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10 Books That Every Single Politically Aware Child Should Have On Their Bookshelf From Birth

by Stephanie Kaloi

There is a bit of a cultural awakening afoot in the United States. People are home more, and they have more access than ever to the stories that fill our airwaves.

For a lot of us, that means we are grappling with issues such as racism, socioeconomic inequality, and sexism in ways that we haven’t before. We are learning things we never knew about our country’s present and its past. And a lot of us parents are intent on making sure we teach our children more than we were taught.

Books are a wonderful resource for knowledge and learning. While the internet is filled to the brim with more information than one person could ever hope to consume, a book is usually exactly the right size.

There are a lot of books out there for politically aware parents and the children they are raising.

Here are 10 books that every politically aware child should have on their bookshelf. There’s at least one option for kids of all ages, from babies to nearly fully grown.

'Horton Hears a Who!'

There are a few names that have always been sacred in my child’s life: Fred Rogers, Frank Asch, and Dr. Seuss. When in doubt, we have historically turned to one of those three names for answers.

Dr. Seuss is obviously beloved by many around the world, and a lot of his books for children are deeply political. While some communities have tried to co-opt this particular book in recent years, Dr. Seuss wrote it as an apology to the Japanese.

In fact, the story is a really powerful one. Dr. Seuss was a political cartoonist during World War II, and he drew cartoons that were racist. He wrote this book to make amends with Japanese people. The moral of Horton Hears a Who! is a powerful one for our youngest readers: Everyone matters, and everyone should be respected, no matter their ethnicity, race, or where they’re from.

Shop Now: Horton Hears a Who! ($8.79, Amazon)

'A Vote Is a Powerful Thing'

Seeing as 2020 is an election year, and a particularly important one at that, it makes sense to introduce even the youngest among us to the concept of voting. After all, casting your vote is still one of the best ways citizens can make their voices heard and contribute to a democratic society. Hopefully, that will always be the case.

A Vote Is a Powerful Thing is about a class election that coincides with a national election. The book’s protagonist, Callie, learns what a difference even one vote can make, and she and her classmates learn all about the American election process.

Shop Now: A Vote Is a Powerful Thing ($16.99, Amazon)

'A Is for Activist'

This is a super-cute picture book for babies, but it’s also really fun to look at even as an adult. One review even described it as “almost like reading Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, but for two-year-olds.”

The rhyme is infectious and easy to follow, and the book is definitely a must-have for all those woke babies out there (and the parents, siblings, and guardians who are guiding them).

Shop Now: A Is for Activist ($10.95, Amazon)

'Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family's Fight for Desegregation'

Many Americans know about the landmark court case Brown v. Board of Education. In 1954, the Supreme Court ruled that segregating children by race in schools was unconstitutional. This spurred a massive desegregation movement in the United States, and a lot of that work is still being done (particularly in the Southern US).

However, what many Americans might not know is that Sylvia Mendez and her family tried to desegregate schools in California seven years before this ruling. This picture book details what inspired them to try, and what ultimately happened.

Shop Now: Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation ($14.57, Amazon)

'A Young People's History of the United States'

I can’t remember how many times I have recommended this book to other parents, always with the side note that they should read it with their kids. A Young People’s History of the United States is an abridged version of Howard Zinn’s incredible, hugely important book A People’s History of the United States.

As someone who likes to believe she is pretty knowledgeable about US history, I was really surprised to find out how little I knew about a whole lot of it. My son and I read this book together last year when he was 10, and the experience changed both of us. We are both sharper and a little more critical of the country we are happy to live in, and we are hopeful that it can continue to grow and be better.

Shop Now: A Young People’s History of the United States: Columbus to the War on Terror ($14.99, Amazon)

'Running for Public Office'

This a nonfiction book that is written for upper-elementary-age children, and it’s about exactly what it sounds like. I don’t think I considered what it takes to run for political office until I was near adulthood, so this children’s book would have been really valuable for me. My kid is definitely getting a copy! Don’t worry: While it is nonfiction, the book is beautifully illustrated, and the text is engaging and fun.

Shop Now: Running for Public Office ($7.95, Amazon)

'Disability Visability: First-Person Stories From the Twenty-First Century'

Politics isn’t only about voting and elections; the issues that we vote about are just as important. This collection of first-person stories about what it is like to be disabled in today’s United States was compiled by Alice Wong, a San Francisco-based disability activist.

Disabilities and disabled people are woefully underrepresented in American pop culture, which is pretty wild considering 1 in 5 Americans have a disability. This book goes a long way in helping anyone who reads it understand a little more about the world that fully 20% of Americans live in — and that any one of us could join.

Shop Now: Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories From the Twenty-First Century ($15.26, Amazon)

'Beyond the Gender Binary'

Gender expression and identity are fully having a moment in the United States, and, happily, that moment is here to stay. If you and your children are finding that you’re a little unsure of how to respectfully speak about gender expression and identity, this book by Alok Vaid-Menon is a great place to start. My 11-year-old recently read it on his own and really enjoyed it, and now he’s telling me and anyone who will listen to him everything that he’s learned.

Shop Now: Beyond the Gender Binary ($21, Amazon)

'Gracefully Grayson'

Grayson is a child who feels like she is a girl but who was born in a boy’s body. In this age when the rights of trans children and adults are often used as some kind of political volleyball, it’s super important to raise politically aware children who understand innately that identity is not always tied to what our biological sex is at birth.

Shop Now: Gracefully Grayson ($4.99, Amazon)

'What Is the Constitution?'

I personally feel like you can never go over the same material too many times when it’s this important. It can sometimes feel like there are many fully grown adults who aren’t quite sure what the United States Constitution does and doesn’t say, so it makes sense to introduce your children to the document that is so foundational to this nation as early and as often as you can.

Shop Now: What Is the Constitution? ($3.99, Amazon)

Psst: If you choose to purchase one of these items, LittleThings may receive a small cut. Each item and price is up to date at the time of publication; however, an item may be sold out or the price may be different at a later date.