place. We have to raise them in a way the makes them want to do better than we have in the past. We can’t do that if we hide the bad stuff.
In order for our children to truly care about equality, they need to be able to see inequality in action – in all different forms. This means they need to see how different people are affected by it, not just how it relates to their own life. It also means reading books that are written by a diverse set of authors.
These 10 books are an excellent starting point for tweens to dive into the struggles of equality through both fiction and non-fiction.
The Beloved World of Sonia Sotomayor
Learn about Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina and third woman appointed to the United States Supreme Court, in this middle-grade adaptation of her memoir, My Beloved World. Sotomayor describes overcoming difficulties in her childhood, working hard, and making her dreams come true while also touching on important topics like racism and privilege.
After his big spring break trip gets cancelled, 11-year-old Scoob heads out on an unplanned road trip with his grandma. The unconventional road-trip story takes readers through American race relations of the past (particularly the segregation history of the South) and present. Real historical elements - like the Green Book, which was the subject and title of the recent Oscar-winning film - are woven in, making this an educational and powerful read.
The Long Ride
Set in 1970s New York City, three mixed-race girls are about to start seventh grade when they're told they're going to be part of an experiment. They'll be taking a long bus ride to a new school that was built to "mix up the black and white kids." Francesca's parents send her to private school instead while Jamila and Josie find themselves outsiders trying to navigate their new circumstances.
It’s Trevor Noah: Born a Crime
Most people know Trevor Noah as that funny guy who hosts The Daily Show. But what many don't know is that Noah grew up in South Africa with a black mother and a white father at a time when it was against the law for a mixed-race child to exist. In this young readers' adaptation of his memoir, Noah shares how he used his smarts and humor to navigate life under a racist government.
Who Was Gandhi?
Part of the Who Was? series, Who Was Gandhi? tells the story of how Gandhi led India to independence through non-violent civil disobedience. Inspiring and age-appropriate, it's a great introduction to a global icon of peace and freedom.
Was Was Rosa Parks?
Another great pick from the popular series, Who Was Rosa Parks? takes readers on a journey through Rosa Parks' life - spanning from when she was a young girl who loved to fish and had to walk to school to when she refused to give up her seat on the bus and became the "Mother of the Civil Rights Movement."
We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices
Fifty diverse children's authors and illustrators - from Jason Reynolds, Jacqueline Woodson, and Kwame Alexander to Sharon Draper, Rita Williams-Garcia, and Ellen Oh - share answers to the question, "In this divisive world, what shall we tell our children?" Featuring poems, letters, essays, art, and more, this anthology empowers kids to build a better future.
Brown Girl Dreaming
Through powerful poems, Jacqueline Woodson shares what it was like growing up African American in South Carolina and New York during the 1960s and 1970s - living with the remnants of Jim Crow and a growing awareness of the civil rights movement. A National Book Award and Newbery Honor winner, the paperback edition contains seven new poems.
Zenobia July just moved from her home with her dad in Arizona to Maine, where she'll live with her aunts and start a new life living openly as a girl. She used to spend her time behind a computer screen, improving her coding and hacking skills, but in Maine she emerges from her shell and discovers a community of friends. When someone posts hateful memes on her school's website, Zenobia knows she can solve the mystery - all while wrestling with the challenges of a new school, a new family, and coming to grips with presenting her true gender for the first time.
Suffragette: The Battle for Equality
Bestselling illustrator David Roberts delivers a colorfully illustrated history of the women's suffrage movement in the U.K. and the U.S. Touching on imprisonment, hunger strikes, suffrajitsu, and more, Roberts includes many of the key figures of the movement in portraiture and scenes that bring them vividly to life.