“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” -Martin Luther King Jr.
Since November 9, 2016 I have struggled with my desire to write about our country’s new president. I grappled so much with my emotions and words that I didn’t write a single post during the entire month of November. After the election I went through the stages of grief. Once I picked up my jaw from off the floor and finished wiping my tears, I spent a little bit of time yelling and feeling overwhelmed. For about five seconds, I held onto the hope some glitch or Russian foul play would make it all go away and I could just wake up from the nightmare. I spent some time listening to my red state friends trying to wrap my head around how we landed here. When I finally accepted this country’s fate, I decided it was time to act. So I marched. Wrote letters. Donated money, time, and energy everywhere I could. I have spent a lot of time thinking about how I was going to make a difference. How does one person really reach out and make a difference when faced with so much devastating change and destruction to one’s country?
Whenever I feel overwhelmed, it always helps me to make a list. Pros and cons lists, to-do lists, goals lists…but this was a first time (thanks to my white, straight, American privilege) that I was making a list of all the things I was afraid of happening in this country. I made a list of what is bothering me the most and found that a great deal of my fear and unrest with this president’s administration is its archaic stance on social justice. Racism. Xenophobia. Immigration. Refugees. LGBTQ. Women. It is starting to feel like every single step forward we have made over the last eight years (or even eighty years) is being erased.
And then I looked down at the three small people in my life. I have been given the awesome job of helping shape and mold these little minds and hearts into beautiful and strong people. People who will believe in and stand up for what is good and right and will help to make this world a better place. Part of what I can do to help, is invest in the future.
Whenever I want to get a message across to my kids, I almost always start with a book. Children’s books are the best way to start a conversation, spark a question, plant a seed in their minds, and point them in the right direction. So over the past few months I have been collecting books that have helped me to open my children’s minds and hearts. I’ve taken book suggestions from friends, combed my local library, and even help fund a kickstarter campaign to get these powerful books into the hands of my children.
(To find out more about these books, the titles are links to the book’s Amazon page.)
This book covers the ABC’s of the progressive generation from civil rights to protecting the environment all wrapped in fun rhymes, alliteration and bold illustrations. Accessible to the youngest reader, yet topics introduced can be expanded upon by all ages.
Rosa Parks is one of the most memorable and important figures from the American civil rights movement. In this gorgeously collage and watercolor illustrated book, Rosa’s life and story is shared both through the lens of her biography as well as the political actions happening during her life.
Telling the story of a determined and strong little girl who grew up in a time that was very different from today, this book shows how important it is to stand up for inequality in society. The Notorious RBG is one of the strongest and most powerful women of our times. She has fought for all that is unjust in our country and is a shining example of women persisting.
Based on the real-life experiences of Jazz Jennings, this book tells the story of a child born with a girl’s brain in a boy’s body. I found this story to be an easy introduction to the world of being transgender. Jazz shares her story in a very simple and clear way making it approachable for the youngest reader/listener.
I’ll admit, the first time I read this book to my children, the beauty and heartbreak of the story made me cry. The book brings you into the world of two girls living in a refugee camp. Scrambling at the delivery of clothes from the relief workers, these two girls each found one shoe from a pair of sandals. Through their genuine kindness, the girls decide to take turns wearing the sandals and over the course of their time in the refugee camp, a friendship blossoms. The ending of this book is an example of pure love. This book was a realistic window into the struggles of refugee children and families.
I was so proud to support this kickstarter last year to help bring this incredibly gorgeous and inspirational book to print. This book shares 100 stories of amazing women throughout history, from scientist to rock stars, artist to writers, each accompanied by dramatic and powerful illustrations. Even though I only have one rebel girl in my house (well I suppose two if you count me!) I read these stories to all my children to show the power and impact women have made in our history. And exciting news, they just announced they are running a new kickstarter to publish a second volume!
The true story of one brave little girl who helped change our country in 1960. Ruby Bridges was the first African-American child to integrate into the New Orleans school system. Despite walking through angry, taunting mobs on a daily basis just to walk through the doors of her school, Ruby held her head high and persisted. She helped lead the march away from hate and racism in our country.
A moving story of the migrant life told through the eyes of a child as she and her father make their way to America, in search of a better life. Riding the rails, dodging danger, hoping for a brighter future. I found this to be an excellent tool for introducing immigration and creating a sense of empathy for their heartache and struggles.
Our president is a bully. Plain and simple. He has created a culture of bullies and given those despicable behaviors a pass. He is the king of bucket dippers. When I was teaching in a public school classroom I read this book in an effort to encouraging my students to be inclusive and support one another rather than form cliques and make fun of those who are different. These days, there’s a button on my bag that says Make America Kind Again and this book offers concrete examples for kids to follow, as well as what not to do.
This book gets to the heart of the sentiment that we’re all human. The two boys send their pen pal letters from America to India, discovering that they both have families they love, games they play, pets they take care of and a community that surrounds them. Though many things make look different, deep down, it’s often the same.
This is just a short start to a list that I know can go on and on. I welcome you to add to this list and share your favorite books on social justice.