Picture Books that Inspire Change
22 Jan 2020

Picture Books that Inspire Change

As an elementary teacher, I have a great love for picture books. And as is the case for many early elementary teachers, picture books were at the center of my teaching. Want to teach your young learners about numbers? Pull out Bill Martin, Jr. and Michael Sampson’s Chicka Chicka 123. Want to teach about the life cycle of a butterfly? Grab Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Want to get beginning readers hyped up about rhyme and alliteration, check out any Dr. Seuss classic. There are so many book options when it comes to teaching basic concepts to young learners.

But what about our older learners? What good does a picture book provide once students are beyond second grade? As we just celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I was thinking about all of the powerful picture books that not only tell a good story, but can inspire social change. With the help of bustle.com and few favorites of my own, I have compiled a short list of books that promote diversity and equality in a way that is appropriate for upper elementary through middle school students.

Back of the Bus by Aaron Reynolds

This book tells the story of Rosa Parks, as she took a stand by taking a seat, as seen through the eyes of a child.

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909 by Michelle Markel

This book is based on the true story of the largest women’s workers strikes in the country, this book tells the story of the young Ukrainian immigrant girl who started it all.

For the Right to Learn: Malala Yousafzai’s Story by Rebecca Langston George

This book takes readers through this Nobel Peace Prize winner’s fight against the Taliban and for the right to an education.

Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez by Kathleen Krull

This book tells the story of the life and activism of one of the country’s biggest civil rights heroes.

Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly

This book takes readers on a journey that shows how these incredible women helped NASA launch men into space.

January’s Sparrow by Patricia Polacco

This book tells the story of a slave family who escapes on the Underground Railroad to reach freedom in the North.

Separate is Never Equal: Sylvis Mendez and Her Family’s Fight  by Duncan Tonatiuh

This book tells the story of Sylvia and her family, who fought to end segregation in California schools — and did so a decade before Brown vs. Board of Education.

The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks by Cythia Levinson

Tells the story of one of the youngest civil rights activists who took to the streets of Birmingham, Alabama in 1963 to fight against racial injustice.

Want to motivate and inspire your learners on a larger scale? Use one of these books in a project based learning unit that encourages students to take a stand for something they believe in. Check out this Blue Apple project: Take a Stand.

What about you? What are your favorite picture books that inspire change?