Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Booklists for Budding Young Social Justice Activists

 A quick Google search for definition for “social justice” and “activism” give you these two definitions:
Both can be seen in the political sphere, as certainly there are line-item beliefs from both of the American parties that clarify a particular "party stance" on certain social, economic, and even civic ideals. 

Yet, one can also look to the social science side of the terms instead… focusing not on what’s Democratic or Republican, but rather looking at it more from a humanitarian or cultural side. As teachers, that’s really what we do in our classrooms when we discuss issues—whether it’s in the kindergarten classroom or up to the college level. We inspire our students to think, to ponder, to weigh the issues, and consider the alternatives and even the consequences. Our students bring their personal experiences to the table, and sometimes they widen their view after encountering other’s perspectives. It is through this that students begin to develop their own perspectives amidst the insight of their peers. It can often work that way for adults as well. (Insert open-mindedness here, though! 😉)

Social justice topics are many, including some the following:
  • Racism
  • Sexism
  • Ageism
  • Gender/sexual rights
  • Human rights & equality
  • Bullying & discrimination
  • Poverty 
  • Homelessness
  • Food & hunger issues
  • Environmental issues 
  • Access to clean water
  • Access to health care
  • Access to education
  • Access to a living wage
  • Child & migrant labor laws
  • Acceptance of others’ cultural beliefs
Of course there are more, and I purposely left out the outwardly governmental issues that we can all read about in the newspaper.

Lucky for us in the age of the Internet, we have resources that abound—both for our own personal growth and life-long learning, and also to use in our classrooms. Additionally, there is such a wealth even in the picture book genre that can be used as teaching tools for our youngest (and also our oldest) students. Sometimes the visuals in a picture book paint a very clear picture that can speak volumes to 5th graders or high schoolers. I witnessed this in action this spring with our school-wide study of Karen Williams’ books on both Haiti and Malawi. Picture books can be ageless!

Here is a bounty of social justice & activism booklists, a mere click away:
Of course, this is just a start and a fraction of what is out there and available.

I’ve said it before: I’m not sure when I became an activist. Certainly in high school “apathy” was more my view when it came to issues of any sort (unless of course it was girl drama, buddies, and boys of high school 😉). But a girl who writes an environmental education blog, has spoken at state governmental committees about Earth Hour, has written letters to the editor, has attended marches in DC, and has squawked her political views on social media is an activist, no doubt.

May this booklist broaden your perspectives, and bring out a little bit of your own inner activist!

Definitions screenshot from a simple google search and put in the Li-Pix app.; Social Justice books image from; Wordle from; Stand-Speak-Act image from

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