If there’s anything the last year has taught us, it’s that the fight for justice — and, more specifically, teaching our children what’s right — lies in our hands. But how can we do this? Making the world a better place requires us all to have empathy, and that must be fostered early in life. What an amazing opportunity for us as parents! I am certain we can change the world — and bedtime, mealtime, or any small moment with our children is the key to a better world.
Here are some books that can help spark conversation in our families. We can change the world, one story at a time.
1. “Whoever You Are,” by Mem Fox, illustrated by Leslie Staub
This has been a favorite of mine since the board book days when my kids were infants. The concept that we all experience joy, pain, and love — no matter who you are, where you are, what your school looks like — is part of the overarching theme that all our hearts feel the same. This is a message we can all stand behind.
2. “A Is for Activist,” by Innosanto Nagara
Each beautiful illustration in this book is a perfect opportunity to explain to your kiddos how to interpret the images from today’s news in an empowering way, with the bonus of teaching important vocabulary so they can be prepared to make the world a better place.
3. “One,” by Kathryn Otoshi
This book! Oh, it is so beautiful, fun, and whimsical, all while teaching the important lesson of speaking up for what is right. This is a perfect pick for kids who haven’t yet started school, because our children are our future and how they treat each other is our future.
4. “I, Too, Am America,” by Langston Hughes, illustrated by Bryan Collier
This classic poem by Langston Hughes is gorgeously illustrated and helps start a conversation about what it means to be American. This book’s images, along with words, remind us that we are all united, despite our differences.
5. “Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters,” by Barack Obama, illustrated by Loren Long
Illustrations by Loren Long are breathtaking, and President Obama’s words are a beautiful touchstone highlighting Americans like Georgia O’Keeffe, Jackie Robinson, and George Washington. This book celebrates our characteristics as a nation and is a keeper.
6. “We March,” by Shane W. Evans
This is a great book to give some context around the March on Washington in 1963 and the power of change. A great opportunity to talk about civil rights, this book can jumpstart a conversation about where our country has been, and what steps we can take to make our world a just society.
7. “Have You Filled a Bucket Today?” by Carol McCloud, illustrated by David Messing
This book should be required reading for all humans. In the most age-appropriate way, the concept of filling buckets (and not being a bucket dipper) is a surefire way to make the world a better place.
8. “Each Kindness,” by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis
This story about a little girl who is left out tugs at the heartstrings. It teaches that every kindness makes a huge difference. This story is one that you can talk about and use to remind your child how to bring kindness into the lives of everyone around him or her, all while empowering your child to recognize the strength they carry to change the world.
I am sure there are SO many other books that help kids change the world — what is on your bookshelf?