We all want our students to believe they can change the world through thoughtful and peaceful action. Offering a steady and diverse diet of examples of activism can inspire kids to become activists themselves and helps them appreciate the work of activists throughout history. Check out 26 of our favorite recent books about activism and speaking up for young readers.
1. The Little Book of Little Activists by Penguin Young Readers (PreK-2)
We love this book for introducing our youngest students to the idea of activism. It’s guaranteed to incite a flurry of passionate sign-making in your classroom!
2. & 3. The Buddy Bench by Gwendolyn Hooks and The Protest by Samantha Thornhill (PreK-2)
The diverse and spunky Confetti Kids are one of our favorite early reader casts. In The Buddy Bench, they create a safe space for lonely kids to make friends. In The Protest, they organize a protest to save a community garden from demolition. Both are solid kid-driven books about activism for new readers.
4. Love is Powerful by Heather Dean Brewer (PreK-2)
Mari learns about the power of words when she helps her family make signs for an upcoming march. This story is based on the experiences of a girl who attended a 2017 Womens’ March and really resonates with young students!
5. Sometimes People March by Tessa Allen (PreK-4)
This gorgeous, inclusive title is a must-read for all classrooms. Younger students will appreciate the concrete connections. (“Sometimes ants march. Sometimes bands march.”) The back matter goes deeper for older classrooms.
6. Peaceful Fights for Equal Rights by Rob Sanders (PreK-4)
So eloquently packed with activism vocabulary, you may not even realize at first that it’s an alphabet book! From Assembling, taking Action and creating Allies to being Zealous, this guide to standing up for what’s right covers tons.
7. Kamala and Maya’s Big Idea by Meena Harris (PreK-4)
Sisters Kamala and Maya Harris become “per-sisters” as they launch efforts to build a neighborhood playground. One neighbor donates scrap wood for a sandbox, another gives materials for a teeter-totter, and the sisters’ success snowballs into a true community effort.
8. I Am One: A Book of Action by Susan Verde (PreK-4)
How can just one person make a difference? There are so many ways. We all need this inspiring message because “We are all activists.”
9. Speak Up by Miranda Paul (PreK-4)
Here’s an accessible and encouraging list of so many positive changes speaking up can bring. Read it, talk about it, and live it with your students!
10. Be a King: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream and You by Carole Boston Weatherford (K-4)
This story invites students to be part of a historical tradition of activism. It alternates between scenes from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life and a present-day classroom preparing for their own protest march.
11. Say Something! by Peter H. Reynolds (K-4)
“You don’t have to be loud. Powerful words can be a whisper. You can say something in so many ways. With words, with action, with creativity.” We can’t give our students this message enough. Activism begins with one voice.
12. Sofia Valdez, Future Prez (The Questioneers) by Andrea Beatty (K-4)
The latest member of Miss Lila Greer’s class to do great things, Sofia Valdez takes on City Hall to convince them to turn a local landfill into a park and doesn’t accept “no” for an answer. Help students learn how activism can help shape municipal decisions.
13. Rise Up and Write It by Nandini Ahuja (K-4)
Farah Patel learns a lot as she works to convince the mayor to approve a community garden in her neighborhood. Readers learn right along with her about activism tools like petitions, letters to city officials, protest signs, and community organizing.
14. Hey, Wall: A Story of Art and Community by Susan Verde (K-4)
A boy loves his neighborhood but hates the ugly, cracked wall that presides over it. So, he decides to spearhead a painting effort. We love this sweet story that gets kids talking about making change close to home.
15. Digging for Words: José Alberto Gutiérrez and the Library He Built by Angela Burke Kunkel (K-4)
Stretch kids’ definition of activism by sharing the story of this Colombian garbage collector. He started a library with discarded books for the children in his barrio to read.
16. Butterflies Belong Here: A Story of One Idea, Thirty Kids, and a World of Butterflies by Deborah Hopkinson (1-4)
This is a quiet and powerful story of one girl who dreams of helping monarch butterflies in her town. It’s great for talking about how engaging in activism can spark changes within ourselves, too. One of our favorite books about activism!
17. All the Way to the Top: How One Girl’s Fight for Americans With Disabilities Changed Everything by Annette Bay Pimentel (K-4)
This unforgettable story encourages students to advocate for themselves and others. To support the passing of the Americans With Disabilities Act, activist Jennifer Keelan joined others to climb the Capitol building steps—without her wheelchair.
18. Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag by Rob Sanders (K-4)
This iconic biography shares the work of gay rights activist Harvey Milk and makes an important connection between activism and equality.
19. Stonewall: A Building. An Uprising. A Revolution. by Rob Sanders (1-5)
Here’s a stunning book that explains the 1969 events at the Stonewall Inn and how they influenced the LGBTQ+ civil rights movement. It will get your class talking about the bravery of activism.
20. The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist by Cynthia Levinson (1-5)
This compelling child’s-eye perspective on the Civil Rights Movement and the Children’s March in Birmingham, Alabama builds important historical context—and shows how kids truly can make a difference.
21. Shirley Chisholm Is a Verb by Veronica Chambers (2-6)
From listening, to standing, to campaigning, to representing, politician and activist Shirley Chisholm’s legacy is filled with powerful change-making verbs. We love how the book ends by asking readers to choose their own verbs, too.
22. Malala Yousafzai: Warrior with Words by Karen Leggett Abouraya (2-6)
Malala Yousafzai’s name is practically synonymous with using words to peacefully incite change. We like this book’s straightforward explanation of Malala’s story and unique collage illustrations.
23. Todos Iguales/All Equal: Un corrido de Lemon Grove: A Ballad of Lemon Grove by Christy Hale (3-6)
This story of the first successful school desegregation lawsuit highlights the power of community organizing. Students will identify with young Roberto Álvarez when he bravely represents his Mexican American peers in front of a California judge.
24. Resist!: Peaceful Acts That Changed our World by Diane Stanley (3-8)
One-page biographies of notable activists and movements are perfect for the classroom. The diverse mix of causes and individuals makes this a resource you can come back to again and again.
25. Marley Dias Gets It Done: And So Can You! By Marley Dias (4-8)
Marley Dias started the #1000BlackGirlBooks movement at the impressive age of 11. Even more importantly, she’s an icon for today’s kids about how to “get it done.” We especially love all the tips she gives on using social media for good.
26. We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices edited by Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson (4-8)
Published as an antidote to the 2016 election, this collection of poems, letters, and essays by an impressive team of diverse authors empowers and informs young readers. Your class could discuss this book all year long.