Books for Young Children about Identity, Social Justice, and Activism

Posted by Lowell School on 5/4/18 3:39 PM

Teachers of young children at Lowell know how vital it is to help children as they develop their identities, experience people’s many differences, and learn to form caring friendships and communities. One of the many ways they dive into this important work is through books. Second grade teacher April Green explains, “Using literature is critical to this work with young children because it allows us to broach new or challenging topics in age appropriate ways.”

Kindergarten teacher Tasha Jackson-Jones adds, “For children, it is crucial that they see adults celebrating difference. Children will naturally gravitate toward commonality. We want them to develop confidence in and appreciation for unique experiences and perspectives, and in order to do that we need to normalize ‘difference.’” Books can provide both a reflection of who we are and windows into the lives of others.

Getting the Conversation Going

Parents, too, can use books to jump-start conversations with young children about “all of the parts that make us who we are” (identity), “what is fair and unfair” (social justice), and “how we can change things we believe are unjust” (activism).

Lowell’s Kindergarten through 2nd grade teachers have developed the following lists of go-to books for exploring these concepts with children. Some of the books are on more than one list, as they can be discussed from multiple angles. The lists are by no means exhaustive; teachers adjust the lists each year in response to the questions and experiences that children bring forth. And, teachers are always looking to expand their lists! The books listed here were chosen with the following criteria in mind:

  • The language is age-appropriate
  • Children are often featured as main characters
  • Portrayals of people avoid stereotypes
  • The stories are relatable to children

Here are a few conversation starters you can use as you turn the pages of these wonderful books with your child:

  • How do you think that character felt when . . .?
  • What would you have done differently if you were in that situation?
  • What do you notice about this (character)/(action)/(situation)?
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Kindergarten Books

ABC I Like Me! Nancy Carlson

A Chair for My Mother, Vera B. Williams

Chrysanthemum, Kevin Henkes

Click Clack Moo, Doreen Cronin

Duck for Turkey Day, Jacqueline Jules

Heather Has Two Mommies, Leslea Newman

I Am Jazz, Jessica Herthel

It’s Okay to be Different, Todd Parr

Last Stop on Market Street, Matt de la Peña

Little Blue and Little Yellow, Leo Lionni

One, Kathryn Otoshi

One Family, George Shannon

Red, Michael Hall

Same, Same but Different, Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw

Stella Brings the Family, Miriam B. Schiffer

Tango Makes Three, Justin Richardson and ‎Peter Parnell

The Colors of Us, Karen Katz

The Day the Crayons Quit, Drew Daywalt

The Dot, Peter H. Reynolds

The Family Book, Todd Parr

The Name Jar, Yangsook Choi

The Skin You Live In, Michael Tyler

Those Shoes, Maribeth Boelts

Whoever You Are, Mem Fox

Who’s in a Family? Robert Skutch

Wolfie the Bunny, Ame Dyckman

Worm Loves Worm, JJ Austrian

You Are (Not) Small, Anna Kang

You Were Loved Before You Were Born, Eve Bunting

Zero, Kathryn Otoshi

1st Grade Books

ABC I Like Me! Nancy Carlson

A Chair for My Mother, Vera B. Williams

All I Want to Be is Me, Phyllis Rothblatt

Chrysanthemum, Kevin Henkes

Click Clack Moo, Doreen Cronin

Elmer, David McKee

How Full is Your Bucket, Tom Rath

I Am Jazz, Jessica Herthel

It’s Okay to be Different, Todd Parr

Jacob’s New Dress, Sarah and Ian Hoffman

Last Stop on Market Street, Matt de la Peña

Lena Likes Lizards, Liza Dora

My Name is Yoon, Helen Recorvits

One, Kathryn Otoshi

Red, Michael Hall

Ruby Bridges, Robert Cole

Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation, Duncan Tonatiuh

Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun: Having the Courage To Be Who You Are, Maria Dismondy

The Colors of Us, Karen Katz One, Kathryn Otoshi

The Day the Crayons Quit, Drew Daywalt

The Name Jar, Yangsook Choi

The Skin You Live In, Michael Tyler

Those Shoes, Maribeth Boelts

Whoever You Are, Mem Fox

2nd Grade Books

Click Clack Moo, Doreen Cronin

Emmanuel’s Dream, Laurie Ann Thompson

Giant Steps to Change the World, Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee

Ghandi, Demi

I Am Jazz, Jessica Herthel

It’s Okay to be Different, Todd Parr

Last Stop on Market Street, Matt de la Peña

Mandela, Kadir Nelson

Matchbox Diary, Paul Fleischman

Moses Goes to a Concert (and other books in the series), Isaac Millman

My Brother Charlie, Holly Robinson Peete and Ryan Elizabeth Peete

Red, Michael Hall

Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation, Duncan Tonatiuh

Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down, Andrea Davis Pinkney

The Colors of Us, Karen Katz

The Day the Crayons Quit, Drew Daywalt

The Librarian of Basra, Jeanette Winter

Who Are You: The Kid’s Guide to Gender Identity, Brook Pessin-Whedbee

 


Booklists courtesy of: Kindergarten Teacher Tasha Jackson-Jones and 2nd Grade Teachers April Greene and Kristin Peck

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Lowell School is an independent school in the Colonial Village neighborhood of Washington, DC, that offers Pre-Primary, Primary, and Middle School programs. It offers a rigorous and hands-on curriculum that nurtures each child’s natural curiosity and desire to learn, and supports the development of individual voice and self-reliance. For more information, please call 202-577-2000, email admissions@lowellschool.org, or follow Lowell on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

Topics: Reading and Books

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