Activism and History: Books For Kids

These children’s books can help you teach your young reader about the impact individuals can have on the world around them. These books capture powerful examples of individuals who brought about change and present their stories in a memorable way and in an understandable manner.

Elizabeth Leads the Way book
#1
Elizabeth Leads the Way
Written by Tanya Lee Stone and illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-10

Elizabeth Cady Stanton stood up and fought for what she believed in. From an early age, she knew that women were not given rights equal to men. But rather than accept her lesser status, Elizabeth went to college and later gathered other like-minded women to challenge the right to vote. Here is the inspiring story of an extraordinary woman who changed America forever because she wouldn’t take “no” for an answer.

Elizabeth Leads the Way is a 2009 Bank Street - Best Children’s Book of the Year.

Let the Children March book
#2
Let the Children March
Written by Monica Clark-Robinson and illustrated by Frank Morrison
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-9
Thoughts from B is for Bookworm

This book is so inspirational. I love that it talks about the children who march for their rights! This book is so important, as it really brought this historical event to life, especially through the different perspective of children. This is an amazing story of love, perseverance, determination, courage, bravery, and activism. Even when the children faced danger, they knew that they were helping bring about a change and that together, they could help change the world. Also, I thought the illustrations were wonderful.

Under the leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King, children and teenagers march against segregation in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963.

The Youngest Marcher book
#3
The Youngest Marcher
Written by Cynthia Levinson and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-10
Thoughts from Mr. Staccato

I loved learning about segregation from the perspective of Audrey Faye Hendricks. What a brave young girl. I found the author’s note at the end of the book enjoyable as well and getting to know a little bit more about the protest and Audrey.

Meet the youngest known child to be arrested for a civil rights protest in Birmingham, Alabama, 1963, in this moving picture book that proves you’re never too little to make a difference. Nine-year-old Audrey Faye Hendricks intended to go places and do things like anybody else. So when she heard grown-ups talk about wiping out Birmingham’s segregation laws, she spoke up. As she listened to the preacher’s words, smooth as glass, she sat up tall. And when she heard the plan—picket those white stores! March to protest those unfair laws! Fill the jails!—she stepped right up and said, I’ll do it! She was going to j-a-a-il! Audrey Faye Hendricks was confident and bold and brave as can be, and hers is the remarkable and inspiring story of one child’s role in the Civil Rights Movement.

Martin's Big Words book
#4
Martin's Big Words
Written by Doreen Rappaport and illustrated by Bryan Collier
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8
Thoughts from Mom of Boys

Martin’s Big Words is a great book that explains some of the big points he makes during his years of helping to end segregation. “He said, together, when others said, separate.” I especially like how this book teaches such a positive way to solve problems. He focuses on love and persistence and when changes seem out of reach.

This picture-book biography is an excellent and accessible introduction for young readers to learn about one of the world’s most influential leaders, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Doreen Rappaport weaves the immortal words of Dr. King into a captivating narrative to tell the story of his life. With stunning art by acclaimed illustrator Bryan Collier, Martin’s Big Words is an unforgettable portrait of a man whose dream changed America—and the world—forever.

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History book
#5
Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History
Written by Vashti Harrison
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-11

A NEW YORK TIMES INSTANT BESTSELLER!A USA TODAY BESTSELLER! This beautifully illustrated book introduces readers of all ages to 40 women who changed the world. Featuring forty trailblazing black women in American history, Little Leaders educates and inspires as it relates true stories of breaking boundaries and achieving beyond expectations. Illuminating text paired with irresistible illustrations bring to life both iconic and lesser-known female figures of Black history such as abolitionist Sojourner Truth, pilot Bessie Coleman, chemist Alice Ball, politician Shirley Chisholm, mathematician Katherine Johnson, poet Maya Angelou, and filmmaker Julie Dash. Among these biographies, readers will find heroes, role models, and everyday women who did extraordinary things - bold women whose actions and beliefs contributed to making the world better for generations of girls and women to come. Whether they were putting pen to paper, soaring through the air or speaking up for the rights of others, the women profiled in these pages were all taking a stand against a world that didn’t always accept them. The leaders in this book may be little, but they all did something big and amazing, inspiring generations to come.

  1. Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls - A children’s book that reinvents fairy tales, inspiring girls with the stories of 100 great women from Elizabeth I to Serena Williams.

  2. We March - On August 28, 1963, a remarkable event took place—more than 250,000 people gathered in our nation’s capital to participate in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The march began at the Washington Monument and ended with a rally at the Lincoln Memorial, where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his historic “I Have a Dream” speech, advocating racial harmony. Many words have been written about that day, but few so delicate and powerful as those presented here by award-winning author and illustrator Shane W. Evans. When combined with his simple yet compelling illustrations, the thrill of the day is brought to life for even the youngest reader to experience. We March was one of Kirkus Reviews’ Best Children’s Books of 2012, and is an important story about the African American civil rights movement.

  3. The Cart That Carried Martin - A unique retelling of Martin Luther King Jr.s funeral, focusing on the cart used to transport his coffin through the streets of Atlanta, Georgia, from Ebenezer Baptist Church to Morehouse College. The text also features the large number of people who walked the funeral route and were buoyed by MLKs positive influence, as well as Ada and Belle, the mules that pulled the cart.

  4. What Do You Do with a Voice Like That? - “When Barbara Jordan talked, we listened.” —Former President of the United States, Bill Clinton Congresswoman Barbara Jordan had a big, bold, confident voice—and she knew how to use it! Learn all about her amazing career in this illuminating and inspiring picture book biography of the lawyer, educator, politician, and civil rights leader. Even as a child growing up in the Fifth Ward of Houston, Texas, Barbara Jordan stood out for her big, bold, booming, crisp, clear, confident voice. It was a voice that made people sit up, stand up, and take notice. So what do you do with a voice like that? Barbara took her voice to places few African American women had been in the 1960s: first law school, then the Texas state senate, then up to the United States congress. Throughout her career, she persevered through adversity to give voice to the voiceless and to fight for civil rights, equality, and justice. New York Times bestselling author Chris Barton and Caldecott Honoree Ekua Holmes deliver a remarkable picture book biography about a woman whose struggles and mission continue to inspire today.

Pass Go and Collect $200 book
#10
Pass Go and Collect $200
Written and illustrated by Tanya Lee Stone
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-9

Boldness, imagination, and ruthless competition combine in Tanya Lee Stone and Steven Salerno’s Pass Go and Collect $200, a riveting picture book history of Monopoly, one of the world’s most famous games. In the late 1800s lived Lizzie Magie, a clever and charismatic woman with a strong sense of justice. Waves of urban migration drew Lizzie’s attention to rising financial inequality. One day she had an idea: create a game that shows the unfairness of the landlord-tenant relationship. But game players seemed to have the most fun pretending to be wealthy landowners. Enter Charles Darrow, a marketer and salesman with a vision for transforming Lizzie’s game into an exciting staple of American family entertainment. Features back matter that includes “Monopoly Math” word problems and equations. Excellent STEM connections and resources.

Gandhi book
#11
Gandhi
Written by Alice B. McGinty and illustrated by Thomas Gonzales
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-10

Mohandas Gandhi’s 24-day March to the Sea, from March 12 to April 5, 1930, was a pivotal moment in India’s quest to become an independent country no longer ruled by Great Britain. With over 70 marchers, Gandhi walked from his hometown near Ahmedabab to the sea coast by the village of Dandi. The march was a non-violent means to protest the taxes that Great Britain had imposed on salt — not the salt that the Indians could get from the sea, but the salt that Great Britain forced them to buy. Gandhi believed that peaceful protests were an effective way to challenge British law, and his peaceful but ultimately successful movement became known as Satyagraha.

After Gandhi book
#12
After Gandhi
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 9-12

“Reissued for today’s turbulent times, this updated paperback edition lays out the how, why, and when of nonviolent resistance throughout history. Newly updated for 2018 to include modern nonviolent movements such as Black Lives Matter and NoDAPL. In 1908 Mohandas Gandhi and a crowd of 3,000 protested without guns or rioting against unjust laws. They made a difference peacefully. Gandhi has influenced countless others to work toward freedom and justice through peaceful methods. Mother-and-son team Anne Sibley O’Brien and Perry Edmond O’Brien highlight people and events inspired by Gandhi. From Rosa Parks to the students at Tiananmen Square to Wangari Maathai, people have made the world sit up and take notice. Provocative graphics and beautiful portraits accompany the stories and inspire a sense of civic responsibility”—

Pocket Bios: Abraham Lincoln book
#13
Pocket Bios: Abraham Lincoln
Written and illustrated by Al Berenger
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7

Filled with personality, these biographies introduce readers to fascinating figures from history with simple storytelling and cheerful illustrations. Pocket Bios profile men and women from history, exploration, the sciences, the arts, the ancient world, and more. Full color.

Pocket Bios: Nelson Mandela book
#14
Pocket Bios: Nelson Mandela
Written and illustrated by Al Berenger
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7

A colorfully illustrated, pocket-size picture book biography of activist, philanthropist, and South African President Nelson Mandela. Nelson Mandela was a South African revolutionary, activist, politician, and philanthropist who opposed apartheid and served as the president of South Africa as the country’s first black head of state and the first representative elected democratically. He devoted much of his time in office to dismantling apartheid law and battling institutionalized racism in South Africa. He is the recipient of more than 250 honors worldwide, including the Nobel Peace Prize. Pocket Bios are full of personality, introducing readers to fascinating figures from history with simple storytelling and cheerful illustrations. Titles include men and women from history, exploration, the sciences, the arts, the ancient world, and more.

  1. Martin and Anne - Anne Frank and Martin Luther King Jr. were born the same year a world apart. Both faced ugly prejudices and violence, which both answered with words of love and faith in humanity. This is the story of their parallel journeys to find hope in darkness and to follow their dreams.

Did you enjoy our children's book recommendations? Did we miss one of your favorites? Let us know in the comments below!