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Tuesday Tip: Raising and supporting activists in the age of Trump (with 5 book recommendations)

Raising and supporting activists in the age of Trump (with 5 book recommendations)

Here at CREDO, we know how important it is to raise an activist child, especially in the age of Trump. We also know how difficult it can be to figure out how to talk to children about the cruelty that is happening as Trump targets our families, friends, and communities – from family separation to the criminalization of people of color, the Muslim ban, attacks on the LGBTQ community, and more.

We found some articles we thought were helpful in thinking about how to approach these conversations in ways that are developmentally appropriate but don’t shy away from the real issues of racism, bigotry, and misogyny that are at the core of Trump’s agenda.

We also asked around the office for recommendations from a few CREDO staff members who have kids for books to help raise an activist. Here are five of their top picks.

A Is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara

Firefighter, doctor, pilot. This ABC board book teaches children that to be an activist is also a good goal in life – that causes like environmental justice, civil rights and LGBTQ rights are worth fighting for. The alliteration, rhyming, and brightly colored illustrations make the pages engaging for kids while they come to understand progressive themes like community, equality, and justice. Nagara was born and raised in Jakarta, Indonesia and moved to the United States in 1988 to study zoology at University of California, Davis. He’s a founding member of Design Action Collective, a worker-owned design studio in Oakland, California dedicated to serving the movement for social change.

And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson

This is the touching true story (yup, really) of Roy and Silo, two male chinstrap penguins at the Central Park Zoo who raised a daughter. Roy and Silo do everything together. They sing, swim and, in 1999, built a nest and patiently began trying to hatch a rock. The zookeeper, Mr. Gramsay, noticed and brought them an extra egg from another penguin couple who would not be able to care for it. Roy and Silo hatched the egg and went on to raise the chick, named Tango. This is a marvelous tale that teaches children a happy, healthy family – whatever it looks like – is a natural family.

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña

Last Stop on Market Street is a winner of multiple awards, a #1 New York Times bestseller and a celebration of cross-generational relationships that’s perfect for grandparents and grandkids. Every Sunday after church, CJ, a Black boy, and his grandmother take the crosstown bus back home. Along the way, CJ gazes out the window at the bustling, radiantly illustrated cityscape and wonders why his family doesn’t have a car and why he has to get off the bus in the dirty part of town. Grandma patiently answers all CJ’s questions with positive explanations and encourages him to see the beauty and enjoyment in his life and the world around him.

The Magic School Bus and the Climate Challenge by Joanna Cole

Children, even very young ones, understand existential threats and feel anxious about them, like climate change. Kids learn about it in class, hear about it in adult conversations and see the frightening fallout – floods, hurricanes, and wildfires – on TV. The Magic School Bus, the best-selling science series of all time, presents the topic with Cole’s trademark humor and wit. In terms that are not too scary, 4th-grade science teacher Ms. Frizzle explains why our planet is heating up and suggests ways kids can help reduce the effects of climate change and feel empowered at the same time. The lively and animated color illustrations by Bruce Degen easily move the story forward.

The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch

A girl-power classic. Written back in 1980, it’s one of the first – and still one of the best – feminist princess books. It arrived long before studies began describing the “Disney princess effect,” which makes young children more susceptible to gender stereotypes. Brave and smart Princess Elizabeth is all set to marry Prince Ronald when a dragon wings in, destroys her castle, kidnaps Ronald and burns all her clothes, forcing her to put on a paper bag. Clad thusly, she tracks down the dragon and Ronald and rescues her fiancé, who, to her surprise, tells her to go away and come back when she looks more like a princess. Elizabeth rejects him and dances into the sunset to live her own life. The illustrations by Michael Martchenko are vivid and artfully drawn with an old-school familiarity.

The long days of summer are a great time for reading. If you’re looking for a book to read after your kids go to bed, check out our summer reading list.

31 Comments on “Tuesday Tip: Raising and supporting activists in the age of Trump (with 5 book recommendations)

  1. Hmmmmmmm. These sound “worthy” but not of so much worth as literature. Perhaps another approach would be to share the classics which are not overtly revolutionary and to ask open questions like, how would x feel when treated like this? Why do you think x acted like this- would you think this is the only way they could have acted if it was nowadays? What cultural norms are here in this story and how is it different to how we are here? Who isn’t in the story? Why is that?

    Of course these questions will need rewording depending on the child, but aren’t books we enjoyed (perhaps niaively) as children ones we can share and enthuse about and pass on a love of (critical) reading with. As a teacher I used to be responsible for “Equal Ops book boxes” in a multicultural primary school. The books were worthy, but did not give the children access to an alien culture not their own and hence in someways perhaps stunting.

    Perhaps “worthy books” should be preserved for later and (middle class) children who have had exposure to “classics” and considered the roles played by the Walkers et al. in Arthur Ransome, or stereotypes in Beatrix Potter?

    • The critical thinking questions and the respectful exchange of thoughts are crucial. Any good literature provides these opportunities if the teachers are trained and free to apply these teaching practices, starting at very young ages. Not to skew thinking in one direction or another, but to develop critical thinking and acknowledge differing points of view backed up by experiencial and factual references. I know, near sacrilege in USA now.

      • I’d like to add “Miss Rumphius” by Barbara Cooney. The main character Miss Rumphius, based on a true story, is an older lady who does something for the world by actively spreading flower seeds throughout her area. She’s a charming, positive figure for children to know about.

    • Well said! As a teacher, myself, I applaud your worthy literacy questions as central to critical thinking– which is, after all, what will be needed in our next generation to navigate the quagmire that is forming. Long live “love of reading”– which takes many forms!

  2. Thanks. I’m always looking for good books for my kids

  3. I will be purchasing them all. Thank you for this list, so excited!

  4. Teach your children to LOVE books. Take them to the library once a week and let them check out any book they want. Don’t ban any book. Teach them it’s OK to stop reading a book if they don’t like it, return it and check out another one. Read what they are reading and discuss it. Sometimes it takes a while. My daughter was begging to go to the library by the time she was six, my grandson didn’t become a “serious” reader until he was 10. When I came home in tears at 9 and said the librarian wouldn’t let me check out a book I wanted (I stopped “shopping” in the children’s section and moved upstairs to the “adult” section by the time I was 8), my mom immediately took me back to the library and told the librarian to let me have any book I wanted.

    Books open the world for us, We don’t know that unless we are taught to see the world through books. They show us the good, the bad, the beautiful, and the ugly. They show us people worldwide are just like us. They give us perspective we use to evaluate and judge history and current events.

    • Oh yes! My first remembered achievement was writing my name on my fifth birthday to get my first library card. I’ve treasured libraries ever since (many, many years!)

  5. I am a retired elementary school teacher. I read your list with much interest. I would be very happy to have had these books available when I taught and recommend them for any adults in contact with children.

  6. “Counting on Community” is another good one. Along with “A is for Activist,” these are 2 of the first books we gave to our granddaughter in her first year.

  7. Hello,
    I am Lynne Cherry, author/illustrator of many popular environmental children’s books including The Great Kapok Tree and A River Ran Wild. Thank you for sharing these other children’s books with us.

    I thought you and your CREDO fans would want to know about the Young Voices for the Planet film series documenting youth solutions to the climate crisis. The true stories in the YVFP films document youth, age 9-16, creating solutions, changing laws, changing minds and changing society as they reduce the carbon footprint of their homes, schools and communities. They reach our hearts, inspire action and supplant fear.

    These are true stories of kids whose actions are creating real change is reducing CO2 emissions: middle school kids who save their school $53,000 through an energy audit; a German boy planting millions of trees; three 9-year-olds helping overturn a law that had prohibited solar panels on town buildings… and more!

    The mission of Young Voices for the Planet is to limit the magnitude of climate change and its impacts and to involve children and youth in governance. At the interface of these two goals is empowering young people, through the uplifting and inspiring success stories in the Young Voices for the Planet films and the YVFP Civic Engagement Curriculum, to take an essential role in catalyzing change.

    You can watch these short films on our website here:

    The films are being broadcast on PBS and the CIVIC ENGAGEMENT CURRICULUM for the films is available on our web site under Resources.

    These films are a great tool to empower young people. We encourage people to host screenings at summer camps, schools, conferences, religious gatherings…anywhere to show people “YOU can make a difference!” and “Kids have Power!”

    Lynne Cherry,
    Director, Young Voices for the Planet
    Producer, Young Voices for the Planet film series

    • Thank you very much for your work and for posting on Credo

    • Thank you, Ms Cherry. I’m a retired EC Educator and have begun losing touch with what is out there. Have always been a big fan of your work as an educator and as an author/illustrator.

    • Thank you. As a retired teacher I sent the email address to my granddaughter. She is 15 1/2 and very politically aware. Your books were always in my classroom and her home.

  8. Reading is so important. I am a grandmother and an activist. When i was a child, my Christmas gifts always included books. So I did the same with my children and with my grandchildren. Although we are all in different cities and one of us is even in a different country, when we are together over holidays or vacation we have fully engaging conversations about the books we’ve read. An guess what, we are all activist. Thank you for the article. I plan to share it with friends.

  9. Thanks. I’m recommending to my most frequently visited library that they accession these titles.

  10. I love your suggestions and will look all of them up. I still like Make Way for Ducklings (rescuing wildlife and community cooperation) and Ferdinand the Bull (peace and individuality) from my youth.

  11. In the book “& Tango Makes Three”
    I wonder what the out come would’ve been if two fertil female chin strap penguins would’ve been introduced instead of just an egg. Silo and Roy were very adaptive in their restrictive environment, but what would their choices been had they been given a little match making help for the zoo’s staff.
    Wasn’t there a Star Treck episode where the captive space voyagers were paired up by their “galactic zoo keepers” for reproductive purposes?
    And while we are at it what bearing would the David Reimer case illustrate in comparison.

    • How wonderful that the zookeepers recognized the individuality of the animals. Anyone who works with animals of course knows they are all peculiar individuals, who make their own peculiar choices. When you don’t know animals, you might think of them has a homogenous group — but you do know human individuals, and that they’re all unique, even twins who have the same genetics. Instead of trying to make these 2 animals fit into a human conception of proper pair behavior, the zookeepers gave them the benefit of the doubt. We often make the mistake of assuming uniform behavior, uniform structure, and uniform biology, but that’s not how evolution works.

      And what did you want them to do with the abandoned extra egg? Here was a pair, willing and able — let them try! Besides, scrambled penguin egg sounds kind of fishy.

  12. The Ghandian iceberg by Chris Moore-Backman should be on this list

  13. Thank you for this list! A parent’s and grandparent’s most important work is to nourish a child’s mind and heart with attitudes of kindness and understanding. These books need to be in every library.

  14. I am a grandmother, sending books to grandchildren out if state.
    The one thing missing here is what age categories are the books?
    Thank you.

  15. Thank you so much for passing on these books for children. How refreshing finding books worth reading and sharing whole heartedly and watching the children’s eyes light up with love and compassion. We need more of these. 🙂

  16. The Paper Bag Princess story reminded me of Helga’s Dowry: A Troll Love Story by Tomie dePaola–similar theme. I sure loved the story!
    Thank you for this list.

  17. I LOVE that you did this. Thank you for sharing these terrific book ideas with us. I am a teacher I will share them with my students.

  18. My recommendation list:
    Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories
    The Sneetches and Other Stories; both by Dr. Seuss
    Time of Wonder, by Robert McCloskey–the illustrations of the Maine seacoast and the descriptions of weather and landscape are just the thing to stoke curiosity about the natural world.
    Maybelle the Cable Car–Virginia Lee Burton. This book is about a San Francisco cable car and the successful campaign to save the cable cars; teaches about community organizing and the importance of voting.

  19. Dear All,
    I too appreciate a list of this sort for those who want to raise activist children. Somehow I assumed that the children for whom this was intended were those who still relished being read to. Once they can read, that’s it, the world is open to them.
    My suggestions (having taught kindergarten for eighteen years) are almost any Dr. Suess book, the Sneetches for example about folks being conned over differences, then there’s the only book I know about striking, and in the barnyard, Doreen Cronin’s “Click click moo moo.” Most children’s picture books, which I should disclose I write (though unpublished) are about compassion, sharing, and perseverance. All wonderful virtues. For the fourth grader and up, I’ve come across, “Leon’s Story”, a short powerful memoir of a African-American high school student caught up in the whirlwind of the civil rights era (not that it’s finished). It dislodged many of my stereotypes, e.g. his parents opposed King while European-American strangers hid him. Most librarians should be helpful. Enough.

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