Books About Social Justice

Here is a fantastic list for all ages. Below is a list of books that teachers I know recommend

Across the Bay – A Caribbean, “lively and honest story about filling voids and exploring what defines a family—as well as a love letter to a childhood home.”

Annie’s Plaid Shirt by Stacy B. Davids – Annie is miserable. She feels weird in dresses. Why can’t her mom understand? Gender, identity, individuality, tolerance, and self-esteem. Watch the summary.

A is for Activist is the rare ABC book you can use with all ages because of its topic, how people disrupt hegemony. It normalizes such activities in a world where conformism is the norm.

Chrisantemum by Kevin Henkes The young character loves her name until she gets teased about it at school. Then a fantastic music teacher does the right thing. Listen to it here.

The Thankful Book – The author reads the whole book here, so you can be the judge on whether you would like to get this predictable book illustrated in a very accessible way.

Fascinating by Richard MichelsonA boy named Leonard loves the performing arts. Leonard’s Jewish Ukranian immigrant parents feel out of place in America and do not understand his dream of becoming an actor. Watch a description of Leonard Nimoy’s bio here.

I Never Saw Another Butterfly – Poetry by Jewish children in concentration camps. There is a one-act play by Celeste Raspanti and several videos with the poems, visuals, and music. Here is a summary of the book with a lesson plan.

I See Me. Black Women A to Z – Help preschool and older girls build a positive  identity. Here is a video with music on this book “about the lives of Black women that challenged and shaped America.”

I Walk With Vanessa – explores the feelings of helplessness and anger that arise in the wake of seeing a classmate treated badly, and shows how a single act of kindness can lead to an entire community joining in to help.

Islandborn – Shows drawing as a way to learn about the world. Lola’s story departs from the poor immigrant narrative to present a vibrant portrait of contemporary Dominican values.

The Streets Are Free by Kurusa – Story about self-determination. Venezuelan children get their friends and family involved until the whole barrio unites to create a space of their own. Spanish version known as La Calle Es Libre.

La Mariposa – Francisco Jiménez’s eloquent biographical short story is about a migrant child struggling with a new life and a new language. Read a summary here.

La Peineta Colorada by Fernando Picó- Historical fiction picture book in Spanish. A girl and an old woman aid a fugitive slave in Puerto Rico. For middle and high school ages.

Prince Cinders by Babette ColeA prince who did not follow the gender-role script, yet lived happily ever after. Hear it here.

Princess Smartypants by Babette ColeA princess who defied gender stereotypes to win herself the best possible life. Hear the book here.

Something Beautiful by Sharon Dennis Wyeth is about a Black girl who wakes up to find a written threat on her front door, but also about the universal human desire to find beauty in everyday life and our connection to others.

Sueño de Lu Shzu by Ricardo Gómez – Picture book in Spanish about universal children’s rights. A Chinese girl who works at a sweatshop making dolls come up with a plan. This popular story has been turned into a play, and into a puppet story.

The Day You Begin – Poetic and gently reassuring, as it moves between broad discussion and specific examples of difference and discomfort, which emphasize children moving across cultures but will speak to children from all backgrounds and experiences.

The Boy and the Bindi by Vivek Shraya – A five-year-old South Asian boy becomes fascinated with his mother’s bindi, the red dot commonly worn by Hindu women. Gender, identity and self-acceptance. Listen to the book here.

The Island by Armin Greder – A story about being an outsider, bulliying, and xenophobia. An upper elementary and middle school level Lord of the Flies. Watch a great review here.

The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi- A Korean girl in a new school promises she will choose an “English” name but ends up choosing a Korean name and feeling good about it. Hear the whole story here.

The Paperbag Princess upends traditional gender stereotypes. Great antidote for Disney! You can hear the book here.

Books for the Visual Arts Recommended by Rebeca

The Big Orange Splotch by D. Manus Pinkwater- When the new, artistic neighbor decides to paint a wild design on his house, the residents of his development start criticizing. A tale of creative freedom vs conformity. Hear it here.

The Boy Who Kept on Drawing – A biographical story about developing an artistic identity as a gay person (but Keith’s orientation is not mentioned in the book). Listen to the book here.

Lucy’s Picture – The collage process, told from the point of view of a girl in elementary school who creates a collage for her grandfather.

Photo of book cover

Cover of The Sweet and Sour Anial Book by Langston Hughes

Número – A wordless, pop-up book that shows each number, from 1-10, emerging as the pages move from right to left. Emulating this idea with paper and maybe just one letter or number could be a great activity for children 8 and older.

Picture a Tree – With illustrations created using colored plastiline, this short story about the cycle of life and using your imagination is ideal for structural explorations using a 3D medium

The Sweet and Sour Animal Book – The words of Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes paired with the art of 1st and 2nd grade children from the Harlem School of the Arts.

The LineA scruffy little girl is confronted by a creature coming from a line she drew. Despite all the action, this is a wordless book.

Top Cat – A simple story about a cat unwilling to give away control, done in a collage of handmade papers.

Uptown – This gorgeous collage, mixed media and photomontage book explores the world of a young boy growing up in Harlem, New York, from the Apollo Theater to a barbershop to shopping on 125th Street.

Zoom by Istvan Banyai – Things are never as they seem in this wordless book designed to keep kids talking about close-up, far away, perspective and point of view. The video has all kinds of sound effects!

Books For Dance Recommended by Valerie Gutwirth

Grades K-5

Alvin Ailey  by Pinckney and Pinckney), grades 3-5

Dance!  by Bill T. Jones/Susan Kuklin
One of the world’s foremost choreographers explains dance in simple words and photos. Ideas: have students match the shapes/levels; create a warm-up, dance of feelings, solo and group dances from ideas in the book. Great for K-3, you can scaffold for older students with quotes and videos from Bill T. Jones’ work, including the choreography for Paradise Square, now at Berkeley Rep.

Rain Drops Roll by April Pulley Sayre
Great use of words to describe the way water moves. you could put the words together into dance phrases, make tableaux using the shapes and creatures,  create a water cycle dance using the book as a guide. Again, great for K-3.

Pete The Cat and the Cool Cat Boogie  by Dean/Dean
Part of a SUPER popular series about this character, this book’s message is that your way of dancing is ALWAYS cool. There’s even a dance printed inside the back cover! Grades K-3. Others in this mode:

Yes Yes Yaul  by Czekaj
Elephants Cannot Dance!  by Willems
Giraffes Can’t Dance  by Andreae/Parker-Rees

Firebird by Copeland/Myers
A famous dancer encourages a beginner. This book deserves the zillions of awards it has received. K-5.

How I Did It  by Ragsdale/Syed
All about physical daring and invention. Great for K-5.

The Word Collector  by Reynolds
About a kid who collect delicious words. Easy to translate into delicious MOVEMENT words and make dances out of them. Best for grades 3-8.

Dance Biographies For Older Students 

Library of American Choreographers is a great series for grades 5-8.

Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker by Powell/Robinson

Alvin Ailey: A Life In Dance  by Dunning, grades 6-12

Savion: My Life In Tap  by Glover/Weber grades 4-12:

Jose! Born to Dance  by Reich/Colon grades 3-5.