THE CHILDREN SHALL LEAD US: Top seven children’s books on leadership for social justice

With an eye toward the future, now is the time to re-imagine education.

I envision a type of education that places an explicit focus on leadership development and social justice advocacy. This is related to my dream of becoming Miss Freedom Fighter, Esquire – basically, Wonder Woman with a law degree and an afro. Can you see me now? I was determined to use my education in the struggle for justice.

History has shown us that students have been at the forefront of social change movements, whether it be the Freedom Riders of the past (who fought against racial segregation) or the Dream Defenders of our present (who fought against stand your ground laws). But as educators and community members we must stand ready to equip students for this important leadership role. Some will ask why? The answer for me is simple … young people are the future. I believe youth will define the moral conscience of our nation. They have the power to move us closer to the essence unity beyond the restraints of Black or white, rich or poor to the higher moral ground of freedom and justice for all.

Leadership education is a critical tool for equipping youth to advance social change. These seven books can serve as practical guides for training and empowering the next generation of leaders.

Social justice: making a difference

image1026445“I Can Make a Difference: A Treasury to Inspire Our Children”
By Marian Wright Edelman, illustrated by Barry Moser
This book provides inspiration for young people to become difference makers. It is filled with the encouragement and motivation needed for youth to take a stand for justice.

image1026453“I’m Your Child, God: Prayers for Our Children”
By Marian Wright Edelman, illustrated by Bryan Collier

This book offers renewed hope for the future by supporting youth in the development of their moral compass. It explores the values of love, faith, hope, and peace.

image1026461“Remember: The Journey to School Integration”
By Toni Morrison
This book explores the history of Brown v. Education (which overturned Plessy v. Ferguson – the doctrine of separate but equal) and the journey to school integration. Photos from the past are used to tell the narrative of school integration through the eyes of a child.

image1026471“We Shall Overcome: The Story of a Song”
By Debbie Levy, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

This book showcases the iconic civil rights mantra, “We Shall Overcome” through visual illustrations of the Civil Rights Movement. These images reflect the power of unity and collective engagement in advancing social change.

image1026483“The Invisible You”
By Alan Page and Kamie Page, artwork by David Geister
This book challenges young people to embrace their unique individual identity as a special gift. It also empowers youth to discover their self-worth and build new bridges.

image1026492“To Be Free: Understanding and Eliminating Racism”
By Thomas Peacock and Marlene Wisuri
This book explores the history of race in the United States. It provides key insights on how young people can embrace diversity as an asset and serve an active role in building inclusive communities.

image1026503“Because of Them We Can”
By Eunique Gibson Jones
This book showcases inspirational quotes from African-Americans leaders who are trailblazers for justice. The mission of “Because of Them We Can” is “to educate and connect a new generation to heroes who have paved the way.”

Each of these books challenge youth to discover the leader with and make a difference in the world. Leadership is a journey often mistaken for a destination. Parents, educators and community members can serve as guides on this journey of discovery by equipping young people to lead.

These books can serve as indispensable teaching tools. For example, after reading “Because of Them We Can,” teachers can give students the opportunity to design a leadership poster by drawing a picture of a leader who motivates them. After reading “I Can Make a Difference,” parents can work with their children to participate in a service project. These learning exercises will lay the foundation for empowering and educating the next generation of leaders.

October 21, 2015
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