Social Justice Books for Kids

By Dr. Christine Herring

Highlights 4Cs

Curious, Creative, Caring, and Confident™
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Curious
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Creative
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Caring
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Use these children's books to open up conversations about race, equity, inclusion, and justice with your kids.
Social Justice Books for Kids

Listen to our For the Love of Reading podcast to hear host and Highlights Editor in Chief, Christine French Cully, talk with guest Dr. Christine Herring on how parents can use books to open conversations with their kids about social justice. Dr. Herring is a leading expert in the field of Race, Equity & Inclusion training and has graciously compiled this booklist of children's books with social justice themes.

After reading, use these prompts as conversation starters with your kids:

  • Whose voices are heard in the text? Whose are not?
  • What did you find challenging about the text? Why?
  • What might other people find challenging? Why?
  • Do you agree with this text?
  • How is this text changing the way you think?
  • What actions can you take?
  • If someone else were to tell this story, what would they say? How do you know?
  • How would you tell this story?
  • What do the author and illustrator think we already know or understand? How do you know?
  • What have you learned about yourself? About the world?

The Colors of Us

Written and illustrated by Karen Katz

Ages 4-8

Through the eyes of a little girl who begins to see her familiar world in a new way, this book celebrates the differences and similarities that connect all people.

The Skin You Live In

Written by Michael Tyler, illustrated by David Lee Csicsko

Ages 4-8

With the ease and simplicity of a nursery rhyme, this lively story delivers an important message of social acceptance to young readers. 

Shades of People

Written by Shelley Rotner and Sheila M. Kelly

Ages 2-5

A celebration of the diversity of everyday life, this exploration of one of our most noticeable physical traits pairs simple text with vibrant photographs.  At school, at the beach, and in the city, diverse groups of children invite young readers both to take notice and to look beyond the obvious.

All the Colors of the Earth

Written by Sheila Hamanaka

Ages 4-8

Celebrate the colors of children and the colors of love—not black or white or yellow or red, but roaring brown, whispering gold, tinkling pink, and more.

All Are Welcome

Written by Alexandra Penfold, illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman 

Ages 4-8

Follow a group of children through a day in their school, where everyone is welcomed with open arms. A school where students from all backgrounds learn from and celebrate each other's traditions. A school that shows the world as we will make it to be.

Eighteen People Changed the World

Written by Gloria Day

Ages 7-9

The world isn't going to change on behalf of a world leader, a wealthy CEO, or an international celebrity. The change the world needs is going to happen through the people we meet in our lives who through small gestures, change the way we see ourselves and the world around us.

The Wall: A Timeless Tale

Written by Giancarlo Macri

Ages 7-9

In this poignant and timely story, a king banishes anyone who is different from him and has a wall built to keep them out of his kingdom. Soon, he sees that without people with various types of talents and expertise, his realm can no longer flourish!

We Are All Dots: A Big Plan for a Better World

Written by Giancarlo Macri and Carolina Zanotti

Ages 6-9

The perfect book for any child curious about differences and diversity, this visually driven story bears a decidedly modern and inspiring message about compassion, cooperation, and a sense of shared humanity.

Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation

Written by Duncan Tonatiuh

Ages 7-9

Seven years before Brown v. Board of Education, the Mendez family fought to end segregation in California schools. Discover their incredible story in this picture book.

The Whispering Town

Written by Jennifer Elvgren, illustrated by Fabio Santomauro

Ages 7-11

The dramatic story of neighbors in a small Danish fishing village who, during the Holocaust, shelter a Jewish family waiting to be ferried to safety in Sweden. Based on a true story.

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers' Strike of 1909

Written by Michelle Markel, illustrated by Melissa Sweet

Ages 4-8

The true story of the young immigrant who led the largest strike of women workers in U.S. history. 

Each Kindness

Written by Jacqueline Woodon, illustrated by E.B. Lewis

Ages 5-8

Each kindness makes the world a little better. With its powerful anti-bullying message and striking art, it will resonate with readers long after they've put it down.

Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez

Written by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Yuyi Morales

Ages 4-7

Cesar Chavez is known as one of America's greatest civil rights leaders. When he led a 340-mile peaceful protest march through California, he ignited a cause and improved the lives of thousands of migrant farmworkers. Cesar knew things had to change so he took charge. He spoke up. And an entire country listened.

Selavi, That is Life: A Haitian Story of Hope

Written by Youme Landowne

Ages 5-7

“Not so long ago and not so far away, people with guns could take a family, burn a house and disappear, leaving a small child alone in the world.” So begins the true story of Selavi, a small boy who finds himself on the streets of Haiti. Selavi finds other street children who share their food and a place to sleep with him. Together they proclaim a message of hope through murals and radio programs.

Why Am I Me?

Written by Paige Britt, illustrated by Selina Alko and Sean Qualls

Ages 5-6

Presented as a thoughtful, poetic exchange between two characters -- who don't realize they are thinking and asking the very same questions -- this beautiful celebration of our humanity and diversity invites readers of all ages to imagine a world where there is no you or me, only we.

Dreamers

Written by Yuyi Morales

Ages 4-8

This lovingly-illustrated picture book memoir looks at the myriad gifts migrantes bring with them when they leave their homes. It's a story about family. And it's a story to remind us that we are all dreamers, bringing our own strengths wherever we roam.

What If...

Written by Samantha Berger, illustrated by Mike Curato

Ages 4-8

Creativity, the power of imagination, and the importance of self-expression are celebrated in this inspiring picture book written and illustrated by real-life best friends.

Your Name is a Song

Written by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow

Ages 5-10

Frustrated by a day full of teachers and classmates mispronouncing her beautiful name, a little girl tells her mother she never wants to come back to school. In response, the girl's mother teaches her about the musicality of African, Asian, Black-American, Latinx, and Middle Eastern names on their lyrical walk home through the city.

I'm NOT Just a Scribble

Written by Diane Alber

Ages 3-6

Scribble, the book's main character, never thought he was different until he met his first drawing. Then, after being left out because he didn't look like everyone else, Scribble teaches the drawings how to accept each other for who they are which enables them to create amazing art.