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

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“The Guardians of Childhood” Books by William Joyce, article by Kirsteen Mclay-Knopp

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The Guardians of Childhood is a series of children’s picture books and novels and the inspiration for DreamWorks’ Rise of the Guardians adaptation. The books are written and illustrated by author William Joyce, whose other works include George Shrinks, Santa Calls, A Day with Wilbur Robinson, and the much loved Rolie Polie Olie series, which has earned Joyce three Emmy awards.

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A luminous new book series from William Joyce that redefines the icons of childhood: Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, Sandman, the Man in the Moon and many more. Published by Simon & Schuster, these books explore the mythology of childhood legends through vividly illustrated picture books and chapter books for young adults. In November of 2012, the series became an animated feature film from DreamWorks Animation:Rise of the Guardians.

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We at “The Forever Years” love this series and the movie, because they epitomise the “magic of childhood”, the magic of “believing”.    Many parents and carers disagree about the benefits to children of believing in characters such as Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny and those of Christian faith often feel that the latter two detract from the true meaning of the festivals they represent.  Leaving these arguments aside, however, the “magic of childhood” is a universal concept.  We all have childhood memories of times which seemed “magical” or, perhaps for want of a better description, times filled with warmth and family, positive surprises and wonder.  Most people have at least one such childhood memory, no matter how good or bad their other childhood experiences might  have been.  As adults, we are tasked with “paying the magic forward” and creating opportunities for our children to see that the world can, indeed, be an amazing and wonder-filled place.

The character of “Pitch Black”, who represents “the bogey man” or “monsters under the bed”, is a generalised depiction of childhood fears coming to life.  He also seems to represent adult cynicism, a loss of the “wonder” of childhood.

Pitch is everything a child fears, and he thrives on the fear of children, taking a cruel delight in turning their pleasant dreams into nightmares. But what Pitch hates is when children overcome their fears and don’t believe in him, particularly when parents tell their kids that the Boogeyman is just a bad dream. 

http://riseoftheguardians.wikia.com/wiki/Pitch_Black

In many ways we adults are the “Guardians of Childhood”.  We choose how much cynicism, apathy or sometimes downright defeatism and lack of self-belief we impart to our kids, which in turn effects their outlook on life as they grow into adults… including their belief in themselves and their ability to influence the world around them.  While childhood, and life in general, cannot be perfect or ideal all the time, striving to keep a sense of hope and wonder in our children’s “forever years” is giving them a gift which will stay with them throughout their lives… and which they will “pay forward” to their own children.

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A Tribute to Judy Blume (via the blog “A Mighty Girl”): Free Expression and the Freedom to Read, for Kids as well as for Adults!

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For over forty years, author Judy Blume has stood up for free expression and the freedom to read. The beloved author of many Mighty Girl favorites such as “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret”, “Deenie”, and “Tiger Eyes,” the 78-year-old Blume has been writing children’s and young adult fiction for decades. But what her many young fans rarely realize is that her frank discussion of topics like religion, puberty, and sexuality in these books — the same honesty that makes them so appealing to young readers — has made her one of the most frequently challenged children’s authors.

Even as a relatively new author, though, instead of bowing to the criticisms, Blume persisted in writing openly and honestly about issues affecting young people — and speaking up for authors, teachers, librarians, and others who face disapproval, insults, and even the loss of jobs and careers because they refuse to remove books from the hands of young readers. As such, she has become a champion for children’s freedom to read — and authors’ freedom to write — about topics that some find controversial.

In our blog tribute to Judy Blume, we honor her both as an author of many beloved Mighty Girl books and as a determined and forceful voice against censorship and book banning. In a time when Blume’s books still face frequent challenges, her experiences combating censorship — and her powerful words about the value of making complex and daring books accessible to kids — are more important than ever.

To read our blog post, “Protecting ‘The Books That Will Never Be Written'”: Judy Blume’s Fight Against Censorship,” visit http://www.amightygirl.com/blog/?p=7425

To learn more about Mighty Girl books that have been challenged or banned — including the reasons behind the bans — check out our blog post “Dangerous Words: Challenged and Banned Mighty Girl Books” at http://www.amightygirl.com/blog?p=4611

For a wide selection of Judy Blume’s much beloved young adult novels, visit our “Judy Blume Collection” at http://bit.ly/1vmwFMN

And, to introduce children to the woman behind these famous books, check out the recently released biography for ages 7 to 10, “Judy Blume: Are You There, Reader? It’s Me, Judy!” at http://www.amightygirl.com/broke-the-rules-judy-blume

Ed Note J Blume