I was in my late twenties and entering graduate school to study social work when I first read this quote by Ghandi. My cohort of students selected it as our mission and motto. Having spent a year as an Americorps member and seeking to be a part of social advocacy, you would think I would have accepted the quote's challenge more easily. But I was young and it seemed easier to point out others' faults rather than my own responsibilities. I wanted things to just change…now.
Some days I am better at actually applying this concept to my life than others. Now as a teacher and a mother, I feel a responsibility to help my children and students be self aware of their role within their communities. So my husband and I are trying out small ways we make change. Recently, I read about a family that discussed their "highs, lows, and an act of kindness" at the dinner table. Dinner in our home had become pretty chaotic, a stepping stone on the way to bath and a dreaded drawn-out bedtime, so we immediately tried it out and it’s made a huge difference not only in our dinner conversation but also our daily actions. Some days I volunteer my time or donate materials and other days I just try to send a nice email to someone, smile or refrain from honking in traffic unless fully warranted (which as a former New Yorker takes a lot of restraint). Knowing that my family will ask me at the end of the day what I did to change someone else’s day certainly helps me follow through on the commitment. If you are looking for ways to explain social movements or protests to your children and the upcoming Women's March on Washington you might want to check out some of these picture books about change within America.
A is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara - Nagara writes, "P Pea-Pea Peace march!" This book is one of the few that highlights several different movements across history.
We March by Shane Evans - Told from the perspective of a family attending the March on Washington in 1963. It's simple words make it relatable and engaging for young readers, "The morning is quiet. The sun rises and we prepare to march."
Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers' Strike of 1909 by Michelle Markel - Clara Lemlich was a Ukrainain immigrant who led the largest strike for women's labor rights. When no one in her union proposed dramatic action to gain attention, she led the movement herself. "The speakers, mostly men, want everyone to be careful. Two hours pass. No one recommends a general strike….So Clara does."
Around America To Win The Vote: Two Suffragists, a Kitten, and 10,000 Miles by Mara Rockliff - This book provides a unique look of the campaigning required to make change. It tells the story of two women, Nell Richardson and Alice Burke, who drive from New York City across the country and back in a yellow car to spread their message of women's suffrage.
I am Rosa Parks by Brad Meltzer - The 'I am' series are fitting for young children. This book begins by telling a story from Rosa's life as a child. It focuses on her self-respect and determination that led to having the courage to follow through with courageous acts. The author ends with a powerful statement: "I'm Rosa Parks. I'm not a politician, or a president or an actor, or a famous business owner. I'm just an ordinary person. But I'm also proof that there's no such thing as an ordinary person."
"Rad American Women" is one of our favorite new books. Also keep a look out for "The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist," which comes out this tomorrow! And a rare find, "The Case for Loving," focuses on the fight for interracial marriage.