Five Books to Teach the Civil Rights Movement

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If you ever have the privilege of sitting in a Preschool or Kindergarten classroom, you might see that some of the strongest advocates for equal rights are small children. Kids can spot unfairness a mile away. I dare you to pass out ice cream at a birthday party and leave someone out (speaking from experience)!

While I have no clear explanation for my children and students about injustices, I can at least start by telling the stories. Below are five beautiful and honest books about the Civil Rights Movement. 

 Child of the Civil Rights Movement by Paula Young Shelton, Illustrated by Raul Colon. Beautifully illustrated, this book is told from a child's perspective. The book tells the story of the march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965. 

It was also named as a book of the year by a comprehensive list put out by Bank Street College of Education


Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr by Doreen Rappaport, Illustrated by Bryan Collier. A biography that incorporates quotes from MLK's speeches. This unforgettable story is accompanied with striking and bold pictures. 


The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist by Cynthia Levinson, Illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton. At the age of nine, Audrey became the youngest child to be arrested during a protest in 1963. She confidently and bravely stood up for civil rights. 


The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles and George Ford. Ruby was the first African American girl to desegregate an elementary school in New Orleans. I read this book several years in a row when teaching at an all-girls' school and it always sparked deep and moving conversations.


Separate is Never Equal by Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney. The story is one of perseverance and determination, painting a true image of slow progress and social change. The book is about how one family ended school segregation in California, ten years after the passing of Brown vs. the Board of Education. This book is great for any age to enjoy with engaging illustrations and is the recipient of several awards such as the Robert F. Silbert Honor Book.


Books That Teach Gratitude


Gretchen Rubin writes in her book The Happiness Project, "When I find myself focusing overmuch on the anticipated future happiness of arriving at a certain goal, I remind myself to 'Enjoy now'. If I can enjoy the present, I don't need to count on the happiness that is (or isn't) waiting for me in the future."

Gratitude Journal is an app I've been using for several months now. If my baby is crying a lot or I feel anxious about a big life decision, I will stop and quickly jot down a few moments or just attach a picture that brings me joy and I instantly start to feel calmer. 

 A friend gave us the book, I'm Thankful Each Day as a baby gift. When my daughter was about 18 months old it was her favorite book of all. I've just recently taken it back out of storage and she has so many sweet things to say. "I'm thankful for my teachers and my sissy." So I went on a hunt to find some other good ones that spark conversation.



Here are a few keepers:

I'm Thankful Book - Todd Parr books are so intriguing to both babies and preschoolers. I imagine the bold primary colors and large faces are attention-grabbers. Parr has a way of explaining very complex issues in a simple and straightforward way. He takes the pressure off of parents by starting the conversation.  


Little Elliot, Big Family - Elliot and Little Mouse established a sweet friendship in Mike Curato's first book by using their strengths to help one another. (Little Elliot, Big City is one of my family's all-time favorites). In Little Elliot, Big Family, the tiny elephant is grateful for an unlikely family of friends. This is a sweet book for kids and adults alike.


Good People Everywhere - This book is as moving for adults as it is for children. Watching the news can make anyone feel hopeless. It's important to remember that there are nice and kind people all over the globe and that acts of kindness help the world go around. The book has beautiful images of people helping one another. For example, the author writes, "Today carpenters are building fences and houses, and repairing homes that have been damaged by storms."


A Chair for My Mother - This book is a classic. In a world consumed with materialism the story generally makes even the youngest readers stop and think about the importance of love and relationships. The family in the story endures a house fire and then take pride in saving money for a new chair. Each member in the family is grateful, happy and appreciative of their new chair and find their own unique ways to enjoy it.


What are you reading this Thanksgiving season? Do you have any favorite books to teach gratitude?



Transportation Books

The Taxi That Hurried
The Taxi That Hurried

I've worked in six different schools with grades PreK-Sixth and I've never experienced a group of children that didn't love a good unit on transportation. Anytime that I've allowed the students to choose the unit, it somehow lead to 'modes of transportation.' Here are a few of my favorites. Subway by Anastasia Suen and Karen Katz has wonderful repetition for younger children. The Taxi That Hurried is a classic Golden Book. The rhyming words and onomatopoeias are fun for elementary-aged students. It's also useful when teaching how to use language in their own creative writing. Some other favorites:

Richard Scarry's Cars and Trucks and Things That Go I remember owning this book as a child and now my own children love it. Timeless.


Little Blue Truck series by Alice Schertle and Jill McElmurry I love that this book incorporates transportation but also wonderful life lessons about being kind and taking turns for little ones.


Little Tug by Stephen Savage Little Tug is the smallest boat in the harbor but manages to save the day.

Chugga-Chugga Choo Choo by Kevin Lewis This book is simple but very engaging for 2, 3 and even 4 year olds. It's a nice bedtime story also.


Byron Barton board books, especially Planes. I haven't found a storybook about a plane yet but love Byron Barton's board books for little travelers.


What are some of your favorites? I'm searching for transportation picture books for older children, like Goodnight Construction Site. Any recommendations?