Socially Conscious Books

Photography by Stephanie White

10 books that teach kids about social justice

These socially conscious books will teach kids of all ages about equality

Reading out loud isn’t just the part of the bedtime routine that (fingers crossed) helps your little one nod off at night. Research shows that it helps establish language skills and improves cognitive development.  

But what about reading to raise social consciousness?  

Visit Another Story Bookshop, a 30-year-old institution in Toronto’s Roncesvalles neighborhood, and you’ll find plenty of reads that do just that. The store is known for its focus on “social justice, equity and diversity,” says sales rep Melody Moayedi. The store’s diverse sales staff helps local families build their book collections, and the Toronto District and Peel school boards turn to them for help, too. 

That’s because all kids benefit from reading books that represent people of different backgrounds, ethnicities and social situations. “The world is diverse and even white kids, who are most represented in books, need to read books about children of other cultures and other races,” Moayedi says. 

Here are Moayedi’s picks for the best socially conscious books for kids of all ages, which Another Story will ship across Canada.

Social justice books Happy to be Nappy and Counting on Community

For babies and toddlers:

Happy to be Nappy by Chris Raschka
A fun story about young Black girls who are happy to have different hair textures.
Counting on Community by Innosanto Nagara
Instead of cars or birds, young readers count things like community gardens. 

Three social justice books for children age 5 to 10

Ages five to 10: 

Who Are You? The Kid’s Guide to Gender Identity by Brook Pessin-Whedbee
This book about gender identity encourages children to ask questions about their feelings, and helps them learn to better express themselves.
The Youngest MarcherThe Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist by Cynthia Levinson
This story is about children who marched in civil rights protests organized by Martin Luther King in the 1960s. “It shows children they can do something about what’s going in their community, no matter how young they are,” Moayedi says.
I Am Not a Number by Jenny Kay Dupuis and Kathy Kacer
A tale about an Indigenous girl taken from her family and placed in a residential school. The book is popular at school boards, which are now including more about Canada’s residential school program in their curriculums.

Two social justice books for children age 10 to 13

Ages 10 to 13: 

Whichwood by Tahereh Mafi
This fantasy young adult novel features a rare main character: a Muslim girl.
The Lotterys Plus One by Emma Donoghue
In her first children’s book, the bestselling author of The Room tells the tale of gay parents who win the lottery and adopt more children—and in doing so, shares an important lesson about “the diversity of families,” Moayedi says.

Three social justice books for children age 13 to 18

Ages 13 to 18: 

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo
This story about a trans teen, written by a trans woman, exposes young readers to themes like living your truth and feeling different.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
Two loners meet and strike up a relationship that lasts a lifetime. “It’s nice to show two gay boys be happy together without any kind of horrible outside influence that tears them apart,” Moayedi says.
Dear Martin by Nic Stone
A young Black teen is set to attend an Ivy League university—until he’s arrested for something he didn’t do. A book with mature themes such as race relations and violence.