Childrens Books for Teaching Activism

Written by Andrea Feiss

I'm a designer raising two curious daughters in downtown Raleigh with the hope that someday their home state will be a place for creative and progressive thinkers, a state that welcomes all people, and makes my family of environmentalists, artists, readers, and creators feel at home.


Like many of us, I listen to the news when I drive. And most days go like this – start up the car, listen for about 5 minutes, then start yelling at the radio with loud and furious frustration. This afternoon was a little different.

On my way to pick up my daughters, I heard a story about how the travel ban kept a man from visiting his family – how the place of his birth landed him in a holding cell while authorities coerced him into signing documents without legal counsel under the threat of a permanent ban from the United States. That story was followed by a scene from the White Helmets documentary recently nominated for an Oscar. The sounds of war and horrors being described as they filmed these volunteers freeing children from piles of rubble was too much to hear. And I turned off the radio. What a luxury. I felt immediate guilt that I, sitting in my car, on my way to pick up my safe, loved and healthy girls, have the luxury to turn off the horrors of the world and tune out the injustice; that it’s as easy as pushing a button on my dashboard.

I think about this luxury often, the privilege to shut out the world and continue my daily routines when others can not. Our current leadership in Washington is full of privilege, but without the empathy. They have been passing a steady stream of damaging policies with no concern for the lives being affected. I know they wouldn’t agree, but I believe that the only thing separating those making the decisions from those affected by the decisions is circumstance. I believe that these small differences – where one was born, what family they were born into, what resources are available to them – do not make one person less human than another or less equal or less worthy of opportunity. No, they are circumstantial differences in privilege. My daughters are lucky, they do not have to fear for their citizenship, their everyday safety or their freedom because they were born into privilege - so it is my job to teach them empathy for those that were not.

In all the political madness swirling around us these days, separating humans from one another with divisive rhetoric, thinly veiled hate speech and fear mongering, I feel helpless and at times hopeless that this is our new normal and there is nothing I can do about it.

But I have been reminded by wise friends and family who have lived through other frightening moments in history that I can do this - I can raise two empathetic, thoughtful and strong daughters to know the power of their voice and the strength of a movement. I can teach them that politics is at times ugly and selfish, but also full of hope and great leaders that change lives and march us forward towards progress and equality. I can teach them that by listening to the world around them, by participating in the system, and by choosing compassion over fear, we will make a difference. Their privilege gives them the opportunity to make a real difference.

There is no shortage of amazing books to help me with this teaching mission. Writers, artists and creatives are all around us, giving us the tools to teach our children and face the challenges of today’s new normal. Here are some lists that could help all our families find the right words and illustrations to get through today’s news. And please, share what works for your family, because I need less yelling at the radio, less turning off the news and more inspiration to march my inner activist forward, with my two little activists by my side.

Lists to inspire your young activist


A few books to inspire us all