by Marsha Rakestraw
Protests and nonviolent resistance are an integral part of human culture.
On any given day, there are protests happening around the world.
Protests have helped bring about civil and workers’ rights, environmental protection measures, and better treatment of nonhuman animals.
And with so many protests in the news (and in the streets for many communities), it’s important that children be educated in age-appropriate ways about the importance and impact of effective nonviolent protest and resistance.
Here are 11 picture books, with historical and contemporary examples, to help start those conversations.
- Aani and the Treehuggers by Jeannine Atkins
1995. Grades 2-5.
Aani and her community rely on the trees in their forest for their survival. When men come and start cutting down the trees, Aani takes drastic action to save the trees…and her village.
- Seeds of Freedom by Hester Bass
2015. Grades 1-5.
In the 1960’s, the African-American community in Huntsville, Alabama, used creative nonviolent tactics as “seeds of freedom” to protest segregation and promote integration and equality.
- Daddy, There’s a Noise Outside by Kenneth Braswell
2015. Grades 1-4.
When two young children are awakened by noises in the night, they spend the next morning talking with their parents about it, which leads to an important conversation about protesting, civil rights, and social action.
- ¡Si, Se Puede! Yes, We Can! by Diana Cohn
2005. Grades PreK-3.
Carlitos’ mom is a janitor. Every night he sleeps while his mother works. When she tells him one day that she and the other janitors are going on strike because they can’t make enough money to support their families, Carlitos wonders what he can do to help.
- We March by Shane Evans
2012. Grades PreK-3.
In simple text, members of an African-American family arise and take part in the historic March on Washington in 1963. “We lean on each other as we march to justice, to freedom, to our dreams.”
- Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez by Kathleen Krull
2003. Grades 2-5.
Cesar was shy as a boy. When his family fell into financial troubles, they ended up as migrant laborers. Cesar’s experiences and observations of inhuman living and working conditions led him to start speaking out. He led a peaceful, 340-mile march to protest conditions for workers and gained positive changes.
- Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909 by Michelle Markel
2013. Grades 1-4.
Clara came to the U.S. with her family, dreaming of a wonderful new life, but she found herself working long hours under unfair and dangerous conditions as a garment worker in New York. She began to encourage her fellow workers to strike and eventually led the “largest walkout of women workers in U.S. history.”
- Gandhi: A March to the Sea by Alice McGinty
2013. Grades 1-5.
Simple text and beautiful illustrations share the story of Gandhi’s famous 24-day March to the Sea to protest unjust laws and taxes by claiming salt from the Arabian sea. Gandhi’s “salt march” campaign captured international attention and inspired India’s people to work for independence through nonviolence.
- Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up By Sitting Down by Andrea Davis Pinkney
2010. Grades 2-6.
“Combine black with white / to make sweet justice.” Sit-In tells the story of four young men who decided to take action against segregation by staging a peaceful protest at a Woolworth’s lunch counter.
- Miss Paul and the President by Dean Robbins
2016. Grades K-3.
Alice Paul, suffragist and women’s rights activist, organized parades, protests, a meeting with the President, and more to try to get women in the US the right to vote.
- Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh
2014. Grades 2-5.
When Sylvia Mendez and her family move to Westminster, California, and try to enroll in the neighborhood school, Sylvia’s parents are told “Your children have to go to the Mexican school.” The only reason given? “That is how it is done.” Sylvia, her family, and others in the community must fight to attend their neighborhood school. Will they win?