Stand Up for Human Rights! 10 Inclusive Reads

by Lantana Publishing on December 10, 2020

Corrie Locke-Hardy (@thetinyactivists) shares her top inclusive reads with the occasion of Human Rights Day, to celebrate those who fight for equality in our beautiful and diverse world! Perfect for inspiring children to stand up to social injustice and advocate for others. 

Hello everyone! When Lantana asked me to write a guest blog for Human Rights Day, I was thrilled.  From the UN website:

“Human Rights Day is observed every year on 10 December — the day the United Nations General Assembly adopted, in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The UDHR is a milestone document that proclaims the inalienable rights which everyone is entitled to as a human being - regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Available in more than 500 languages, it is the most translated document in the world.”

The theme for this year is Stand Up for Human Rights, which informed the books I chose to recommend in this list.  We live in a vastly inequitable society and white supremacy is deeply entrenched into our culture.  A lot of the work that I do (both on and off the internet) focuses on creating a classroom culture that celebrates all identities and fulfills the 4 pillars of social justice education. 

By using our privilege to advocate for others, we can step outside of the issues that directly impact us and work to amplify the need for rights and freedoms for others. 

These books I chose to highlight cover a variety of human rights: LGBTQ marriage, voting rights, self-advocacy and boundaries, the right to protest, even a personal refugee memoir.  I hope you’re looking forward to a cosy winter filled with stories and discussions with your loved ones about the value of fighting for human rights and celebrating the beautiful diversity of our world!

I Am Brown 
Written by Ashok Banker
Illustrated by Sandhya Prabhat

Folx, this book is beautiful inside and out.  I Am Brown is a celebration of the many complex and intersecting identities of having brown skin, and it is stunning. Told solely in “I” statements, many voices blend and meld together to showcase the range of diversity within the classroom illustrated.  This lyrical book could be read mantra-like, going through the different languages spoken, houses lived in, as well as different characteristics like eye and hair color.  I love the way that so many differences are mentioned, and everyone is celebrated for being exactly who they are. 

The Teachers March! How Selma’s Teachers Changed History 
Written by Sandra Neil Wallace & Rich Wallace
Illustrated by Charly Palmer
(Calkins Creek)

This book was a secondary project that grew out of the information learned and stories unearthed when the authors interviews activists involved in the Selma voting rights movement in the 1960’s. The authors then met Reverend F.D. Reese, the main character in this story. Through historical sources and interviews came this personal look into what has been credited by Martin Luther King Jr. as the first and one of the most important demonstrations by Black teachers of the Civil Rights Movement/Modern Black Freedom Struggle.  We have so much farther to go in order to dismantle the systemic oppression that operates unchecked in our society but making sure we teach momentous events such as this one can begin to reverse these wheels and create a more equitable world.

Ritu Weds Chandni
Written & Illustrated by Ameya Narvankar
(Yali Publishing LLC)

This book...this book is so meaningful to the LGBTQ community, and specifically the South Asian LGBTQ community. Our main character Ayesha's cousin Ritu is getting married to her girlfriend Chandni and Ayesha is beside herself with excitement for them. When they get to Ritu's for the big baraat parade to the wedding hall, she realises that not all of her family is there. They're not attending the wedding because they don't support Ritu. Ayesha also learns that some neighbours have vowed to stop the procession, which scares and confuses her. Ritu and Chandni are able to celebrate with their supportive family, and so was I. In an author's note in the back, we learn how author-illustrator Ameya Narvankar wrote this story because he never saw same-sex Indian relationships in the media growing up. Same-sex marriage is still not recognised in India. We deserve these books that show loving relationships and supportive, celebratory family members. We NEED these books to show others the different ways people love each other and to teach them that hate and homophobia is wrong. I am so, so, emphatically thrilled that this book is out in the world. It will change your life.

Sometimes People March
Written & Illustrated by Tessa Allen
(Balzer + Bray)

Sometimes People March is a story that sticks with you long after the covers are closed. The text has a unique ability to ring of both past and current events while I also see this book as a future classic.  The text is minimal, and the illustrations invoke in us emotions of how we are more powerful as a community. Just like ants are stronger as a group, just like a band is louder with more musicians, we can raise our voices for the causes closest to our hearts. The watercolour illustrations call back to previous marches and protests throughout history while also asking the reader to look towards the future and think about what else needs to be changed.

My Hair is Magic!
Written by M.L. Marroquin
Illustrated by Tonya Engel
(Page Street Kids)

This beautiful ode to one girl’s natural and buoyant hair can only be matched by Tonya Engel’s impossibly gorgeous illustrations. Filled to the brim with confidence and curls, our main character struts through the world fully in charge of herself and her boundaries when it comes to others around her hair.  This book is monumentally important for all people of colour (and specifically Black) who are told that their hair is unprofessional, unruly, or any myriad of disgusting and racist derogatory language. Books like this for young readers not only instill a sense of confidence and self-esteem but provides much needed mirrors as well.  My Hair is Magic! is breathtaking and tender while filled with fearlessness by our narrator who is ready to tame the world rather than tame her hair.

The Paper Boat: A Refugee Story
Written & Illustrated by Thao Lam

In this emotional story, author and artist Thao Lam tells of her own immigration from Vietnam to Canada as a young child. When Thao was two, her mother, then pregnant with her younger sibling, told her a story about following ants to a river to find a boat. Thao beautiful illustrations, created using her signature paper cut style, conveys rich textures and layers of family history particularly within the dual storylines. In the back is an author’s note with more details about Thao’s eventual resettlement in Canada. The Paper Boat is beautiful, emotional, and an essential read.


Sadiq Wants to Stitch
Written by Mamta Nainy
Illustrated by Niloufer Wadia
(Karadi Tales)

Sadiq is a young boy who lives with his Ammi in the Kashmir valley. They are part of the nomadic Bakarwal community, known for herding goats and sheep as well as finely embroidered rugs, wall-hangings and other objects.  This book is lovely for several reasons. I learned a lot about a community I had never heard of, and the story is useful for starting discussions about gender stereotypes and gender roles. It discusses parental acceptance and reviving a dying art, the embroidery skills the Bakarwal’s are known for. As an advocate for breaking down stereotypes, I believe these discussions about traditions rooted in gender-specific activities can be helpful in discussing how limiting they can be, especially for those who desire to break free and just do something they love.

Dangerous Jane: The Life and Times of Jane Addams, Crusader for Peace
Written by Suzanne Slade
Illustrated by Alice Ratterree

Jane Addams is a world-renowned activist, social worker, suffragette, and advocate for world peace. I wanted to highlight this book for #sweetsandsocialjustice because despite the accusations of Jane being the “Most Dangerous Woman in America” she was actually the first woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize because of her efforts.  Jane grew up with significant privilege and was aghast as a child when she encountered poor and marginalized people in her community. This turned into a determination to help. Instead of getting married, Jane got an extensive education and traveled the world. Upon seeing poverty in Britain, she moved back to Chicago and bought a large house to open an assistance home for the underprivileged. Hull House operated free of charge for the public, offering laundry services, English classes, babysitting, and anything else that Jane could provide.

We Are Water Protectors
Written by Carole Lindstrom
Illustrated by Michaela Goade
(Roaring Brook Press)

If you’re looking for a book that will give you literal chills at its beauty, this is the one to crack open. We Are Water Protectors is an Own Voices Indigenous picture book about a black snake that threatens the water, making it poisonous and undrinkable. Beautiful and powerful, this metaphor for an oil pipeline engages and teaches readers about the activism that is needed to defeat the snake.  The story itself is inspired by the multitude of Indigenous-led movements across North America and strikes the perfect balance of inspirational and educational. The illustrations are stunning, and in the back is more information about water protectors from the author, a glossary, and a note from the illustrator. Every page is breathtaking, and the message is a crucial one. We not only need more Own Voices BIPOC texts, but we need books like this that get across the serious environmental detriment that pipelines cause.


My Maddy
Written by Gayle E. Pitman
Illustrated by Violet Tobacco
(Magination Press)

This book is gorgeous, and perfect for representation of non-binary, trans, and Intersex parents. Our main character is a young child, narrating about the parent who they call Maddy. Maddy is in between a Mom and a Dad, and they exist in the beautiful in between space on a lot of things such as hair colour, eye colour, and they love the transitional seasons like spring and fall. The pair have a beautiful relationship full of fun activities and going on walks.  My Maddy is a really important book for education, normalisation of family structures, and a discussion tool for children who have family members that are transitioning or Intersex. Giving kids the tools to navigate potential bias or transphobia that they come up against in schools is an unfortunate but necessary tool for their toolbox. Magination Press always does a fantastic job providing developmentally appropriate resources for educators, parents, and families in these books, and this is no exception. The information in the back also alleviates some of the emotional labor that these individuals would need to perform for educators and schools when they inevitably have questions about how to address and introduce the parent to the class.

Thank you for this great list, Corrie! Follow Corrie on Instagram @thetinyactivists to learn all about the best new inclusive books celebrating social justice. Join her on The Picture Bookstagang Podcast!

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Corrie Locke-Hardy (she/they) is a co-founder of The Tiny Activist and resides on Massachusett/Nipmuc land.  She has a Master’s degree in Gender and Cultural Studies and is a former classroom teacher.  Corrie is also the co-host of The Picture Bookstagang Podcast and does consulting and professional development for educators.  Corrie has been focusing on ABAR (anti-bias anti-racist) curriculum since 2017 and ran a research study focusing on implementation strategies for the classroom.  She has presented internationally.




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