We live in trying times. Every day brings with it news and views on racism, violence, poverty, refugees and injustice. The fight for basic rights and freedom continues with endless marches, protests and calls to our communities for action.
Talking to our children about these issues can be daunting, but books can help. Children have an innate sense of right and wrong. They are also very aware of the concept of 'fairness'. By including children in conversations about recognizing right and wrong and empowering them to address these inequalities, we can raise them as thoughtful and engaged citizens.
Below is a curated list of South Asian diverse stories where children and adults have worked to join together as a community . We hope these stories inspire young readers to take little steps in their own communities to create big waves of change.
Aani and the Tree Huggers: In this inspiring tale of struggles for livelihood, the forest and environment, Aani and her friends defeat the encroaching forces of destruction. (Picture book, 5+)
A Taste of Freedom: This well-crafted book shares the events leading up to Gandhi's Dandi March to protest against the British Salt Tax. A great read to discuss forms of non-violent protests with children and tie it into discussions of more recent movements around the world. (Picture book, 6+)
Ahimsa: As Anjali's mother joins the Indian freedom struggle, Anjali gets more and more involved in the non-violent protest or ‘Ahimsa’ movement. From giving up her favorite things to overcoming age-old prejudices, and making friends across caste lines, Anjali becomes part of the transformation of an entire nation. (Chapter book, 8+)
Book Uncle and Me: When the free lending library run by Book Uncle comes under threat, Yasmin and her friends bring the community together to launch a campaign to save a big part of their small world. (Chapter book, 6+)
Bhimrao Ambedkar: The Boy Who Asked Why: This picture book traces the biographical account of Ambedkar's life from his boyhood days when he questioned the inequality around him to his accomplishments as India's first law minister. An excellent read to ignite young minds and bring discussions on race and discrimination to the fore. (Picture book, 5+)
Crane Boy: Kinga is perturbed by the dwindling number of black-neck cranes. To save these endangered species, he and his friends decide to perform a dance to honor the birds and remind his people of their duty to nature. (Picture book, 5+)
Dear Mrs. Naidu: Twelve-year-old Sarojini becomes conflicted about her social class when a close friend moves on to a better school. Inspired by her teacher, and her namesake, she rallies her community and advocates for improvements in her own school. (Chapter book,12+)
Four Feet, Two Sandals: A serious yet hopeful story about two girls living in a refugee camp who each find one of the pair of sandals among the used clothing pile. This story honors the lives, struggles and humanity of refugees despite their desperate situation. (Picture book, 5+)
Malala's Magic Pencil: A young Malal Yousafzai shares a memory of how she yearned for a magic pencil to right all the wrongs she saw around her. Her call to empower girls through education has found echoes all over the world. (Picture book, 5+)
Manjhi Moves a Mountain: The hope of a better future empowered Dashrath Manjhi to create a path through the mountain. This tale of determination and the power of one person to create change is sure to inspire young and old. (Picture book, 5+)
Step Up to the Plate Maria Singh: Maria is biracial daughter of an Indian dad and Mexican mom, who longs to play on the baseball team. She has an encouraging coach, but the prejudices of the 1940s impact Maria and her family in troubling ways. (Chapter book, 8+)
Twenty Two Cents: Mohammad Yunus: T his is a picture book biography of Muhammad Yunus, the Nobel Peace Prize winner and founder of the micro-credit lending Grameen Bank. In this inspiring tale, children will learn how chump change can actually changes lives caught in the cycle of poverty. (Advanced Picture book, 6+)
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