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Standing Up for What's Right | LiteracyConnections

Rachel Roseberry

Rachel Roseberry is the Literacy Manager at ExpandED Schools. 

 (Image: The Art of the Possible by Edward Keenan, Illustrated by Julie McLaughlin)


This post is part of our LiteracyConnections blog series, where we explore the bridge between literacy and child development.

When speaking about children, James Baldwin noted that “we will all profit by or pay for what they become.” This weekend’s white supremacist rally in Charlottesville—set against a national backdrop of escalating, discriminatory rhetoric and action towards Muslims, transgender individuals, immigrants and other marginalized groups—highlights the potency of Baldwin’s words, as well as the duty of parents and educators to engage in challenging conversations with children about racism, bias and how to stand up for what’s right. In fact, we’ve provided resources in the past for having these conversations in light of national events. 

Using literature as a starting point for these difficult conversations allows children to experience the lives of those who are different than them, provides them with examples of courage in the face of injustice, and helps them to understand the deep historical roots of modern events. See below for some of our favorite titles to help build empathy, facilitate understanding and encourage activism.

Younger Elementary

Upper Elementary

  • Martí's Song for Freedom / Martí y sus versos por la libertad is a new picture book in Spanish and English verse that shares how Jose Marti took a stand against slavery in Cuba.

  • Let It Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters collects the stories of women, such as Sojourner Truth, Ella Baker, and Fannie Lou Hamer, who demonstrated courage as they fought for freedom.

  • Fred Korematsu Speaks Up is a biography of activist Fred Korematsu who stood up against the discrimination faced by Japanese Americans during World War II.

  • It Ain’t So Awful Falafel is the fictional story of Zomored who moves to California from Iran in the late 1970’s. As she and her family experience bigotry and discrimination, she learns about the importance of friendship and community.

  • Number the Stars is a classic, Newbery-award winning story of heroism, courage, and resistance during World War II as told from the perspective of Annemarie who works to smuggle her Jewish friend to safety.

Middle School

For more relevant texts and resources, see School Library Journal’s list of Books to Inspire a More Inclusive Society, Teaching for Change’s themed booklists, the Making a Difference collection of resources from Horn Books, a list of titles in "How to Talk to Your Kids About Charlottesville" by the New York Times Book Review, and the collection of Perspectives texts from Teaching Tolerance.




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