World Book Day: 10 stories for young activists

By: Sophie McAdam,

True Activist.

This week we celebrate World Book Day, and with so many children hooked on tablets, smart phones and video games, it´s never been as important to promote the fun and importance of reading. But rather than sharing mainstream stories that often reinforce consumerism, capitalism and traditional stereotypes, shouldn´t we be sharing those that teach diversity, equality, tolerance and critical thinking? After all, we live in a time of crisis, of chaos and rapid change, and the now-or-never point approaches: either we choose to do things differently, or we leave a very dark legacy for our grandchildren.

It´s crucial that urgent messages of hope, kindness to the earth and other creatures, the celebration of diversity and the fight against injustice are passed down to the next generation. But all too often, these progressive perspectives are drowned out by narratives which uphold the status quo.

So to celebrate World Book Day, we´ve chosen 10 beautifully illustrated radical reads for children- in the hope they will help us pass the baton of positive change to those little activists responsible for the future of this small blue planet. If you don’t have kids of your own, these would make fantastic gifts! We recommend you purchase from small independent booksellers where possible, but Amazon links have been added to give more detail and reviews of each story.

1. Anarchism


A rule is to break: A child´s guide to Anarchy

  • John Seven and Jana Christy
  • Aunty and Uncle Books, available on Amazon for $8.60
  • Age 1+

A book about the spirit of giving away things for free, being creative and speaking your mind, this story is a great introduction to the key principles of Anarchism (without the molotov cocktails, needless to say…)

2. Black History

If you traveled on the underground railroad

  • Ellen Levine
  • Scholastic, available from radical bookstore Letterbox Library (UK) for £4.99 or Amazon ($8.38)
  • Age 7-10

A book to help children understand the horror of slavery in 19th century America and teach critical thinking on issues of race and discrimination.

3. Worker´s rights


Click, Clack Moo: Cows that type

  • Doreen Cronin
  • Simon and Schuster, available on Amazon for $7.98
  • Age 2+

This picture book tells the tale of some cows who go on strike when the farmer refuses to give them warm blankets. It was banned in the USA because of its pro-union, anti-creationist message.

4. Environment


The Lorax

  • Dr Seuss
  • Random House, available on Amazon for $7.57
  • Age 5+

A classic tale of the consequences of greed-driven environmental destruction, also infamously banned in California schools after complaints by the logging industry.

5. Peace and love


Every little thing

  • Cedella Marley
  • Chronicle Books, available on Amazon for $6.46 or radical bookstore Letterbox library (UK) for £10.99
  • Age 3-6

Based on Bob Marley´s song ´Three little birds´, this lovely book has a wonderful message of optimism, peace and harmony.

6. Gender equality


Man´s work

  • Annie Kubler
  • Child’s Play, available from radical bookstore Letterbox library (UK) for £2.99 or Amazon from $2.18
  • Age 2+

Reversing traditional gender roles, this story is about a Dad and son having fun doing traditional women’s chores.

7. Revolution


The History of colors/La historia de los colores

  • Subcomandante Marcos, illustrated by Domitila Dominguez
  • Cinco Puntos Press, available (used) from Amazon from $5.93
  • Any age

A beautiful bilingual (English/Spanish) book about the struggle of the Zapatistas, their fight to protect nature and conserve their culture.

8.Transgender issues


10,000 Dresses

  • Marcus Ewert
  • Triangle Square, available from radical bookstore Letterbox library (UK) £8.99 or Amazon from $7.49
  • Age 5-9

A modern-day fairytale about Bailey, a boy who dreams of rainbow and crystal dresses. A wonderful introduction to transgender issues.

9. Environment


10 things I can do to help my world

  • Melanie Walsh
  • Candlewick, available from radical bookstore Letterbox Library (UK) for £6.99 or Amazon from $2.18
  • Age 3-7

Useful tips on how to treat the earth with kindness and provoke conversation with young activists on environmental issues.

10. Same-sex parenting


Spacegirl pukes

  • Kate Watson
  • Only Women, available (used) from Amazon
  • Age 3+

A story about a little girl who goes into space and gets sick. The fact she has two mothers is subtly woven into the tale, rather than being the main theme. A fantastic book for introducing children to same-sex parenting and diversity within families.

Sophie is a staff writer for True Activist. You can find out more or contact her here

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