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Mini Reviews: Social Justice-oriented Children's books

I am co-presenting later this month on using literature to get students to write for action. We are  using a number of children's books (and a couple secondary) to show how all grade levels can benefit from hearing children's literature then applying it to not only writing activities, but having the students act on issues about which they are passionate.

These are the four children's books we're talking about and I loved them all!

Title: Young Water Protectors: A Story about Standing Rock

Author: Aslan Tudor and Kelly Tudor

Year Published: 2018

Pages: 24 (paperback)

Location (my 2021 Google Reading map)USA (ND, SD, MT, WY, NE) 

Ages: 9 and up

Summary and thoughts: At the not-so-tender age of 8, Aslan arrived in North Dakota to help stop a pipeline. A few months later he returned - and saw the whole world watching. Read about his inspiring experiences in the Oceti Sakowin Camp at Standing Rock. Learn about what exactly happened there, and why. Be inspired by Aslan’s story of the daily life of Standing Rock’s young water protectors. Mni Wiconi ... Water is Life. I love that this comes from an 11 year old's viewpoint!

Title: Young Native Activist: Growing Up in Native American Rights Movements

Author: Aslan Tudor and Kelly Tudor

Year Published: 2019

Pages: 19

Location (my 2021 Google Reading map)USA (CA, Washington, DC, OH, IL, ND, IN, TX)

Ages: 8 and up

Summary and thoughts: This is 11 year old Aslan's story. An activist is someone who tries to make changes or raise awareness about political or social issues. As Native Americans we fight for our rights as the first people of this land. Aslan has been protecting rights since he was just a youngster. Aslan tells the story of the different ways that he has protested (drumming, marches, dances, protests, etc) and why it matters to him. This one is Aslan's second book and I think it's even better than the first because it shows a variety of experiences and issues that he cares about.

Title: Emmanuel's Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah

Author: Laurie Ann Thompson and Sean Qualls

Year Published: 2015

Pages: 40

Location (my 2021 Google Reading map) Ghana

Ages: 4 and up

Summary and thoughts: Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah's inspiring true story—which was turned into a film, Emmanuel's Gift, narrated by Oprah Winfrey—is nothing short of remarkable. Born in Ghana, West Africa, with one deformed leg, he was dismissed by most people—but not by his mother, who taught him to reach for his dreams. As a boy, Emmanuel hopped to school more than two miles each way, learned to play soccer, left home at age thirteen to provide for his family, and, eventually, became a cyclist. He rode an astonishing four hundred miles across Ghana in 2001, spreading his powerful message: disability is not inability. Today, Emmanuel continues to work on behalf of the disabled. A moving and inspiring story that will surely get students talking. We are going to suggest that kids look around their own school and neighborhood to see what it would be like to have a disability and navigate their world.

Title: The Power of Her Pen: The Story of Groundbreaking Journalist Ethel L. Payne

Author: Lesa Cline-Ransome and John Parra

Year Published: 2020

Pages: 48

Location (my 2021 Google Reading map) USA (IL, Washington DC), Japan

Ages: 4 and up

Summary and thoughts: “I’ve had a box seat on history.” Ethel Payne always had an ear for stories. Seeking truth, justice, and equality, Ethel followed stories from her school newspaper in Chicago to Japan during World War II. It even led her to the White House briefing room, where she broke barriers as the only black female journalist. Ethel wasn’t afraid to ask the tough questions of presidents, elected officials, or anyone else in charge, earning her the title, “First Lady of the Black Press.” Fearless and determined, Ethel Payne shined a light on the darkest moments in history, and her ear for stories sought answers to the questions that mattered most in the fight for Civil Rights. What an inspiring story! I had never heard of Ethel Payne and now want all teachers to include her in their US curriculum.

Challenges for which this counts: 
  • Children's historical fiction--WWII, Civil Rights (historical event in my lifetime, a real female hero from the past)
  • Diversity--Native American, Black, person with a disability
  • Historical fiction--WWII, Civil Rights
  • Literary Escapes--North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Montana, Ghana
  • Popsugar--book with a heart on the cover

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