40+ Children’s Books about Human Rights & Social Justice, by Monisha Bajaj

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Young people have an innate sense of right and wrong, fair and unfair.  Explaining the basics of human rights in age appropriate ways with stories and examples can set the foundation for a lifelong commitment to social responsibility and global citizenship.

As a parent to a preschooler and a professor of peace and human rights education, here are my top picks for children’s books that discuss important issues—and that are visually beautiful. Some of the books listed offer an overview of rights; the majority show individuals and organizations past and present who have struggled to overcome injustices. All offer different levels of child-friendly images, concepts and text.

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With my son who is 3, sometimes we will skip certain passages or pages, but introducing him to books like the ones listed below that include characters of different races, religions, genders, abilities, sexual orientations, and other backgrounds at an early age will hopefully lay the foundation for deeper engagement with these texts and issues later on. Lately, he has been making tea in his play kitchen for Martin Luther King Jr. and the other day asked about Nelson Mandela’s grandchildren.

Some of these books are on our shelf at home, others we have found at the library or at friends’ houses.

What’s on your list of go-to books for talking about human rights and social justice issues with your children? Let’s keep the list growing in the comments section below!

**These books should be easily searchable, and I’ve created a book list on Amazon.com atthis link with all the books mentioned in this post.

The Right to Equality & Peace

1. We are all Born Free by Amnesty International

About the basics of human dignity as elaborated in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights

2. Whoever you Are by Mem Fox

About the common humanity we all share regardless of race, color, religion, nationality, gender, ability or sexual orientation

3. Can you Say Peace?  By Karen Katz

A book about how peace looks in different countries around the world and a celebration of September 21 – the date the United Nations has declared the International Day of Peace

4. A is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara

A colorful board book with an introduction to speaking up and acting for social change whether related to LGBTQ rights, racial justice, or sustainability.

The Right to Education

5. Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh

About the landmark 1947 case fought by a Latino family to desegregate whites-only schools in California that served as a precursor to the Brown vs. Board decision in 1954.

6. Malala, a Brave Girl from Pakistan/Iqbal, a Brave Boy from Pakistan: Two Stories of Bravery by Jeanette Winter

About two young advocates for educational rights who were both attacked in Pakistan—Malala Yousafzai and the lesser-known Iqbal Masih. While Iqbal didn’t survive the attack on him, Malala went on to advocate for the right to education for girls worldwide and win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.

7. The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles

About a young woman at the forefront of school desegregation in 1960 after the Brown vs. Board. The book shows her fortitude in enduring harassment from angry mobs to get a quality education.

8. Waiting for BiblioBurro by Monica Brown (author) and John Parra (illustrator)

Inspired by the real-life story of Luis Soriano, who started a mobile library with donkeys carrying hundreds of books over long distances for children in rural areas of Colombia.

The Right to Migrate and Seek Asylum

9. Mama’s Nightingale by Edwidge Danticat (author) and Leslie Staub (illustrator)

Written by award-winning Haitian-American novelist, Edwidge Danticat, this book is about a family separated by the U.S. immigration system and how love transcends borders and orders of deportation.

10. Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale by Duncan Tonatiuh

Young Pancho the Rabbit misses his father who has gone north and sets out to find him, but encounters a coyote whose help comes at a high cost. This book introduces the hardships that thousands of migrant families face.

(To read more of this article, please follow the link below…)

http://www.niahouse.org/blog-fulton/2016/11/3/40-childrens-books-about-human-rights-social-justice

Part of her “Forever Years” spent in a Nazi Death Camp: Miracle that saved a girl from Auschwitz gas chamber, by Paul Ewart

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Yvonne Engelmann was just 15 when she was rounded up with her family and sent to Auschwitz concentration camp, one of the network of German Nazi extermination camps operated by the Third Reich in Poland in World War II from 1940-1945.

But it was an unlikely miracle that saw her survive to tell the disturbing tale.

After arriving at the camp, Yvonne was immediately sent to the gas chamber. Thanks to some strange twist of fate, it malfunctioned and she was left naked in the chamber overnight before being freed.

By some miracle, the Nazis kept her alive, and she was sent to sort through the clothes of newly arrived Jews to find any gold or valuables they’d hidden.

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The infamous German inscription that reads ‘Work Makes Free’ at the main gate of the Auschwitz I extermination camp on November 15, 2014 in Oswiecim, Poland. Photo / AP

Her “job” saw her stationed in between the crematorium (which burnt 24-hours daily) and the gas chambers. She ended up being the sole survivor from her entire family, and made a new life for herself in Australia.

“I was 14 and a half when war broke out,” Yvonne tells news.com.au.

“I wasn’t allowed to go to school, I couldn’t walk on the street, I had to wear the yellow Star of David and couldn’t mix with any non-Jewish people. Friends I’d grown up with now totally ignored me, solely because I was born a Jew.

“My father was taken to the police station many times and we never knew if he would come back. One day he returned and his front teeth had been knocked out. We lived in fear constantly – we had no idea what would happen to us in the next hour, let alone in the next day.”

Born in Czechoslovakia to shopkeeper parents, Yvonne was an only child.

“I had the most wonderful childhood that anyone could wish for, but unfortunately it was short-lived.”

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Yvonne Engelman says as a survivor of Auschwitz it is important to perpetuate the memory of those lost and volunteers her time to teach and “tell the world what really happened”. (Photo Source: Sydney Jewish Museum)

In the limbo of uncertainty, things went from bad to worse. Her parents’ shop was taken away and the family was forcibly removed from their home to a cramped Jewish ghetto.

At the approach of her 15th birthday, she and her family were taken from the ghetto – along with hundreds of others – to the railway station where they were piled into dozens of cattle wagons.

“Men, women, children, screaming babies – the journey was too horrific to even describe,” she recalls.

“There was no ventilation, it was hot, an overflowing tin bucket was the only toilet … we were stripped of our humanity.”

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A wedding photo of holocaust survivors Yvonne (nee Engel) and John Engelman, 1949, Australia

(To read more of this article, please follow the link below…)

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=11721357

See also related post:

https://theforeveryears.wordpress.com/2015/04/15/born-in-auschwitz-how-one-woman-delivered-3000-babies-during-the-holocaust/

“The Dunedin Longitudinal Study”…one of the most amazing and detailed studies EVER of how important “The Forever Years” of childhood are in shaping the adults we become. By Kirsteen McLay-Knopp

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“The Dunedin Longitudinal Study” or the “Dunedin Multidisciplinary Study” (now also known just as “The Dunedin Study”) can fairly be described as one of the most amazing and detailed studies EVER of how important “The Forever Years” of childhood are in shaping the adults we become.   Recently a four part TV series was screened about the study. Entitled “Why am I?”, the series looks at the different areas examined in “The Dunedin Study”.  Findings from the study illuminate adult problematic issues, many of which can now be identified within the first five years of life.  For those who have not seen “Why am I?”, it is available at the link below, although friends overseas tell me that they cannot get TVNZ On Demand outside of NZ.  (Give it a go anyway).  For those here in Aotearoa/ NZ, you have to sign up to TVNZ On Demand, but it is free to do so.

Link…

https://www.tvnz.co.nz/ondemand/why-am-i/episode-1-6474579#

History

The author (far right) with her parents, brother, an aunt and two cousins in Dunedin, 1981

The author (far right) with her parents, brother, an aunt and two cousins in Dunedin, 1981

I have a strong personal interest in this study, because my brother and two of my cousins are/ were participants and it began, and is still based in, my home town, Dunedin/ Ōtepoti, New Zealand/ Aotearoa.  Many memories of my own “Forever Years” are similar to those of study participants.

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Map showing location of Dunedin, New Zealand.

“The Dunedin Study” was started in 1972 by Phil Silva, a teacher and psychologist.

ALDEN WILLIAMS/FAIRFAX NZ Psychologist Phil Silva is emeritus director of the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study, which has tracked around 1000 people from infancy to middle age.

Psychologist Phil Silva is emeritus director of the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study, which has tracked around 1000 people from infancy to middle age. Source: ALDEN WILLIAMS/FAIRFAX NZ

Silva was a teacher first, then a psychologist working with young people with learning and behaviour problems. He helped paediatricians from the Otago University medical school on a neonatology survey of around 250 children. It became the basis of his PhD and opened his eyes to a staggering number of undiagnosed childhood problems. 

A child participant, late 1970s

A child participant, late 1970s

“Kids who couldn’t hear, kids who couldn’t see, kids who had language problems, kids who had language delay. Let’s say that one in 10 had a pretty important problem that had not been identified and dealt with.”

He realised they needed a bigger study of a larger sample group. So they identified the 1037 children born at Dunedin’s Queen Mary Hospital between April 1972 and March 1973. They tested and assessed them at age 3, then 5, 7 and so on.   [Source:  http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/81109052/national-portrait-phil-silva-psychology-pioneer]

Luckily for Silva and his team, and for all of us, funding for the study has continued and the testing was able to continue as the “babies” grew into children, teenagers and then adults. Dr. Silva retired from his position as director of the study in 1999 and the role was taken over by Dr. Richie Poulton, who continues “The Dunedin Study” today.

The study is unique in that researchers have gone out of their way to retain participants.  Many are now scattered around New Zealand and the world, but, every six years, the study pays for them to be flown, from wherever they are, to Dunedin for testing.  This has resulted in a world record longitudinal study retention rate of 96% of participants (compared with a 30% rate of retention in other studies).  Current director, Dr. Richie Poulton, says,

“…our advantage is that we keep them in. …  We have kept [participants] whether they are transient, incarcerated or on the run from the law.”

The high retention rate of participants, Poulton says, as well as the wide and extremely varied lives they have led, gives weight to the data collected.

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NZ Tourism Poster

“In the early days there was a reluctance to take the study seriously.  Some thought results from 1000 people in New Zealand couldn’t possibly apply to people in other parts of the world.  This was in part due to the 1970s New Zealand Tourism Board, which promoted Aotearoa as a tropical Polynesian destination.” [Source: Why am I?, Episode 1].

As time went by however, it became apparent that results of “The Dunedin Study” were comparable with similar studies in other developed countries around the globe.  Over the past 40 years there has been an average on one academic paper published every 13 days, relating to the findings of “The Dunedin Study”.

We at the “Forever Years” believe these study findings should be available to all people everywhere, and will have a huge impact on our perception of childhood, particularly the early years.    Some of the areas of major findings in children which have continued into their adulthoods are summarised below.

"The Octagon" (Centre of town, Dunedhttp://www.stuff.co.nz/southland-times/76867478/Dunedin-study-is-the-gift-that-keeps-givingn, NZ, c. 1972

“The Octagon” (Centre of town), Dunedin NZ, c. 1972

For the next few posts, “The Forever Years” will be writing short articles on these topics, the results discovered in “The Dunedin Study” and how these can be used to help children… and people in general.  We will create links on the following topics, so readers can click on them (in the list below) and read about a particular aspect investigated by “The Dunedin Study”.   These will be useful to members of the general public, anywhere in the world, who are unable to access the documentary.  We hope they will also help to summarise and clarify some of the main points made in the documentary and through the research undertaken by “The Dunedin Study”, with a focus on identifying particular issues in early childhood.

Dr. Poulton says the experience of being director of “The Dunedin Study” has changed him and given him a deeper understanding of altruism, trust and courage.  Among participants, he says, are people who have had very hard lives, including those who have trusted researchers with personal information they have never told anyone else, such as having been sexually abused.  “We have to honour their trust,” Poulton says, “…we are the guardians of a reservoir of extraordinary good will.”  He says it is important that the results of the study (and continuing results as the participants move into middle and then old age) move “outside the ivory tower of academia”, so they can be implemented in general society.

Richie Poulton, talking with a child in an early learning centre.

Richie Poulton, talking with a child in an early learning centre.

Childhood is a time of hope and possibility for both children and parents.  “The Dunedin Study” has identified that many adult problems begin much earlier in life than we’d previously imagined.  But it has also found overwhelming evidence of the benefits to children of a good start in life… and that a good start can avert what may initially appear to be negative personality traits (positive nurture can overcome negative nature, if you like).  Overall, then, we at “The Forever Years” believe the message presented in data collected is one of hope for our children, if the results are then acted upon.  Acting upon them will mean early intervention for “at risk” children and a greater investment in our children’s early years, including in supporting parents and in quality early childhood education.  A “good childhood” with a balanced and predictable environment and parenting which is warm, stimulating, sensitive and consistent sets people up for the best life trajectory.

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Related Links…

http://dunedinstudy.otago.ac.nz/

http://dunedinstudy.otago.ac.nz/about-us

http://www.stuff.co.nz/entertainment/tv-radio/80402120/Dunedin-providing-the-data-that-could-shape-humanitys-future

http://www.stuff.co.nz/southland-times/76867478/Dunedin-study-is-the-gift-that-keeps-giving

“The Children of Herculaneum”, by Carol Krueger (A Book Review, by Kirsteen McLay-Knopp)

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“The Children of Herculaneum” is the most recently  published book by New Zealand mother of eight and long time drama teacher and author for children, Carol Krueger. This well-presented text with colourful photographs and an exciting fast-paced story, stands out from other children’s novels in that it brings alive, for kids, the events relating to the erruption of Mount Vesuvius on August 24th 79 AD.   An epilogue at the end of the novel has pictures and a child-friendly text describing the reality of the events that took place, as well as the excavations nearly two thousand years later, which tell us about the lives of the people who lived in Pompeii and Herculaneum.

Personally, I love Classical history, which I studied at High School and University.  Prior to this, however, I didn’t know much about ancient Greece or Rome.  Books which ignite an interest in such history for our younger readers are few and far between.

Our seven and eight year old children have read “The Children of Herculaneum” and thoroughly enjoyed it.    Some of their comments on Krueger’s text were as follows:

“I like how the story is told by Portia the slave girl, who is just an ordinary kid, but because of when she lived she had to be a slave.”

“It was interesting that the water fountains dried up and the mice ran away and the donkey had to be blindfolded because he was upset… the nature and animals knew there was going to be an exploding volcano way before the humans did.”

“Portia’s owners’ daughter, Claudia, was spoilt and mean… the characters really seem like real people.”

“The bit about Julius, the boy who is an actor and wears masks on the stage, is really interesting.”

Personally, I like the quotation on page 19 about acting:

“…I love to act, there is nothing like it.  You stand on the stage and suddenly you’re in another world.  And you can FEEL the audience.”

This is certainly true of Carol Krueger, who loves acting and teaching drama as well as writing and history.

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Author, drama teacher and mother of eight Carol Krueger, dressed as “a woman from ancient Herculaneum” for a recent play.

Anyone interested in purchasing copies of “The Children of Herculaneum” can contact Carol Krueger on 0224557805 or on Facebook.  Prices are $10 for a soft cover edition or $15 for hard cover.

To learn more about Carol Krueger’s drama lessons (which are for both children and adults), please call the same number and also read our article about her (link below).

https://theforeveryears.wordpress.com/2015/06/02/delightfully-dramatic-the-benefits-to-our-kids-of-being-involved-in-theatre-an-interview-with-drama-teacher-carol-krueger/

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