Respectable Reading: Children's Books on Social Justice



Brittany Viklund

One way to encourage your kids to stand up for others and have social and cultural sensitivity is to read books at home that delve into these topics in a kid-friendly way. Here are some favorites from a local mom and education expert. 

"Thunder Boy Jr."
by Sherman Alexie

An easy way to develop empathy and acceptance in young children is to expose them to different cultures and races. By having diverse storybooks and characters, children will learn that there are many other experiences beyond their own. This book focuses on identity development with Native American characters by world-renowned author Sherman Alexie.

"Rolling Along: The Story of Taylor and His Wheelchair"
by Jamee Riggio Heelan

This book is a moving story that sheds a light on children with different abilities. Taylor’s story shows what makes him different as a child in a wheelchair but also what makes him similar in many ways to able-bodied children.

"The Family Book"
by Todd Parr

Todd Parr is one of my favorite authors and he has written many wonderful children’s books about critical topics on empathy and understanding. What I love about this one is that families of all shapes, sizes and make-ups are celebrated with colorful illustrations and the loving sentiment that every family is special in its own way. 

"Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant's Tale"
by Duncan Tonatiuh

With the use of desert animals & creative illustration styles, Duncan Tonatiuh helps build perspective on why migrants choose to relocate in order to make life better for themselves and their families. The author even includes factual talking points at the end of the text to discuss with your children.

"And Tango Makes Three"
by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell

This is a true story about a pair of male penguins at the Central Park Zoo creating a non-traditional family and raising a baby penguin. This book is a heartfelt and adorable way to teach love and equality to children of all ages. 

"The Name Jar"
by Yangsook Choi

We love the way that this book encourages children to embrace diversity and take pride in their own unique identity. As you learn about Unhei through the story, you also learn bits and pieces of Korean culture and what makes it special.

"The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage"
by Selina Alko

Take a trip through history as your child learns about interracial marriage and the journey the Loving family faced in their fight for justice with this delightful illustrated story. 

"We Came to America"
by Faith Ringgold

We love that this story highlights the multicultural history of the people of the United States of America. It teaches that diversity is what makes our country rich, beautiful and great in many ways. 

"Last Stop on Market Street"
by Matt de la Peña

With gorgeous illustrations, this story promotes many heartfelt messages based on seeing the beauty in the world and its people, as well as promoting the importance of service to others. This journey between a grandmother and her grandson in an urban setting will warm your heart.

"One Love"
by Cedella Marley

Based on the song by Bob Marley, this board book captures the power of change by collectively coming together to make our communities strong. It’s a great book to sing along to and share the powerful message of “One Love” with your little one.

Brittany is a former pre-kindergarten teacher who spent her last five years designing teacher education training for early childhood teachers with Teach For America. Her curriculum designs were primarily focused on language and literacy development through socially just pedagogy. Brittany currently designs early childhood course modules for Relay Graduate School of Education while taking care of her 3-month-old son.

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