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The modern world can be a scary place. With the rise of the far right, the problem of climate change and rising costs leading to ever-increasing levels of poverty, there are a host of social issues – sometimes, it seems, too many to solve. . The complexity and difficulty of these times can be especially frightening for younger people, as they realize that the world they will grow up in is very different from the one they were promised.
With these issues constantly in the news and in the air, it’s no surprise that so many young people are interested in activism. Some might already be involved in making changes in their local communities, while others might be interested in getting involved in activism but don’t know where to start. Fortunately, there are many books, both fiction and non-fiction, about young activists that can give young readers of all ages ideas on how to get involved in activism, or help them understand why some people choose to stand up for what is right. , even in the face of strong opposition.
From activism-themed board books to in-depth stories about children fighting social ills, there are plenty of brilliant books about young activists to inspire future activists. Here are some of the top picks for child readers who want to learn more about activism.
For very young activists
Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi, illustrated by Ashley Lukashevsky
This hardback book is packed with beautiful illustrations your baby will love to look at, and the text helps teach younger readers – and their parents or guardians – about anti-racism activism. Written by veteran anti-racism activist Ibram X. Kendi, anti-racist baby contains nine simply presented steps to respond to racism in the world.
Sofia Valdez, Future Prez by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts
Part of The Interrogators series, a set of STEM books aimed at young children, Sofia Valdez, Future Prez follows the story of young Sofia, whose Abuelo is injured in a local dump. Sofia begins campaigning to turn the local trash pile into a park the whole community can enjoy, and when a local employee tells her she won’t make it because she’s a child, Sofia is determined to prove otherwise.
Kamala and Maya’s Big Idea by Meena Harris, illustrated by Ana Ramírez González
Written about the author’s aunt, Vice President Kamala Harris, and her mother, attorney Maya Harris, this fun and upbeat picture book tells the true story of two sisters who took on their first activism project in a very young age. Kamala and Maya decide to turn the courtyard of their apartment into a playground for the neighborhood children and persevere even when the going gets tough.
A for Activist by Innosanto Nagara
Both written and illustrated by Innosanto Nagara, A is for Activist is a hardcover book covering a wide range of activist topics: LGBTQ+ rights, civil rights, environmental justice and more. With a simple yet motivating message and a cute little cat to spot on every page, this book is meant to appeal to young readers and their families.
For mid-level activists
Counterattack by AM Dassu
Aaliyah is a bookworm, a K-pop fan and a Muslim. After a terrorist attack in her area, Aaliyah decides to start wearing the hijab in response to growing Islamophobic sentiment in her community; but when her school bans the hijab and she starts being bullied, Aaliyah discovers that there are other young people in her neighborhood who feel left out. Together, Aaliyah and her friends decide to protest bigotry and fight back.
A Good Kind of Trouble by Lisa Moore Ramée
Shayla, 12, prefers to keep her head down and follow the rules, unlike her older sister Hana, who is involved in their local Black Lives Matter group. However, after Shayla attends a protest, she begins her own journey as a young activist and begins to realize that some rules need to be challenged.
Jamie from LD Lapinski
Jamie is a young, non-binary child who discovers that when they and their two friends go to high school next year, they will be split into two different schools – one for boys and one for girls. Since Jamie doesn’t fit into either category, they don’t know where they will go. Defying the binary school system, Jamie organizes a rooftop protest in an effort to determine their future and stay with their two best friends.
The Secret Sunshine Project by Benjamin Dean, illustrated by Sandhya Prabhat
In this beautifully illustrated middle-level book, Bea, a young girl whose father recently passed away, decides to try to cheer up her older sister Riley by bringing Pride to their new country home. However, unlike their former home in London, there is some resistance to hosting a Pride event, particularly from the village mayor. Bea decides to stand up to bigotry and make her new Pride event the best it can be.
Non-fiction for young activists
Girl Warriors: How 25 young activists are saving the Earth by Rachel Sarah
Climate change is one of the greatest concerns of our time, especially for the younger generations who, it seems, will be the worst affected. There are many women and girls standing up and taking action for environmental change. This book about 25 young climate change activists will be both reassuring and inspiring for young readers who want to take their own stand for the environment.
The Story of Greta by Valentina Camerini, illustrated by Veronica Carratello
One of the most famous young activists in the world, Greta Thunberg started her strike to raise awareness about climate change in 2018. Since then, her campaign has gone global and she has inspired many other activists. Greta’s story recounts how Thunberg began her campaign and how she continued it in the face of fierce opposition.
Marley Dias gets it by Marley Dias
Marley Dias is the activist who created the #1000BlackGirlBooks campaign, an initiative to collect 1000 books with black female protagonists to donate to schools. Dias began her activism when, aged 11, she realized that all of her required reading at school was either about white boys or animal protagonists. Dias decided to collect and donate books centered on black girls, and her book details how she started her initiative and how she has continued it over the years since she started elementary school.
Teen activists can deepen their knowledge of social movements with our overview of YA nonfiction books for the budding social activist. Adult readers who want to learn more about social justice can learn from Beyond the Basics: Books for a Political Education and Liberation.