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Social Issues: Books For Kids

Looking for a list of the best children's books about social issues?

Children’s literature has many notable options when it comes to social issues. To help you find the right books for you and your young reader, we’ve compiled a list of the best kids books about social issues.

Our list includes picture books and chapter books. Picture books are generally great options for toddlers and for preschool and kindergarten age children. Picture books are especially enjoyable for adults to read aloud with young kids. The chapter books on our list are generally best for elementary through early middle school age tween kids. You can filter to sort by the best book type for your kid.

When it comes to children’s stories about social issues, there are a variety of titles. This list covers everything, from classics like Liar & Spy to popular sellers like Brown Girl Dreaming to some of our favorite hidden gems like A Poem for Peter.

We hope this list of kids books about social issues can be a helpful resource for parents, teachers, and others searching for a new book! As you explore the list, please comment below to let us know what books you would add.

Brown Girl Dreaming
Written by Jacqueline Woodson
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 10-16

In vivid poems that reflect the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, an award-winning author shares what it was like to grow up in the 1960s and 1970s in both the North and the South.

A Poem for Peter
Written by Andrea Davis Pinkney & illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher
picture book
Recommend Ages: 7-10

A celebration of the extraordinary life of Ezra Jack Keats, creator of The Snowy Day.

The story of The Snowy Day begins more than one hundred years ago, when Ezra Jack Keats was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. The family were struggling Polish immigrants, and despite Keats’s obvious talent, his father worried that Ezra’s dream of being an artist was an unrealistic one. But Ezra was determined. By high school he was winning prizes and scholarships. Later, jobs followed with the WPA and Marvel comics. But it was many years before Keats’s greatest dream was realized and he had the opportunity to write and illustrate his own book.

For more than two decades, Ezra had kept pinned to his wall a series of photographs of an adorable African American child. In Keats’s hands, the boy morphed into Peter, a boy in a red snowsuit, out enjoying the pristine snow; the book became The Snowy Day, winner of the Caldecott Medal, the first mainstream book to feature an African American child. It was also the first of many books featuring Peter and the children of his — and Keats’s — neighborhood.

Andrea Davis Pinkney’s lyrical narrative tells the inspiring story of a boy who pursued a dream, and who, in turn, inspired generations of other dreamers.

Sofia Valdez, Future Prez
Written by Andrea Beaty & illustrated by David Roberts
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-7

The newest picture book from the creators of Iggy Peck, Architect; Rosie Revere, Engineer; and Ada Twist, Scientist stars Sofia Valdez, an activist and community leader who stands up for what she believes in!

Every morning, Abuelo walks Sofia to school . . . until one day, when Abuelo hurts his ankle at a local landfill and he can no longer do so. Sofia misses her Abuelo and wonders what she can do about the dangerous Mount Trashmore. Then she gets an idea—the town can turn the slimy mess into a park! She brainstorms and plans and finally works up the courage to go to City Hall—only to be told by a clerk that she can’t build a park because she’s just a kid! Sofia is down but not out, and she sets out to prove what one kid can do.

Bear Likes Jam
Written & illustrated by Ciara Gavin
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

In their blended family, Mama Duck worries when Bear eats too much jam, but when the ducklings play a game with their vegetables, Bear starts to eat the strange green things on his plate.

Babies Ruin Everything
Written by Matthew Swanson & illustrated by Robbi Behr
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7

Meet the baby who ruins everything, and the big sister who learns to love him. Together, they make this laugh out loud picture book the perfect gift for new siblings and baby showers!

The baby can’t stand on one foot.

He can’t throw a Frisbee.

And he can’t whistle! Even big-head Benny Hogarth can whistle, and he already lost his front teeth!

So says a spunky little girl who thinks her new baby brother is ruining EVERYTHING: wrecking her room, drooling all over her toys, and throwing a wrench in her birthday party plans.

But when she opens her heart, this big sister realizes she might be the real problem-the baby’s just a baby, after all. Maybe all he needs is a better big sister.

Tall kids, small kids, and parents alike will laugh through this funny and sweet tale of learning how wonderful-and lucky-it is to have a new sibling.

  • Teacup - A boy must leave his home and find another. He brings with him a teacup full of earth from the place where he grew up, and sets off to sea. Some days, the journey is peaceful, and the skies are cloudless and bright. Some days, storms threaten to overturn his boat. And some days, the smallest amount of hope grows into something glorious. At last, the boy finds land, but it doesn’t feel complete . . . until another traveler joins him, bearing the seed to build a new home. With lyrical text and gorgeous artwork, this poignant picture book is perfect for discussing all of life’s toughest challenges—a big move, a divorce, long-distance separation, or even the current refugee crisis—in a way that’s reassuring and inspiring for children and adults alike.

  • Second Banana - “A picture book about Oop, a gorilla, who is second banana to The Amazing Mr. Bubbles, a monkey, until one day, Mr. Bubbles finds himself in trouble and Oop has to save the day”—

  • The Big Umbrella - A spacious umbrella welcomes anyone and everyone who needs shelter from the rain.

  • Mango Moon - When a father is taken away from his family and facing deportation, his family is left to grieve and wonder about what comes next. Maricela, Manuel, and their mother face the many challenges of having their lives completely changed by the absence of their father and husband. Moving to a new house, missed soccer games and birthday parties, and emptiness are now the day-to-day norm. Mango Moon shows what life is like from a child’s perspective when a parent is deported, and the heartbreaking realities they have to face, but Maricela learns that her love for her father is sustained even though he is no longer part of her daily life.

Becoming Kareem
Written by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar & illustrated by Raymond Obstfeld
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 10-16

In his first memoir written especially for young readers, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar will focus on his relationships with several important coaches in his life - including his father, his high-school coach and Coach Wooden - as he tells the story of his life and career. Like many kids in elementary school, Kareem (then Lew Alcindor) struggled with fitting in, pleasing a strict father, and severe shyness that made him socially awkward. Unlike most kids, he also had to grapple with a sudden growth spurt that shot him up taller than pretty much everyone around him, including students, teachers, and even his own father. His increasing fame as a basketball player throughout high school brought new challenges as this shy boy was shoved into the national spotlight. At the same time, social unrest in the country, particularly involving the growing civil rights movement, tugged at his conscience as he tried to find his place in it. After all, he was just a kid. What could he do? Recruited to UCLA, his fame as an unstoppable center made him a college superstar. But as his fame rose, so did the social turmoil in the country: Vietnam War protests, Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., large-scale riots, the Women’s Movement. He could have hidden from all the turmoil as a sports celebrity, but he chose to join in the social evolution. The result was converting to Islam and changing his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The public backlash was blistering, but he didn’t waver.

The Itchy Book!
Written & illustrated by Mo Willems and LeUyen Pham
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Triceratops has an itch. . . so does Pterodactyl. . . and Brontosaurus. . . and T-Rex! But Dino-Mo reminds them all of the BIG rule: Dinosaurs do not scratch! What’s an itchy dinosaur to do? Find out in this hilariously charming beginning reader by author/illustrator LeUyen Pham.

Best Family Ever
Written by Karen Kingsbury
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Much-loved storyteller Karen Kingsbury’s Baxter Family books have captured the hearts of millions who have come to think of the Baxter family as their own. Now Karen Kingsbury and her son Tyler Russell tell the childhood stories of the beloved Baxter children—Brooke, Kari, Ashley, Erin, and Luke—to inspire and entertain younger readers.

Brooke is the perfect older sister. For that reason, Kari and Ashley work hard to make their parents just as proud of them as they are of Brooke. Each girl has her own talents. Brooke is an excellent student. Kari is a great soccer player. Ashley, a talented artist. And they are always there for each other. But when the news comes that Dr. Baxter is moving the family from Ann Arbor to Bloomington, Indiana, and the Baxters need to leave the only home and friends they’ve ever known, no one is happy. Saying goodbye is hard but the family still has what’s most important—their faith and their love for each other.

The first book in the Baxter Family Children series, #1 New York Times bestselling author Karen Kingsbury and Tyler Russell tell the story of what it was like to grow up in the Baxter family, the best family ever.

A Blind Guide to Normal
Written & illustrated by Beth Vrabel
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Richie “Ryder” Raymond has a gift. He can find the punchline in any situation, even in his limited vision and prosthetic eye. During the past year at Addison School for the Blind, Ryder’s quick wit earned the respect and friendship of his classmates. Heading to mainstream, or “normal” school for eighth grade is going to be awesome.

After all, what’s not to like? At Addison, Ryder was everyone’s favorite person. He could make anyone laugh, especially his best friend Alice. So long as he can be first to make all of the one-eyed jokes, Ryder is sure he’ll fit in just as quick at Papuaville Middle School, home of the Fighting Guinea Pigs. But Alice warns him fitting in might not be as easy as he thinks.

Turns out, Alice was right. In just the first hour of “normal” school, Ryder is attacked by General MacCathur II (aka, Gramps’s cat), causes his bio teacher to pass out cold, makes an enemy out town hero Max, and falls for Jocelyn, the fierce girl next door who happens to be Max’s girlfriend. On top of that, Ryder struggles to hold onto his dignity in the face of students’ pity and Gramps’s non-stop practical jokes.

Ryder quickly sees the only thing worse than explaining a joke is being the punchline. But with help from his stuck-in-the-70s Gramps and encouragement from Alice, Ryder finds the strength to not only fight back, but to make peace.

This exciting sequel to A Blind Guide to Stinkville weaves humor, recovery and second chances into an unforgettable story, with characters who will hook you from page one.

Herstory
Written by Katherine Halligan & illustrated by Sarah Walsh
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Move aside history—it’s time for herstory. Celebrate fifty inspiring and powerful women who changed the world and left their mark in this lavishly illustrated biography compilation that’s perfect for fans of Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls and She Persisted. Throughout history, girls have often been discussed in terms of what they couldn’t or shouldn’t do. Not anymore. It’s time for herstory—a celebration of not only what girls can do, but the remarkable things women have already accomplished, even when others tried to stop them. In this uplifting and inspiring book, follow the stories of fifty powerhouse women from around the world and across time who each managed to change the world as they knew it forever. Telling the stories of their childhood, the challenges they faced, and the impact of their achievements, each lavishly illustrated spread is a celebration of girl power in its many forms. From astronauts to activists, musicians to mathematicians, these women are sure to motivate young readers of all backgrounds to focus not on the can’ts and shouldn’ts, but on what they can do: anything!

  • In Plain Sight: A Game - Sophie lives with Mama and Daddy and Grandpa, who spends his days by the window. Every day after school, it’s Grandpa whom Sophie runs to. “Here I am, Grandpa!” “Ah, Sophie, how was your day?” As Sophie and her grandpa talk, he asks her to find items he’s “lost” throughout the day, guiding Sophie on a tour through his daily life and connecting their generations in this sweet, playful picture book from Richard Jackson, illustrated by Caldecott Medalist and Laura Ingalls Wilder Award winner Jerry Pinkney.

  • Blended - Eleven-year-old Isabella’s blended family is more divided than ever in this thoughtful story about divorce and racial identity from the award-winning and New York Times bestselling author of Out of My Mind, Sharon M. Draper. Eleven-year-old Isabella’s parents are divorced, so she has to switch lives every week: One week she’s Isabella with her dad, his girlfriend Anastasia, and her son Darren living in a fancy house where they are one of the only black families in the neighborhood. The next week she’s Izzy with her mom and her boyfriend John-Mark in a small, not-so-fancy house that she loves. Because of this, Isabella has always felt pulled between two worlds. And now that her parents are divorced, it seems their fights are even worse, and they’re always about HER. Isabella feels even more stuck in the middle, split and divided between them than ever. And she’s is beginning to realize that being split between Mom and Dad is more than switching houses, switching nicknames, switching backpacks: it’s also about switching identities. Her dad is black, her mom is white, and strangers are always commenting: “You’re so exotic!” “You look so unusual.” “But what are you really?” She knows what they’re really saying: “You don’t look like your parents.” “You’re different.” “What race are you really?” And when her parents, who both get engaged at the same time, get in their biggest fight ever, Isabella doesn’t just feel divided, she feels ripped in two. What does it mean to be half white or half black? To belong to half mom and half dad? And if you’re only seen as half of this and half of that, how can you ever feel whole? It seems like nothing can bring Isabella’s family together again—until the worst happens. Isabella and Darren are stopped by the police. A cell phone is mistaken for a gun. And shots are fired.

  • Liar & Spy - Seventh-grader Georges adjusts to moving from a house to an apartment, his father’s efforts to start a new business, his mother’s extra shifts as a nurse, being picked on at school, and Safer, a boy who wants his help spying on another resident of their building.

  • Puppy Mind - In this picture book for children and adults, illustrated by Jim Durk, who is adored by thousands of children for his many Clifford the Big Red Dog and Thomas the Steam Engine books, a young boy discovers his mind is like a puppy, always wandering away, into the past or the future. He sets about learning to train his puppy mind to heel to the present moment. Through remembering to breathe, the boy becomes a stronger and more caring master of his puppy mind, keeping it in the present, if only for a moment. Includes a link to a discussion guide for parents and teachers.

Love, Penelope
Written by Joanne Rocklin & illustrated by Lucy Knisley and Joanne Rocklin
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Penny is excited to welcome her new sibling, so throughout her mom’s pregnancy she writes letters to it (not it, YOU!). She introduces herself (Penelope, but she prefers “Penny”) and their moms (Sammy and Becky). She brags about their home city, Oakland, California (the weather, the Bay, and the Golden State Warriors) and shares the trials and tribulations of being a fifth-grader (which, luckily, YOU won’t have to worry about for a long time). Penny asks little questions about her sibling’s development and starts to ask big questions about the world around her (like if and when her moms are ever going to get married “for real”). Honest, relatable, and full of heart, Love, Penelope explores heritage, forgiveness, love, and identity through the eyes (and pen) of one memorable 10-year-old in a special year when marriage equality and an NBA championship made California a place of celebration.

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