5 Kids’ Books with Powerful Messages on Speaking Out

A booklist with powerful messages of speaking out and taking action.
The Children’s Book Review

What to Expect: Social Justice, Activism, Inclusivity.

With so much civil unrest leading to protests, riots, and activist proclamations in the media, kids are bound to have questions. What is activism? Does protesting really solve anything? What can I do to bring about change? These are difficult questions, but learning how to answer them is an essential step toward responsible citizenship. Luckily, there are many fantastic recent publications to help kids puzzle through these issues. Here’s a round-up of just a few top choices.

Altogether, these five volumes offer a range of powerful messages about the power of taking action, speaking up, and standing up for what is right.

Time to Roar Book Cover

Written by Olivia A. Cole

Illustrated by Jessica Gibson

Ages 3-6 | 32 Pages

Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s Books | ISBN: 978-1-54760-370-1

Time to Roar is a beautiful parable about the importance of speaking up for what is right. Told through the story of forest creatures trying to save their beloved home, this picture book demonstrates the sad truth that sometimes, “singing sweetly” is just not enough to stop injustice. The simple language is counterpointed by bright, vibrant illustration, helping even the youngest readers understand the power of their own voices.  

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Rise Up: The Art of Protest Book Cover

Written by Jo Rippon

Ages 8-12 | 64 Pages

Publisher: Charlesbridge | ISBN: 978-1-62354-150-7

Produced in collaboration with Amnesty International, Rise Up! is a stirring account of the history of protest and an inspiring walk through a long tradition of protest art. The volume combines high-quality reproductions of protest artwork and posters with the discussion of movements from eighteenth-century women’s suffrage in Europe to the ongoing global fight for LGBTQ+ rights and the contemporary Black Lives Matter movement to give new meaning to the idea that it is beautiful to fight for what is right.

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Get Up Stand Up Book Cover

Based on the Song by Bob Marley

Adapted by Cedella Marley

Illustrated by John Jay Cabuay

Ages 3-5 | 36 Pages

Publisher: Chronicle Books | ISBN: 978-1-452-17172-2

Based on a song by Bob Marley and adapted by Marley’s eldest daughter, Get Up, Stand Up translates Marley’s powerful message about standing up for oneself and others into a relatable story about schoolyard politics. Following the protagonist through a typical school day, the book acknowledges the decisions about right and wrong that even young children make daily and encourages readers to take pride in making a difference.

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Say Something: Book Cover

Written and Illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds

Ages 4-8 | 40 Pages

Publisher: Scholastic | ISBN: 978-0-545-86503-6

Say Something, written by New York Times bestselling author Peter H. Reynolds, is packed to the brim with examples of the tiny ways in which individuals can speak up, be heard, and make a difference. From planting a garden to expressing emotion honestly or reaching out to someone lonely, Reynolds’ bright colors and expressive cartoon characters present readers with an easy-to-follow before-and-after illustration of the power of taking action.

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I Didn't Stand Up: Book Cover

Written by Lucy Falcone

Illustrated by Jacqueline Hudon

Ages 6-9 | 32 Pages

Publisher: Clockwise Press | ISBN: 978-1-98834-706-6

Finally, Lucy Falcone’s I Didn’t Stand Up is inspired by Martin Niemoller’s iconic poem, “First They Came for Socialists,” and delivers the same warning about staying silent. Like Get Up, Stand Up, the setting for this beautifully illustrated picture book is the schoolyard, as the protagonist watches one after another of their classmates become a victim of bullying. Unlike the chilling ending in Niemoller’s poem, however, I Didn’t Stand Up ends with the powerful image of the bullied children, filling the page with vibrant color as they stand together against the bullies. The volume offers hope by showing just how easy it can be to stop the vicious cycle of exclusion.  

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The book list 5 Kids’ Books with Powerful Messages on Speaking Out was curated by Dr. Jen Harrison. Follow along with our articles and reviews tagged with Social Justice, Activism, and Inclusivity.

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August 18, 2021 at 08:11PM Dr. Jen Harrison