Books and Websites
Here are books, videos and websites that will help you teach any age child about critical social issues and the importance of reaching out to others. There are also resources for adults, so you too can become an informed and active citizen. We’ll continue to add to the list, so come back often. If you have any suggestions, please e-mail us. Click on a category below.
- Caring and Kindness
- Seniors and Aging
- Hospitals and Illness
- Disabilities and Disability Rights
- Animals and Animal Rights
- Preservation of Wilderness Areas and Parks
- Cleanup and Recycling
- Environmental Activism
- Poverty, Hunger and Homelessness
- International Relief
- Strengthening Neighborhoods
- Schools, Education, Libraries and Literacy
- Arts and Culture
- Politics and Candidates
- Social Activism
- Human Rights, Peace and Social Justice
- Volunteer Vacations
- Charitable Giving
CARING AND KINDNESS
Preschool and Early Elementary
Buddha at Bedtime: Tales of Love and Wisdom for you to Read with Your Child to Enchant, Enlighten and Inspire by Dharmachari Nagaraja (Duncan Baird, 2008) is a treasure. This book contains 20 modernized versions of ancient Buddhist stories. Most are full of whimsy and wonder, spurring on creative play, even as they teach about kindness, courage, and peace. Each story ends with a short restatement of the moral for reinforcement.
The Berenstain Bears Lend a Helping Hand by Stan and Jan Berenstain (Random House Books for Young Readers, 1998). Ages 4-8. Brother and Sister learn about the rewards of kindness when they help the elderly Widow McGrizz.
Chicken Soup for Little Souls: The Goodness Gorillas by Lisa McCourt (Health Communications, Inc., 1997). This feel-good story teaches the importance of reaching out to others – even the class bully.
If Everybody Did by Jo Ann Stover. This funny book has a nice message about the impact of your actions on others.
Kids’ Random Acts of Kindness by Dawna Markova (Conari Press, 1994). Stories of loving kindness written by kids of all ages.
Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed by Emily Pearson (Gibbs Smith, 2002). This book offers a lyrical and beautifully illustrated way to introduce and reinforce the “pay it forward” concept of kindness.
Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch by Eileen Spinelli. A grumpy, lonely man discovers the importance of friendship when he receives an unexpected package from an admirer. A compelling message about the power of kindness
The Gift of Nothing by Patrick McDonnell. A wonderful story for inspiring a discussion about the power of friendship, appreciation for what we have, and the true meaning of gift giving.
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein (HarperCollins, 1987). The simple, classic story of a tree that will do whatever it takes to make a boy happy.
The Quiltmaker’s Gift by Jeff Brumbeau. A great read and the perfect antidote to the season’s all-too-common messages of materialism and greed.
The Three Questions by Jon J. Muth (Scholastic Press, 2002). Ages 4-8. Based on a short story by Leo Tolstoy, The Three Questions is the story of a little boy’s quest to discover the secret to being a good person.
Zen Shorts by Jon J. Muth (Scholastic Press, 2008). Muth weaves three zen fables into a whimsical story of three siblings who befriend their new panda bear neighbor. Each fable provides openings for discussions about anger and forgiveness, wealth, manners, imagination, patience, luck, and many other big ideas.
The Giving Book: Open the Door to a Lifetime of Giving by Ellen Sabin is a wonderful tool to help elementary school kids understand and set their own charitable priorities. This book is one part journal, one part work book, and one part cheerleader for the task of doing good.
The Giving Box: Create a Tradition of Giving with Your Children by Fred Rogers (Running Press, 2001). The folktales and fables in this small volume encourage children in the spirit of giving. A “giving box” is also included — a simple way to make donating to charity a family ritual.
Buddha in Your Backpack by Franz Metcalf (Seastone Press, 2003). Written for teenagers as an introduction to Buddhism. Includes sections on loving-kindness.
Respect A Girl’s Guide to Getting Respect and Deciding When Your Line is Crossed by Courtney Macavinta and Andrea Vander Pluym (Free Spirit Press, 2005) Discusses what respect is and how to both give and get respect. One chapter focuses on respect and communication in families, with friends, and in relationships.
What Do you Stand for? A Kid’s Guide to Building Character by Barbara A. Lewis
(Free Spirit Press, 2005). The book includes inventories to get to know yourself and identify the characteristics you would like to develop in yourself. Each chapter then describes a characteristic such as caring or empathy, describes it, provides resources, and gives an action plan for developing the characteristic.
Chicken Soup for the Volunteer’s Soul: Stories to Celebrate the Spirit of Courage, Caring and Community by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Arline McGraw Oberst, John T. Boal and Tom & Laura Lagana (Health Communications, Inc., 2002). Stories of the creative ways people have contributed to their communities and made a difference in the lives of others.
The Giving Family: Raising Our Children to Help Others by Susan Crites Price (Council on Foundations, 2001). Must be ordered from the Council on Foundations (www.cof.org) Strategies for teaching kids the importance of charitable giving and community service.
The Power of Kindness: The Unexpected Benefits of Leading a Compassionate Life by Piero Ferrucci (Penguin Publishers, 2006).
Raising Kids Who Will Make a Difference: Helping Your Family Live with Integrity, Value Simplicity, and Care for Others by Susan V. Vogt (Loyola Press, 2002). A warm and open account of the ups and downs of raising kids to care.
Teaching Your Kids to Care: How to Discover and Develop the Spirit of Charity in Your Children by Deborah Spaide (Citadel Press, 1995). Practical ideas for instilling the spirit of compassion and community service in your children.
American Psychological Association
Article called “Teaching Gentleness in a Violent World.”
The Center for Learning
Nonprofit educational publisher committed to integrating academic learning and universal values through the humanities.
Character Counts Coalition
A website that includes teaching materials for teaching children the six pillars of character including this one on caring aimed at teens.
Do One Nice Thing
Encourages individuals to start the week off right by performing one good deed each Monday.
http://www.goodcharacter.com/pp/caring.html (for grades K-5)
Website has information and exercises. Also sells videos.
Donate items (books, stuffed animals, etc.) to fill special bags for children entering foster care.
The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation
Organization that inspires people to perform random acts of kindness for others. The website includes ideas for random acts of kindness in the community and in the classroom.
Ebooks for homeschoolers.
The Kids’ Volunteering Book by Arlene Erlbach (Lerner Publications Co., 1998) Readers meet kid volunteers from around the country and learn how to get started in volunteering themselves.
Nickelodeon’s the Big Help Book: 365 Ways You Can Make a Difference by Volunteering by Alan Goodman, illustrated by Fiona Smyth (Simon and Schuster, 1994) Lots of practical suggestions for volunteer projects kids can do on their own.
Encourages children to start Kids Care clubs, groups that work together to complete service projects. Different projects with step-by-step instructions and resources are posted on the website each month.
Catch the Spirit: Teen Volunteers Tell How They Made a Difference by Susan K. Perry (Scholastic Library Publishing, 2000). Stories of twenty teens who had the creativity and determination to make the world a better place.
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Volunteering for Teens by Preston Gralla (Penguin Groups, 2001). An everything-you-need-to-know guide to volunteering, including tips on how to choose the best experience, dozens of project ideas and a resource guide.
The Better World Handbook: From Good Intentions to Everyday Actions by Ellis Jones, Ross Haenfler and Brett Johnson with Brian Klocke (New Society Publishers, 2001). Even the busiest people can make a difference in the world just by the way they live their lives each day. Learn to be a better citizen by changing how you shop, travel, eat, spend money and more.
Citizen You by Jonathan Tisch (Crown: 2010). Tisch he offers practical tools, inspirational examples, and the simple, philosophical assertion that changing the world isn’t the dream of an 18-year-old but a way of living our daily lives.
The Healing Power of Doing Good: The Health and Spiritual Benefits of Helping Others by Allan Luks (Fawcett Columbine: 1991) Although it’s over 10 years old, this book contains some of the earliest research on the health benefits of volunteering.
How to Make the World a Better Place: 116 Ways You Can Make A Difference by Jeffrey Hollender with Linda Catling (W.W. Norton & Co., 1995). Learn what needs to be done in your community and around the world and how you can make it happen.
Family Cares Program
Program created by Points of Light Institute that helps promote compassion through hands-on family projects that help others in need.
Network for Good
Search for volunteer opportunities or organizations in need of charitable donations. Network for Good also features several innovative and convenient ways to donate, including “good cards,” monthly giving, and the ability to initiate a fundraising campaign for a favorite charity by creating a “charity badge” that can be posted online.
Points of Light Youth and Family Resources
Provides resources for families volunteering together.
Search engine that connects individuals to volunteer opportunities in their community.
SENIORS AND AGING
Preschool and Early Elementary
Effie’s Image by N. L. Sharp (Prairieland Press, 2008). Ages 4-8. When eighty-two year old Effie decides that she no longer has anything to offer the world, a neighborhood girl named Amanda refuses to let her give up.
Grandmothers’ Stories: Wise Woman Tales from Many Cultures by Burleigh Muten. Stories from Senegal, Japan, Russia, Hawaii, Mexico, Ireland, Germany and Sweden that feature older women who are kind, intelligent and independent.
Miss Tizzy by Libba Moore Gray. A joyful elderly woman has a following among an ethnically diverse group of neighborhood children. When she becomes ill, the children get creative about how to express their love
The Old Woman Who Loved to Read by John Winch (Holiday House, 1997). A simple narrative about an older woman who escapes to the country to find some quiet for reading, but winds up plowing the fields, tending a lamb and repairing her barn. A light and amusing, non-stereotypical view of an older woman.
The Patchwork Quilt by Valerie Flournoy (Dial, 1985). Ages 4-8. Story of a young girl’s bond with her grandmother, who grows ill while working on a special quilt for her.
Sitti’s Secret by Naomi Shihab Nye, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter (Simon and Schuster Children’s, 1997) A young girl visits her grandmother in a Palestinian village. Their love transcends differences in language and culture.
Kids and Grandparents: An Activity Book by Ann Love and Jane Drake, illustrated by Heather Collins (Kids Can Press, 2000). Ages 5 and up. Some of these activities are for children and elderly people who share the same family, but most can be modified. The activities include food, memories, crafts and games.
Linnea in Monet’s Garden by Christina Bjork, illustrated by Lena Anderson (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1987) Linnea and her elderly neighbor, Mr. Bloom, visit Paris and Monet’s garden in Giverny. A delightful story of the relationship of a child and her older friend.
A Long Way from Chicago and A Year Down Yonder, both by Richard Peck (Puffin, 2000 and 2002). Ages 9-12. A Long Way from Chicago and its sequel, A Year Down Yonder tell the story of Joey and Mary Alice and the adventures they have with their Grandmother Dowdel.
Miss Tizzy by Libba Moore Gray. A joyful elderly woman has a following among an ethnically diverse group of neighborhood children. When she becomes ill, the children get creative about how to express their love.
The Cay by Theodore Taylor (Random House, 2002). Phillip is stranded on a Caribbean Island with an older West Indian man named Timothy, who he must depend on to survive.
The Friends by Kazumi Yumoto, translated by Cathy Hirano (Random House, 1997). The friendship between three Japanese boys and a wise older man.
Good Night, Mr. Tom by Michelle Magorian (HarperTeen, 1986). Young Adult. The story of the friendship between Willie, a young victim of child abuse, and Mr. Tom, an elderly man who takes him in when Willie must evacuate to the English countryside during World War II.
Tiger Tiger Burning Bright by Ronald Koertge (Orchard Books, 1994). Thirteen-year-old Jesse tries to keep his mother from realizing that his beloved grandfather, Pappy, is losing his memory.
If I Live to Be 100: Lessons from the Centenarians by Neenah Ellis (Crown Publishing Group, 2002). Ellis records the stories of over a dozen people who have lived a century or more.
HOSPITALS AND ILLNESS
Preschool and Early Elementary
Franklin Goes to the Hospital by Paulette Bourgeois, illustrated by Brenda Clark (Scholastic Inc., 2000). Franklin’s visit to the hospital to repair a cracked shell can introduce young children to all aspects of a hospital stay.
Going to the Hospital by Fred Rogers, photographs by Jim Judkis (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1987). A comforting look at hospitals and hospital procedures thorough the experiences of two young children.
My Trip to the Hospital by Mercer Mayer (HarperFestival, 2005). Ages 4-8. Little Critter must go to the hospital for the first time when he breaks his leg during a soccer game.
Because of Anya by Margaret Peterson Haddix (Aladdin, 2004). Ages 9-12. The story of a young girl diagnosed with a rare auto-immune disease and her attempts to hide her illness in order to lead a normal life.
Magic School Bus: Inside the Human Body by Joanna Cole, illustrated by Bruce Degen (Scholastic, Inc., 1990) Ages 6-9. For kids interested in medicine, a fun and informative journey through the human body.
Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr, paintings by Ronald Himmler (Puffin, 1999). A young Hiroshima girl in the 1940s is sick with leukemia from atom bomb radiation. Legend says that if she folds a thousand paper cranes she’ll get healthy; she decides to try. A true story of courage.
You Shouldn’t Have To Say Goodbye by Patricia Hermes (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2008). Ages 9-12. When Sarah’s mother is diagnosed with cancer, her family must deal with feelings of pain and loss.
Chandra’s Secrets by Allan Straton (Annick Press, 2004). Young Adult. The story of a teenage girl in Africa affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Deenie by Judy Blume (Simon and Schuster, 1991). A young girl copes with scoliosis.
Just What the Doctor Ordered: The History of American Medicine by Brandon Marie Miller (Lerner Publications Company, 1997). Interesting and informative look back at American medicine.
A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass (Little, Brown Young Readers, 2005). Young Adult. The story of a teenage girl suffering from synesthesia, a rare disease where colors are seen in sounds, numbers, and letters.
Teens Face to Face with Chronic Illness by Suzanne LeVert (Simon and Schuster, 1993) The medical information may be somewhat dated, but it’s a helpful overview of several chronic illnesses from a teen perspective, including asthma, arthritis and hemophilia.
Young People and Chronic Illness: True Stories, Help and Hope by Kelly Huegel (Free Spirit Publishing, 1998) Teens can learn about others their age struggling with diabetes, epilepsy and other chronic illnesses.
Organization that grants wishes to adults with terminal illnesses. Includes several ways to help, including “adopting” a dream.
Make security blankets for children who are seriously ill or traumatized. The website provides free blanket patterns and links to local chapters.
Help fulfill the wishes of children with terminal illnesses.
DISABILITIES AND DISABILITY RIGHTS
Preschool and Early Elementary
All About My Brother by Sarah Peralta (Autism Asperger Publishing Company, 2002). Ages 4-8. In All About My Brother, a young girl introduces the reader to her younger brother, who is autistic. The book was both written and illustrated by 8-year-old Sarah Peralta.
Best Friend on Wheels by Debra Shirley (Albert Whitman, 2008). Ages 4-8. When the narrator’s teacher asks her to show the new girl around the school, she is nervous because the girl is in a wheelchair. When the two girls begin to talk, however, they find that they are more alike than different.
Don’t Call Me Special: A First Look at Disability by Pat Thomas (Barron’s Educational Series, 2005). Ages 4-8. Reassuring book that answers common questions and concerns about disability and children with special needs.
My Friend Isabelle by Eliza Woolson (Woodbine House, 2003). Ages 4-8. The story of Charlie and his friend Isabelle, who has Down Syndrome. Their special relationship demonstrates how differences among people make the world more fun and interesting.
Since We’re Friends: An Autism Picture Book by Celeste Shally (Awaken Specialty Press, 2007). Ages 4-8. The story of a friendship between two boys, one who has autism and one who does not. Since We’re Friends demonstrates how children can establish friendships with those who are different from them through compassion and understanding.
Waiting for Benjamin: A Story about Autism by Alexandra Jessup Altman (Albert Whitman, 2008). Ages 4-8. Waiting for Benjamin deals with the complex emotions experienced by the brother of a boy with autism, such as embarrassment, jealousy, and eventually, pride.
The Disability Rights Movement by Deborah Kent (Grolier Publishing, 1997) A narrative history of the struggle for people with disabilities to be heard.
Deaf Child Crossing by Marlee Matlin (Simon and Schuster, 2002). The story of the friendship between a deaf child and a hearing child.
Helen Keller by Margaret Davidson (Scholastic Paperbacks, 1989). Ages 9-12. The story of Helen Keller and her friendship with Annie Sullivan, the woman who taught Helen to read and speak.
Just Kids: Visiting a Class for Children with Special Needs by Ellen Senisi (Dutton Books, 1998). Children learn about a variety of disabilities through the experiences of Cindy, a second-grader who is placed in a class of kids with epilepsy, autism and other special needs.
Looking After Louis by Lesly Ely (Albert Whitman & Company, 2004). Ages 9-12. When Louis, a boy with autism, joins Miss Owlie’s class, his classmates are unsure of how to respond to him and think it’s unfair that he sometimes gets special treatment. However, through Miss Owlie’s encouragement, Louis’s class learns about sensitivity and how they can include Louis in their activities.
Louis Braille: The Boy Who Invented Books for the Blind by Margaret Davidson (Scholastic Paperbacks, 1991). Ages 9-12. Biography of Louis Braille, a man who was born blind and went on to develop the Braille system of printing for the blind.
My Louisiana Sky by Kimberly Willis Holt (Yearling, 2000). Ages 9-12. Set in the South in the 1950s, My Louisiana Sky is the story of Tiger Ann Parker, a young girl who must care for her mentally-handicapped parents and deal with change and the death of her grandmother.
My Name Is Brain Brian by Jeanne Betancourt (Scholastic Paperbacks, 1995). Ages 9-12. The story of a young boy who struggles with dyslexia, but is able to get the help he needs through the assistance of a teacher who recognizes the symptoms.
Tangerine by Edward Bloor (Harcourt Paperbacks, 2006). Ages 9-12. The story of a legally blind boy living in the shadow of his football star older brother.
Acorn People by Ron Jones (Laurel Leaf, 1996). Young Adult. Acorn People is the true story of Ron Jones, a camp counselor at a camp for disabled children and the friendship he forms with the amazing group of campers he leads.
Extraordinary People with Disabilities by Deborah Kent and Kathryn A. Quinlan (Grolier Publishing, 1997). Brief stories of 48 famous people who dealt with disabilities, including Thomas Edison, Theodore Roosevelt and Tom Cruise.
Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick (Scholastic, 2001). Two boys with disabilities form a unique and powerful friendship.
Izzy, Willy, Nilly by Cynthia Voigt (Simon and Schuster, 1995). Fifteen-year-old Isobel loses her leg in a car accident and learns to cope with her disability.
Owning It: Stories about Teens with Disabilities by Donald R. Gallo (Candlewick, 2008). Young Adult. A collection of stories about individuals coping with disabilities and trying to lead normal teenage lives.
Petey by Ben Mikaelsen (Hyperion Press, 2000). Petey, who has cerebral palsy, is misdiagnosed as an infant and raised in an insane asylum. This is the story of his struggles and friendships, especially with a lonely preteen named Trevor.
Probably Still Nick Swansen by Virginia Euwer Wolf (Simon Pulse, 2002). Young Adult. Written from the point-of-view of a 16-year-old Special Ed student, Probably Still Nick Swansen emphasizes that the problems faced by these students are no different than those of any other teenager.
Visit http://www.easter-seals.org/site/PageServer?pagename=ntl_ability_adult_booklist for a list of adult books related to disabilities.
ANIMALS AND ANIMAL RIGHTS
Preschool and Early Elementary
One Day at Wood Green Animal Shelter by Patricia Casey (Candlewick Press, 2001). Learn about the workings of a humane society from this informative and lively book. Perfect for young animal lovers.
And Then There Was One: The Mysteries of Extinction by Margery Facklam, illustrations by Pamela Johnson (Little, Brown and Company, 1993). Examines extinction from both natural and human causes and discusses what can be done to save species.
Careers with Animals by Willow Ann Sirch (Fulcrum Publishing, 2000). This Humane Society publication gives young people information about a variety of jobs with animals, including work in veterinary medicine, wildlife rescue and animal shelters.
Every Living Thing by Cynthia Rylant (Aladdin, 1988). Ages 9-12. A collection of twelve short stories about individuals whose lives are touched by their encounters with animals.
How to Be Animal Friendly: Choose the Kindest Ways to Eat, Shop, and Have Fun by Philippa Perry and Caroline Grimshaw (Harper Collins, 1999) Informs and inspires children to support the rights of animals, and includes information on extinction, factory farming and animal testing.
Vet Volunteer Series by Laurie Halse Anderson (Puffin). Ages 9-12. Series of books about a veterinary clinic and its young volunteers who confront animal rights issues.
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
The first organization created in the United States to fight against cruelty to animals, the ASPCA’s website includes several resources for kids and families. The ASPCA’s Kids site is a site for kids featuring cartoons, pet care information, and information on animal careers.
Humane Society Youth
The youth education affiliate of The Humane Society of the United States (http://www.hsus.org/), Humane Society Youth teaches young people about kindness and respect for animals. The website includes a book list, film list, and resource center.
Kind News is a website for kids sponsored by Humane Society Youth that features games, stories, and printables.
Animal Rights by Jennifer Hurley (Greenhaven Press, 1999). This is in the series called “Opposing Viewpoints Digest” presents arguments on both sides of animal rights issues, such as “Is Animal Experimentation Justified?”
Animal Rights: A Handbook for Young Adults by Daniel Cohen (Millbrook Press, 1993). Cohen informs teens about animal rights issues and advises them on how to make a difference. Readers learn the arguments for and against using animals for medical research, for entertainment and for food and fur.
Working with Wildlife: A Guide to Careers in the Animal World by Thane Maynard (Franklin Watts, 1999). A practical guide for teens interested in working with animals. Readers learn about the work and training required to be a vet, field researcher, nature guide, conservationist and dozens of other animal-related jobs.
Dog Toy Donations and Cat Toy Donations
Dogtoys.com and Cattoys.com allow individuals to donate pet toys directly to the shelter of their choice.
Educational materials on humane education and the cruelty of factory farming. Website includes an adopt-a-farm-animal program and lesson plans on “Cultivating Compassion.”
Find a pet to adopt or look for volunteer opportunities at your local shelter.
Provide comfort to shelter animals by volunteering to make security blankets called “Snuggles.” Website includes simple patterns as well as a directory of participating shelters.
PRESERVATION OF PARKS AND WILDERNESS
Preschool and Early Elementary
Brother Eagle, Sister Sky by Susan Jeffers (Puffin, 2002). Ages 4-8. Adapted from a speech supposedly made by the American Indian Chief Seattle, Brother Eagle, Sister Sky encourages respect for the land and environment.
Everglades by Jean Craighead George, paintings by Wendell Minor (HarperCollins, 1999). A storyteller describes the Florida Everglades as he guides children though this one-of-a-kind ecosystem. Minor’s paintings depict the beauty of this home to alligators and egrets.
The Forest Has Eyes by Elise Maclay, illustrated by Bev Doolittle (Greenwich Workshop Press, 1998) Have fun with this lushly drawn “camouflage art,” with pictures hidden within. Learn about Native American culture, their reverence for the land and the animals that inhabit the forests.
The Complete Backyard Nature Activity Book: Fun Projects for Kids to Learn About the Wonders of Wildlife and Nature by Robin Michal Koontz (Learning Triangle Press, 1998). Kids can learn about creating habitats in their own backyards for butterflies, frogs, hummingbirds and more.
Ancient Ones: The World of Old-Growth Douglas Fir by Barbara Bash (Sierra Club Books for Children, 2002). The majesty of the forest is captured in the text and watercolor paintings.
How Monkeys Make Chocolate: Foods and Medicines from the Rainforest by Adrian Forsyth (Owl Communications, 1995). Get lots of information about the plants, animals and people of the rainforest and their intricate web of interdependence.
National Geographic Kids
Website that teaches children about the world around them through games, stories, videos, and activities.
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen (Simon and Schuster, 1999). The award-winning story of 13-year-old Brian Robeson’s struggle to survive after a plane crash in the Canadian wilderness. A classic.
Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George (HarperCollins, 1987). A young Eskimo girl gets lost in the Alaska tundra after running away to find her San Francisco pen pal and is taken in by a pack of Arctic wolves. This Newberry Medal winner is a tale of survival and much more.
Organization that works to protect endangered forests and wild places, with a focus on climate change.
Organization that works to expose environmental problems and promote solutions.
The Great Sunflower Project
Help save the dwindling bee population by signing up to plant sunflowers and then watching and recording bee activities.
HSUS Urban Sanctuary Program
Help make urban areas more hospitable to wildlife by creating your own wildlife sanctuary.
Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center
Organization dedicated to the beautification of our country through the planting of wildflowers and native plants.
National Audubon Society
Organization that works to protect birds, wildlife, and their habitats. The website includes a kids’ section (http://www.audubon.org/educate/kids/) and ideas for family activities (http://www.audubon.org/educate/family/)
National Park Foundation
Find the nearest national park in your area and discover how you can help preserve these national treasures.
National Park Service
Find a national park in your area.
National Wildlife Federation
Conservation organization that works to protect endangered species and habitats.
Natural Resources Defense Council
Environmental action organization that works to protect wildlife through a series of campaigns on issues like global warming, protecting the oceans, and clean energy. NRDC’s Action Center allows individuals to respond to “action alerts” by sending emails to their congressperson with one click.
NWF Certified Wildlife Habitat
Create a certified wildlife habitat in your backyard, complete with an official sign. All you need to create a habitat is food, water, cover, and places for animals to raise young.
Organization dedicated to protecting the world’s oceans.
Organization that works to protect the world’s rainforests and promote responsible use of the land.
Organization that fights for the preservation of the wilderness, promotes respect for nature, and encourages outdoor activities.
World Wildlife Fund
Organization that protects endangered wildlife and threatened habitats.
CLEANUP AND RECYCLING
Preschool and Early Elementary
Creative Cardboard Projects
This website by CreativeDisplaysNow.com offers an extensive list of links to creative, artistic projects for children of all ages that utilize recycled materials.
Recycle That by Faye Robinson (Children’s Press, 1995) Simple explanation of recycling with photographs.
Recycle! A Handbook for Kids by Gail Gibbons (Little, Brown and Company, 1996) Learn about garbage and landfills, and find out what happens to paper, glass, cans and plastic when they are recycled.
Where the Garbage Goes, a video by Fred Levine Productions, 1997. Kids can learn about garbage and recycling while watching lots of heavy equipment – grinders, loaders, and haulers — do its job.
50 Simple Things Kids Can Do to Recycle by the Earth Works Group, illustrated by Michele Montez (EarthWorks Press, 1994). Recycle at home, at school and in your community. This book will tell you how.
Creative Cardboard Projects
This website by CreativeDisplaysNow.com offers an extensive list of links to creative, artistic projects for children of all ages that utilize recycled materials.
Games, activities and stories to help kids learn about reducing waste and encouraging recycling.
Waste Disposal by Sally Morgan (Franklin Watts, 2000) Find out where waste (nuclear, dirty water, garbage, toxic) goes and how it affects the environment. Also learn about recycling metals, glass and paper, and discover what kids can do to help deal with waste.
Garbage and Recycling: Opposing Viewpoints edited by Helen Cothran (Greenhaven Press, 2003). Provides varying points of view on whether garbage and toxic waste are serious problems, the effectiveness of recycling and the innovations that will reduce waste.
Rubbish!: The Archaeology of Garbage by William Rathaje and Cullen Murphy (HarperCollins Publishers, 1992). A review of garbage research from University of Arizona’s Garbage Project.
Anenberg CBP Learner.org
Learn about garbage, hazardous waste and sewage and find out what your community can do to reduce waste
Donate items you no longer need to help charities and keep goods out of landfills.
Help keep items out of landfills by posting their descriptions on Throwplace for others to claim.
Preschool and Early Elementary
The Greening Book by Ellen Sabin (Watering Can Press, 2008). Ages 4-8. Through activities and exercises, The Greening Book teaches children that they can make a difference in the future of our planet.
All by Jen Green (Barron’s Educational Series, 2005). Ages 4-8. The four-book Why Should I? series by Jen Green answers children’s questions about the environment and demonstrates the importance of protecting nature.
An Inconvenient Truth: The Crisis of Global Warming by Al Gore (Viking Juvenile, 2007). Ages 9-12. A version of the best-selling book for younger readers, An Inconvenient Truth explains how our planet is being threatened by rising carbon dioxide levels and what we can do about climate change.
Down To Earth Guide To Global Warming by Laurie David and Cambria Gordon (Orchard Books, 2007). Ages 9-12. An introduction to global warming for kids that provides suggestions on how kids can help combat the problem.
Ecology by Steve Pollock (DK Publishing, Inc., 2000). An Eyewitness Science book filled with information, photos and drawings that teach about food webs, the water cycle, ecological niches, population growth and evolution.
Hoot by Carl Hiassen (Knopf Publishing, 2002). An ecological mystery for the middle school set in which Roy, a new kid at school, sets out to save some burrowing owls from developers.
How to Save the Planet by Barbara Taylor, illustrated by Scoular Anderson (Franklin Watts, 2001). Fun, simple and comprehensive source for explanations of important environmental issues, including ozone depletion, pollution, garbage and habitat extinction.
True Green Kids: 100 Things You Can Do To Save The Planet by Kim McKay (National Geographic Children’s Books, 2008). Published by National Geographic, this guide to conservation and environmental change lists several easy things kids can do at home, school, and in the community to help save the planet.
Arbor Day Youth Education
Website that features several ways for kids and families to celebrate trees and nature, including ideas for outdoor activities, a national poster contest, and educational resources.
Carly’s Kids Corner
Created by the Arbor Day Foundation, Carly’s Kids Corner features interactive games and fun facts about trees.
Activities, games, stories and art that get kids interested in and informed about environmental issues.
The Complete Guide to Environmental Careers in the 21st Century by the Environmental Careers Organization (Island Press, 1999) If you or your teens are considering an environmentally-related career, check out dozens of possibilities in this comprehensive guide.
Dr. Art’s Guide to Planet Earth: For Earthlings Ages 12 to 120 by Art Sussman, Ph.D., illustrated by Emiko Koike (WestEd Publishing, 2000) A systems approach to how the earth works that is compelling, well-organized and understandable. There are also recommendations for what young people can do to help save the planet.
Flush by Carl Hiaasen (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2007). Young Adult. The second book in Hiaasen’s series of environmental novels and the follow-up to Hoot, Flush is the story of two children who work together to expose the illegal dumping of raw sewage from a casino ship.
Generation Green: The Ultimate Teen Guide to Living an Eco-Friendly Life by Linda Silvertsen (Simon Pulse, 2008). Young Adult. Generation Green offers dozens of tips on how teens can do their part to help save the earth
Myspace/OurPlanet: Change is Possible by the Myspace Community (HarperTeen, 2008). Young Adult. Published by the social networking website Myspace, this book is a collection of tips submitted by Myspace users on how to help save the environment and “green” our planet.
Plant a tree
Several organizations allow individuals to have trees planted in honor or memory of someone special:
POVERTY, HUNGER AND HOMELESSNESS
Preschool and Early Elementary
Changing Places: A Kid’s View of Shelter Living by Judy Wallace (Gryphon House, 1992). Ages 4-8. Eight different children, ages 6-13, describe what it is like to live in a homeless shelter.
Great Joy by Kate Dicamillo is the sweet simple tale of a kind organ grinder, his monkey, and the little girl who worries over whether they has a place to go in the storm.
Home Is Where We Live: Life at a Shelter Through a Young Girl’s Eyes by Jane Hertensten (Cornerstone Press Chicago, 1995). Ages 4-8. Life seen through the eyes of a 10-year-old girl who has just arrived at the Cornerstone Community Outreach Center, a shelter for women and children in Chicago.
A Rose for Abby by Donna Guthrie, illustrated by Dennis Hockerman (Abingdon Press, 1988). Abby has an idea that everyone in the community has something to offer the poor.
Sam and the Lucky Money by Karen Chinn. A charming story about a boy who gets “lucky money” for his birthday and ventures into Chinatown to look for the best way to spend it.
Someplace to Go by Maria Testa (Albert Whitman & Company, 1996). Ages 4-8. Story of a young boy named Davey, who lives with his mother and older brother in a shelter and eats at a soup kitchen.
The Teddy Bear by David McPhail (Henry Holt and Co. BYR Paperbacks, 2005). Ages 4-8. When a child loses his teddy bear, a homeless man adopts it, showing the child how much he really has.
Famine: The World Reacts by Paul Bennett (Smart Apple Media, 1999). Learn about the history of food shortages, why they occur and what you can do to help.
Homeless by Bernard Wolf (Orchard Books, 1995). The story of 8-year-old Mikey’s stay in a New York City emergency shelter.
The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes (Harcourt Paperbacks, 2004). Ages 9-12. When Wanda, a poor immigrant girl from Poland who always wears the same blue faded dress tells her classmates that she has one hundred dresses at home, the other children in class taunt her. After Wanda leaves the school because of the teasing, two of her classmates must deal with their guilt.
Sophie and the Sidewalk Man by Stephanie S. Tolan, illustrated by Susan Avishai. (Four Winds Press, 1992). Sophie weighs out her compassion for a homeless man against her desire for a small stuffed hedgehog. Simple and realistic.
Food Fight: Poets Join the Fight Against Hunger with Poems to Favorite Food edited and illustrated by Michael J. Rosen (Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1996). Thirty-three children’s poets contribute to the fight against hunger by penning poems about food. Read odes to pies, pizzas and matzo ball soup.
No Place to Be: Voices of Homeless Children by Judith Berck (Houghton Mifflin Co., 1992). Weaves together commentary on homelessness with photos and the words of homeless kids.
50 Ways to Save Our Children: Small, Medium and Big Ways You Can Change a Child’s Life by Cheryl Saban (HarperCollins, 2002) Also, check the website at www.50ways.org.
52 Ways to Help Homeless People by Gary Temple (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1991). Ideas for helping the homeless, with an emphasis on education and social action.
54 Ways You Can Help the Homeless by Charles A. Kroloff (MacMillan Publishing Co., 1993). Lots of suggestions on how to fight homelessness, including a special section on what children can do.
Food: The Struggle to Sustain the Human Community by Jake Goldberg (Franklin Watts, 1999). Young adult and adult. All about food, from it’s history to its production. The chapter on hunger cuts through myths about food aid.
Hunger: An Unnatural History by Sharman Apt Russell (Peresus Books Group, 2005)
This book explains all aspects of hunger from the actual process of digestion, satiety and hunger caused by 18 hours without food, 36-hours, 7 days, and 30 days. It also provides an historical overview of how hunger has impacted history including the use of hunger strikes for political ends. A possible end to hunger is described.
Donate My Dress
This national network and directory links to organizations across the United States (for example, the Glass Slipper Project- http://www.glassslipperproject.org/) that accept donations of prom and other formal dresses for high school students.
The Hunger Project
World-wide effort to help communities help themselves. Includes ways Americans can help via shopping, trips to learn more about hunger first-hand, and volunteer opportunities.
Hunger Solutions Minnesota provides and advocates for solutions to hunger by providing money, food, information and legislative support for those agencies providing food for the hungry.
New Eyes for the Needy
Donate used eyeglasses in good condition to be donated to the poor in developing countries.
Project Night Night
Project Night Night provides comforting bags to children in homeless shelters. Each bag contains a stuffed animal, security blanket, and book.
Resources on homelessness
This symposium was jointly sponsored with HUD and provides 13 papers that summarize more than a decade of research on homelessness.
Share Our Strength
National organization that works to end childhood hunger in America. Share Our Strength is the sponsor of the Great American Bake Sale, Taste of the Nation, and the Great American Dine Out.
Soles 4 Souls
Donate new or “gently worn” shoes to individuals in need around the world.
Preschool and Early Elementary
The Caged Birds of Phnom Penh by Frederick Lipp, illustrated by Ronald Himler (Holiday House, 2001) An inspiring story of hope, with beautiful watercolor illustrations.
UNICEF by Katherine Prior (Scholastic Inc., 2001). A description of the history, mission and programs of UNICEF. The photographs and text also educate readers about the challenges children face in developing countries.
Soulmates: A Novel to End World Hunger by John Henry Ballard, illustrated by Roseanne Litzenger (World Citizens, 1998). When a teenager’s class sponsors a child in India, it leads to an eye-opening trip to the country. Inspirational.
Taste of Salt: A Story of Modern Haiti (HarperCollins, 1994) Seventeen-year-old Djo tells the story of his life of hardship and poverty with social reformer Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Preschool and Early Elementary
All Around Town: Exploring Your Community Through Craft Fun by Judy Press, illustrated by Karen Weiss (Williamson Publishing Co., 2002). Find activities, information and resources to learn about community sites such as the animal shelter, theater, airport and senior citizen’s center.
City Green by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan (Morrow Junior Books, 1994) The story of how a community garden brings light and hope into a neighborhood and even changes the outlook of irritable Old Man Hammer.
Franklin’s Neighborhood by Paulette Bourgeois, illustrated by Brenda Clark (Scholastic, Inc., 1999). Franklin learns that the best thing about his neighborhood is the neighbors.
Grandpa’s Corner Store by DyAnne Disalvo-Ryan (HarperCollins, 2000). Lucy organizes the community to keep her grandfather’s small grocery store from being put out of business by an incoming supermarket. A true celebration of community spirit.
The Green Truck Garden Giveaway: A Neighborhood Story and Almanac by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, illustrated by Alec Gillman (Simon and Schuster, 1997). A couple of gardeners in a green truck convert some bored and grumpy neighbors into a community by creating gardens and passing out almanacs. The book includes related tips and anecdotes on everything from the history of pumpkins to plans for a butterfly garden.
Know Your Hometown History: Projects and Activities by Abigail Jungreis (Franklin Watts, 1992) Here are projects that will give kids the tools to get to know their community’s past.
Neighborhood Odes by Gary Soto, illustrated by David Diaz (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1992) A series of odes to a Hispanic neighborhood in which sprinklers, piñatas, grandparents and the library are celebrated.
Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman (HarperTeen, 2004). Ages 9-12. The story of a garden planted by a young girl in an abandoned lot and how it brings together a troubled neighborhood.
Some Good News by Cynthia Rylant (Simon and Schuster Children’s Books, 2001) Three nine-year-old cousins start a newspaper about the activities and personalities on Cobble Street, where they are living with their Aunt Lucy.
Kids and Community
Kids can learn about city planning and find activities.
Learning Adventures in Citizenship
Would your child like to design a park, solve a community problem or write poetry in honor of his or her hometown? Kids will find lots of ideas for helping their communities at this PBS Web site celebrating community.
Eight Habits of the Heart: Embracing the Values That Build Strong Families and Communities by Clifton L. Taulbert (Penguin Group, 1997). Taulbert, who’s written well-known memoirs of growing up in the segregated south, presents the wisdom of the people who raised him and explains how their values built a strong community.
145th Street: Short Stories by Walter Dean Myers (Delacorte Press, 2000). Ten stories from a single block in Harlem with rich characters and a powerful sense of community.
Safe Homes, Safe Neighborhoods: Stopping Crime Where You Live by Stephanie Mann and M.C. Blakeman; (Nolo Press, 1993). An all-inclusive guide for keeping your home, loved ones and community safe.
American Community Gardening Association
Find or start a community garden in your neighborhood.
Wholesale and Farmers Markets
Support local farmers by shopping at a farmers’ market in your area.
Community Supported Agriculture
Participate in the joys and struggles of farming by purchasing shares of a local farmer’s produce.
Local Harvest is a national directory of organic and local farms, CSAs, grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and restaurants.
SCHOOLS, EDUCATION, LIBRARIES AND LITERACY
Preschool and Early Elementary
The Inside Outside Book of Libraries by Julie Cummins, paintings by Roxie Munro (Penguin Books, 1996). This book will expand a child’s perceptions of libraries. Readers discover that libraries can be found aboard aircraft carriers, in homes, in a single room and on the busy streets of New York.
Born To Read by Judy Sierra (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2008). Ages 4-8. Born to Read is the story of a little boy who is able to rid his town of a giant through his love of reading.
The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq by Jeanette Winter (Harcourt Children’s Books, 2005). Ages 4-8. The story of Alia Muhammad Baker, the courageous librarian who saved 30,0000 books from her library before it burned to the ground during the war in Iraq.
Library by Sarah Stewart, illustrated by David Small (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 1995). Passionate reader Elizabeth Brown comes up with a splendid idea for what to do with her too many books.
Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen (Candlewick, 2006). Ages 4-8. The story of a lovable lion that comes to the library during story hour and how he saves the day.
Library Mouse by Daniel Kirk (Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2007). Ages 4-8. Sam is a mouse who lives behind the books at the library and spends most of his time reading. When Sam decides to write his own books, he inspires the children in the library to start writing as well.
Richard Wright and the Library Card by William Miller, illustrated by Gregory Christie (Lee & Low Books, 1997). This is a powerful story from the life of author Richard Wright. Readers discover how Wright got access to the magic of books and libraries at a time when they were strictly off-limits to African Americans.
Tomás and the Library Lady by Pat Mora, illustrated by Raul Colon (Alfred Knopf, 1997) This is the inspirational story of Tomás Rivera, chancellor of the University of California at Riverside, and how a librarian helped him learn the joy of reading as a young boy.
The Wednesday Surprise by Eve Bunting (Clarion Books, 1989). Ages 4-8. The story of a young girl who teaches her grandmother how to read.
Wild About Books by Judy Sierra (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2004). Ages 4-8. When a librarian accidentally drives her bookmobile to the zoo, the animals there learn about the joy of reading.
Libraries by Lucia Raatma (Grolier Publishing, 1998). An informative book describing the types of libraries and their history.
The Library by Jerry Spinnelli (Scholastic Inc., 1998). Four stories of how a magical library card transforms the lives of kids in need. Fun read from this award-winning children’s author.
My Librarian is a Camel by Margriet Ruurs (Boyds Mill Press, 2005). Ages 9-12. Ruurs examines thirteen different countries and explains how librarians there provide books to patrons (for example, by camel in Kenya).
Book Crush: For Kids and Teens – Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment and Interest by Nancy Pearl (Sasquatch Books, 2007). Young Adult. If you are looking for a new book to read, take some advice from the well-known librarian, Nancy Pearl. In Book Crush, Pearl lists hundred of suggestions of what she considers quality literature based on reading level, theme, etc.
ARTS AND CULTURE
Preschool and Early Elementary
Visiting the Art Museum by Laurene Krasny Brown and Marc Brown (E.P. Dutton, 1992). A charming look at a family’s visit to the museum. See it all — Rousseau, Pollock, mummies and arms and armor — along with the kind of comments you’d truly hear from kids touring a museum. (“I’ve seen enough. Let’s eat lunch.”)
Ella’s Trip to the Museum by Elaine Clayton (Crown Publishers, Inc., 1996). Ella uses her vivid imagination – dancing with the ballerinas in the paintings, frolicking with a statue of a Roman goddess — to make her visit to the museum memorable.
Mrs. Brown on Exhibit and Other Museum Poems by Susan Katz, illustrated by R.W. Alley (Simon and Schuster, 2002). A collection of poems from a teacher and her class who love museums. From an insectarium to clocks to a giant heart, kids learn about exhibits in museums all over the country.
Museums by Patrice Koelsch (Creative Company, 2002). Learn about the history of museums, what they all have in common and examples of different types of museums.
Want to know about local museums so you can inquire about volunteer opportunities? Curious about whether there’s an arts and crafts show coming? Want to get some ideas about where to take a group of homeless kids on an outing? This web site can connect you to what’s going on in cities all over the country.
POLITICS AND CANDIDATES
Preschool and Early Elementary
America: A Patriotic Primer by Lynne Cheney, illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser (Simon and Schuster, 2002). An ABC’s of American history and government that celebrates democratic principles and famous figures from our country’s past. Lots of detailed illustrations.
D is for Democracy: A Citizen’s Alphabet by Elissa Grodin (Sleeping Bear Press, 2007). Ages 4-8. In this rhyming democratic primer, each letter of the alphabet introduces a different concept to the reader, such as “A” for “amendment” and “B” for “Bill of Rights.”
Duck for President by Doreen Cronin (Atheneum, 2008). Ages 4-8. Humorous story of a duck who decides to hold an election to replace Farmer Brown and eventually works his way up to governor, and then president.
Grace for President by Kelly DiPucchio (Hyperion Book, 2006). Ages 4-8. When Grace discovers that there has never been a woman president of the Unites States, she decides that she will run for president one day. Her teacher encourages her by holding a school election.
How States Make Laws by Suzanne LeVett (Benchmark Books, 2003) Ages 4-8
If I Ran For President by Catherine Stier (Albert Whitman & Company, 2008). Ages 4-8. Six children discuss what they would do if they were running for president, describing the election process all the way from making the decision to run to being sworn in on Inauguration Day.
If I Were President by Catherine Steir, illustrated by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan (Albert Whitman and Co., 1999) A kid-friendly introduction to the duties of the President of the United States.
The Kid Who Ran for President and The Kid Who Became President, both by Dan Gutman (Scholastic Paperbacks, 2000). Ages 9-12. What would happen if a kid became the President of the United States? Find out in Dan Gutman’s story of Judson Moon, the first kid president.
My Senator and Me: A Dog’s Eye View of Washington, D.C. by Senator Edward M. Kennedy (Scholastic Inc., 2006). Ages 4-8. Senator Kennedy’s dog, Splash, describes a typical day in Washington including a discussion of an education bill, a press conference, and a floor vote.
How the U.S. Government Works by Syl Sobel (Barron’s Educational Series, Inc., 1999). A simple guide to the workings of the U.S. government.
Kids Guide to Local Government
Kids Guide to State Government
Kids Guide to National Government
All by Ernestine Giesecke (Heinemann, 2000)
These books offer good information for students beginning to explore and understand the purposes and functions of different governmental systems.
Political Parties and Political Elections (Cartoon Nation series), both by Katherine M. Brevard (Capstone Press, 2008). Ages 9-10. Explains the history of elections and the political parties in cartoon format.
The Presidency (True Books) by Christine Taylor Butler (Children’s Press, 2008). Ages 9-12. An introduction to the presidency and the executive branch of government.
The Right to Vote by Elaine Pascoe (Millbrook Press, Connecticut 1997) The basic tenets of American democracy are considered from both a historical and a contemporary focus. Vote reaffirms the seriousness of this privilege by discussing a significant U.S. Supreme Court case, Baker v. Carr, which determined that every voter has a voice in government. Such landmark decisions are presented in understandable terms, complemented with shorter “highlight” articles.
So You Want to Be President? by Judith St. George, illustrated by David Small (Penguin Putnam Books, 2001). An entertaining look at our president’s lives with cartoon illustrations.
Vote (DK Eyewitness Books) by Philip Steele (DK Publishing, 2008). Ages 9-10. Provides a look at the history of voting and voting practices around the world.
Vote! by Eileen Christelow (Clarion Books, New York 2003) All aspects of the voting process are explained by dogs in a comic book style. The book includes a timeline of voter rights in American history and information on political parties.
We the Kids by David Catrow (Dial Books for Young Readers, New York , 2002) With laugh-out-loud cartoony illustrations, and the actual words of the Preamble as the only text, Catrow depicts a camping trip taken by a diverse, bumbling group of friends, demonstrating the rights and responsibilities the Constitution places on all Americans, young and old.
You Want Women to Vote, Lizzie Stanton? By Jean Fritz, illustrated by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan (Putnam Publishing Group, 1999) This biography of 19th century feminist Elizabeth Cady Stanton is a fun way to learn about the women’s suffrage movement and what it takes to stand up for what you believe in.
Ben’s Guide to U.S. Government for Kids
Kids can get an overview of the federal government and how it works appropriate to their age level.
Includes links to all kids pages on government websites and a section designed to teach kids about reading and interpreting maps & statistics.
Kids Voting USA
Program that allows students to participate in the election by filling out an actual ballot that mirrors the one completed by adults. The website also provides classroom activities and instructional materials on the democratic process.
Library of Congress: The Learning Page for teachers
For teachers, with lots of resources and activities about the election process.
PBS Kids Democracy Project
Kids can learn about the role of government, voting and voting rights.
Website that encourages parents to introduce their children to the democratic process by taking them to the polls on Election Day. Includes other ideas for getting children more involved in the political process, such as holding dinner table debates and participating in polls created especially for kids.
Declare Yourself by various authors (Collins, 2008). Young Adult. Declare Yourself was created by 55 actors, musicians, athletes, writers, and political figures to demonstrate the importance of voting to young people. Contributors include Alice Walker, Maya Angelou, and America Ferrera.
Teen Power Politics: Make Yourself Heard by Sara Jane Boyers (Twenty-First Century Books, 2000). Learn about politics, including voting rights, activism and the election process, and get inspired to make your voice heard.
The United States Constitution: What It Says, What It Means: A Hip Pocket Guide, JusticeLearning.org ( Oxford University Press, 2005) An in-depth look at the entire text of the U. S. Constitution, annotated with detailed explanations of its terms and contents. Each Amendment and Article is accompanied by sidebar material on the history of its application, including profiles of important Supreme Court cases, texts of related primary source documents, and contemporary news articles. Double page timelines for several of the Articles and all the Amendments highlight important events and legal cases.
Don’t Know Much About History: Everything You Need to Know About American History but Never Learned by Kenneth C. Davis (Perennial, 2001). A fun, readable primer on American history written in a question and answer format.
The One-Hour Activist by Christopher Kush (Jossey-Bass, San Francisco , 2004) This book is your guide to influencing lawmakers, candidates, and reporters. It reveals fifteen powerful, proven grassroots actions that persuade lawmakers and candidates to see things your way.
Politics for Dummies by Ann DeLaney (Hungry Minds, 2002). Basic information for learning about and getting involved in politics.
FairVote the Center for Voting and Democracy
The organization works for election reform and has information on its website about election issues and possible solutions, including Instant Runoff Voting.
A directory of federal agencies sorted alphabetically as well as hierarchically. The directory includes links to the websites for each agency. The website is a partnership of Louisiana State University and the Federal Depository Library Program.
The Government Printing Office (GPO)
GPO is the Federal Government’s primary centralized resource for gathering, cataloging, producing, providing and preserving published information in all its forms. Use this site to find any government document from the federal budget to the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents.
The US Government’s Official Web Portal
As the U.S. government’s official web portal, this site makes it easy for the public to get U.S. government information and services on the web.
The Kid’s Guide to Social Action: How to Solve the Social Problems You Choose – And Turn Creative Thinking Into Positive Action by Barbara A. Lewis (Free Spirit Publishing, 1998). The stories of kids who’ve made a difference will inspire young activists, and the how-to sections (on writing letters, creating petitions, fundraising, getting media coverage and more) will give kids and adults the skills they need to change the world.
Start Something: You Can Make a Difference by Earl Woods (Simon & Schuster, 2006). Ages 9-12. Written by the father of successful pro-golfer Tiger Woods, Start Something gives advice on how to be a valuable member of the community.
Generation Fix by Elizabeth Rusch (Beyond Words Publishing, 2002) A series of inspiring stories of young people who have made a difference. These preteens and teens raised money for school supplies for needy children, testified against a ban on gay marriage, collected boxes of cereal for the hungry and initiated a variety of other community service and social action projects.
Generation React: Activism for Beginners by Danny Seo (Ballantine Books, 1997). A highly readable guide with simple, practical tips for teens and adults who are interested in becoming activists.
It’s Your World- If You Don’t Like It, Change It: Activism For Teenagers by Mikki Halpin (Simon Pulse, 2004). Young Adult. A guide for teenagers who wish to become activists, It’s Your World provides an overview of several topics, including animal rights, women’s rights, and civil liberties, and provides ideas for getting involved. Includes a list of additional resources.
People Power: A Look at Nonviolent Action and Defense by Susan Neiburg Terkel (Penguin Books, 1996). A primer on the use of nonviolence as a strategy for social change. Readers learn the true meaning of nonviolence, the history and success of nonviolent movements and methods for putting the principles of nonviolence into practice.
Take Action: A Guide to Active Citizenship by Marc Kielburger and Craig Kielburger (Gage Learning Corporation, 2002). Learn the practical tools you’ll need to take action on issues that matter, including raising funds and awareness, writing petitions, surveys and letters, using the media and holding meetings.
Youth: The 26% Youth Solution by Wendy Schaetzel Lesko and Emanuel Tsourounis (Activism 2000 Project, 1998). Advice and strategies for taking action, influencing decision makers and using the press.
Just Add Consciousness: A Guide to Social Activism by Oxfam America. This practical how-to manual is available as a free pdf online. You’ll learn letter-writing techniques, how to meet with your congressperson, effective ways to use the media and tips on organizing a demonstration.
Provides tools you can use to make a difference in your world and community such as online petitions and other “take action” opportunities.
Congress Action Alerts
Allows the user to send emails to Congress on a variety of issues on behalf of several different organizations.
Website that allows individuals to post campaigns that pledge to take a specific action if a certain number of people sign up.
Busy O’Brien and the Great Bubble Gum Blowout by Michelle Poploff, illustrated by Abby Carter (Walker and Company, 1990). This out-of-print book (find it at your library) tells the story of kids trying to raise money for the local meals-on-wheels program.
Kid Cash: Creative Money-Making Ideas by Joe Lamancusa (TAB Books, 1999). A collection of projects that will encourage kids to earn some money – perhaps for charity. From the traditional to the creative.
Welcome to Starvation Lake by Gloria Whelan (Golden Books, 2000). A group of fourth graders entices a rock band to play a concert to benefit the school library.
Generation React: Activism for Beginners by Danny Seo (Ballantine Books, 1997). Seo has fundraising down to an art form. Read Chapter 2 (“Super Easy Fund-raising”) before starting a project. He has ideas that will save you time and earn you bigger bucks.
HUMAN RIGHTS AND PEACE
Preschool and Early Elementary
Across the Alley by Richard Michelson (Putnam Juvenile, 2006). Ages 4-8. The story of two boys, Abe and Willie, who become friends despite racial differences by talking through their bedroom windows at night and sharing their talents.
An Apple for Harriet Tubman by Glennette Tilley Turner (Albert Whitman & Company, 2006). Ages 4-8. An Apple for Harriet Tubman is the story of the life of Harriet Tubman, from her childhood working in the apple orchard on a plantation to her adulthood as a free woman and the conductor on the Underground Railroad.
For Every Child by Caroline Castle (Phyllis Foelman Books, 2002). Using simple text and illustrations from acclaimed artists, this book portrays 14 of the principles of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Freedom River by Doreen Rappaport (Hyperion Book, 2007). Ages 4-8. The true story of John Parker, an African-American businessman who was able to buy his own freedom and then help free other slaves through the Underground Railroad.
Henry’s Freedom Box by Ellen Levine (Scholastic Press, 2007). Ages 4-8. The amazing (and true) story of a slave who escaped to freedom by mailing himself in a crate to Philadelphia.
The Other Side by Jacqueline Wilson (Putnam Juvenile, 2001). Ages 4-8. The story of Clover and Annie, two young girls who are able to become friends despite the racial divide in their community.
Passage to Freedom: The Sugihara Story by Ken Mochizuki (Lee & Low Books, 2003). Ages 4-8. The story of Chiune Sugihara, the Japanese diplomat who helped free thousands of Jews during the Holocaust.
The Peace Bell by Margi Preus (Henry Holt and Co., 2008). Ages 4-8. Yuko’s grandmother never expects to see her town’s temple bell again when it is taken away to be used as scrap metal during World War II, but it is later found and returned as a gesture of friendship by the United States. Based on the true story of the American-Japanese Friendship Peace Bell.
The Peace Book by Todd Parr (Little, Brown Young Readers, 2005). Ages 4-8. In this cheerful, brightly-colored picture book, Todd Parr explains the concept of peace in words that children will understand.
Rabbit and Squirrel: A Tale of War and Peas by by Kara LaReau, (Harcourt Children’s Books, 2008) the perfect combination of hilarious story telling and insight into the human condition, all for kids under eight.
Smoky Night by Eve Bunting (Voyager Books, 1999). Ages 4-8. Inspired by the L.A. race riots and the civil rights movement, this is the story of a neighborhood that learns to bridge differences during hard times.
The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf (Viking Juvenile, 1936). Ages 4-8. The story of a gentle bull who would much rather sit under a tree smelling the flowers than fighting with the other bulls.
The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles (Scholastic Paperbacks, 2004). Ages 4-8. The story of the only African-American child to attend a New Orleans elementary school after desegregation in 1960.
Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold (Dragonfly Books, 1996). Ages 4-8. The struggles of a close-knit African-American family living in Harlem in 1939.
Wangari’s Trees of Peace by Jeanette Winter (Harcourt Children’s Books, 2008). Ages 9-12. The story of Wangari Maathai, the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner who has planted over 30 million tees in Kenya.
We Are All Born Free by Amnesty International (Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2008.) Ages 4-8. Published by Amnesty International, We Are All Born Free is an illustrated, commemorative edition of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly after the atrocities of World War II. Royalties from the sale of the book are donated to Amnesty International.
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank (Bantam, 1993). Ages 9-12. The classic story of a courageous young Jewish girl who is forced to hide in an attic to escape persecution by the Nazis.
Belle Teal by Ann M. Martin (Scholastic Paperbacks, 2004). Ages 9-12. The story of a little girl who stands up for her beliefs when her community is shaken by the controversy resulting from desegregation.
Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis (Laurel Leaf, 2004). Ages 9-12. The story of Bud Caldwell, a young African-American boy growing up in 1930s Michigan who is on the run from abusive foster homes and is convinced that a famous standup bass player is his father.
The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen (Puffin, 2004). Ages 9-12. Twelve-year-old Hannah is tired of hearing her relatives talk constantly about their memories of the Holocaust. However, when she is transported back in time to a 1940s Polish village, she learns how important it is to remember.
Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis (Scholastic Press, 2006). Ages 9-12. The story of Elijah, the first free-born African-American in his Buxton, Canada settlement and his brave attempts to help free a group of slaves.
Frederick Douglass: Rising Up From Slavery (Sterling Biographies) by Frances E. Ruffin (Sterling, 2008). Ages 9-12. Biography of the former slave who became one of the central figures of the abolitionist movement.
The Friendship by Mildred D. Taylor (Puffin, 1998). Ages 9-12. The Friendship is the story of the devastating effects of racism on the friendship of a white man and a black man in Mississippi in the 1930s.
Harriet Tubman: Conductor on the Underground Railroad by Ann Petry (Amistad, 1995). Ages 9-12. Biography of the courageous woman who led over 300 slaves to freedom through the Underground Railroad.
Iggie’s House by Judy Blume (Atheneum/Richard Jackson Books, 2002). Ages 9-12. When an African-American family movies into Winnie’s neighborhood, she must confront prejudice in her community.
The Jacket by Andrew Clements (Aladdin, 2003). Ages 9-12. A young boy learns about prejudice after wrongfully accusing an African-American boy of stealing his brother’s jacket.
Jacob’s Rescue by Malka Drucker (Yearling, 1994). Ages 9-12. The story of a young boy who is rescued by a brave family during the Nazi occupation of Poland
Lincoln and Douglass: An American Friendship by Nikki Giovanni (Henry Holt and Co., 2008). Ages 9-12. The story of the friendship between two great men with common ideals who worked to end slavery in America.
Little Rock Nine by Marshall Poe (Aladdin, 2008). Ages 9-12. Written in graphic novel form, Little Rock Nine is the story of two high school friends, one black and the other white, caught in the middle of the conflict surrounding desegregation of public schools.
Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary D. Schmidt (Laurel Leaf, 2008). Ages 9-12. When the town of Phippsburg, Maine threatens to turn nearby Malaga Island, settled by former slaves, into a tourist spot, Lizzie Bright and the minister’s son, Turner Buckminster, must join together to preserve her home.
Mississippi Bridge by Midred D. Taylor (Puffin, 2000). Ages 9-12. Mississippi Bridge is a powerful and haunting story about the effects of racism and segregation on a town in Mississippi in the 1930s.
Number the Stars by Lowis Lowry (Laurel Leaf, 1998). Ages 9-12. The story of 10-year-old Annemarie Johannesen and her courageous atempts to save her best friend during the Nazi occupation of Denmark in 1943.
Out of Bounds by Beverley Naidoo (HarperTrophy, 2008). Ages 9-12. Out of Bounds is a collection of stories from the point of view of children living in South Africa under the apartheid.
Riding Freedom by Pam Munoz Ryan (Scholastic Paperbacks, 1999). Ages 9-12. The story of Charlotte Parkhurst, a woman who spent most of her life disguised as a man and became the first woman to vote in the state of California.
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor (Puffin, 2004). Ages 9-12. The Newberry Award-winning story of Cassie Logan, a young girl living in Mississippi in the 1930s whose family must deal with poverty and racism.
Rosa by Nikki Giovanni (Square Fish, 2007). Ages 9-12. Rosa is the Caldecott Award-winning book about the life of Rosa Parks, the African-American woman who refused to give up her seat on the bus during a time when blacks and whites did not have equal rights.
Rosa Parks by Rosa Parks and Jim Haskins (Puffin, 1999). Ages 9-12. Rosa Parks’ first-hand account of her involvement in the Civil Rights Movement.
The Slave Dancer by Paula Fox (Aladdin, 2008). Ages 9-12. The story of Jesse Boller, a teenager who is kidnapped and forced to work on a slave ship and the horrors he witnesses there.
Sounder by William H. Armstrong (HarperTrophy, 1995). Ages 9-12. The classic story an African-American family affected by poverty and racism in the South, and their loyal dog, Sounder.
Students on Strike: Jim Crow, Civil Rights, Brown, and Me by John A. Stokes (National Geographic Children’s Books, 2007.) Ages 9-12. Stokes, one of the students who took part in the strike at R.R. Moton High School in 1951 to protest separate schooling for blacks and whites, gives his own first-hand account of the Civil Rights Movement
Through My Eyes by Ruby Bridges (Scholastic Press, 1999). Ages 9-12. An account of the life of Ruby Bridges, the first African-American student at an all-white elementary school in New Orleans, as seen through her own eyes.
The Watsons Go To Birmingham – 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis (Laurel Leaf, 2000). Ages 9-12. When Kenny’s parents decide that his older, troublemaker brother, Byron, should be removed from the bad influences of the city for the summer, the family heads to Birmingham, Alabama, just in time to witness one of the most terrible incidents to occur in response to the Civil Rights Movement: the burning of the Sixteenth Avenue Baptist Church with four little girls inside.
Witness by Karen Hesse (Scholastic Paperbacks, 2003). Ages 9-12. When a small town in Vermont is infiltrated by the Ku Klux Klan, it is met with both support by some of the townspeople and trepidation by others. Told through the voices of both the victims and victimizers, the story shows how a small town can be gripped by prejudice, and how ultimately, the rights of the many overcome the hatred of the few.
Amos Fortune, Free Man by Elizabeth Yates (Puffin, 1989). Young Adult. First published in 1951, Amos Fortune, Free Man is the story of a man who is captured and sold into slavery, but is eventually able to buy his own freedom and that of other slaves.
Face Relations: Eleven Stories About Seeing Beyond Color by Marilyn Singer (Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, 2004). Young Adult. A collection of short stories that explore race relations in American high schools.
The Glory Field by Walter Dean Myers (Scholastic Paperbacks, 2008). Young Adult. The Glory Field traces the history of one African-American family, the Lewises, all the way from the beginnings of slavery, through the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement, to a family reunion in the 1990s.
Irrepressible Spirit: Conversations with Human Rights Activists by Susan Kuklin (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1996). Powerful interviews with courageous people who are fighting for human rights. The stories are searing, but the message is hopeful.
Peace Jam: A Billion Simple Acts of Peace by Ivan Suvanjieff (Puffin, 2008). Young Adult. Peace Jam profiles Nobel Peace Laureates (such as the Dalai Lama and the Archbishop Desmond Tutu) and their work with teens in the PeaceJam movement, and provides tips on how the reader can get involved.
Stand Up, Speak Out: A Book About Children’s Rights (Two-Can Publishing, 2001). An examination of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child through the drawings and writings of young people around the world.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (Grand Central Publishing, 1988). Young Adult. The story of two children, Scout and Jem, and their father’s attempt to defend the honor of an African-American man who has been wrongfully accused of a serious crime.
Warriors Don’t Cry by Melba Pattillo Beals (Simon Pulse, 2007). Young Adult. The first-hand account of one of the nine black students who was part of the integration of Little Rock Central High School in 1957.
Speak Truth to Power: Human Rights Defenders Who are Changing our World by Kerry Kennedy Cuomo, photographs by Eddie Adams (Crown Publishers, 2000). Portraits and interviews of human rights advocates from around the world. Look at this book with your children so they might know the true meaning of the word “hero.”
We Can All Get Along: 50 Steps You Can Take to Help End Racism by Clyde W. Ford (Dell Publishing, 1994). Learn specific actions you and your family can take to end the scourge of racism, both locally and around the world.
How to Live Your Dream of Volunteering Overseas by Joseph Collins, Stefano DeZerega and Zahara Heckscher (Penguin Books, 2002). Everything you need to know about being an international volunteer, including organizational profiles, how to volunteer without an organized program and how to pay for it. An index lists the organizations that accept families. You can visit their Web site at www.volunteeroverseas.org.
Volunteer Vacations: Short-Term Adventures That Will Benefit You and Others by Bill McMillon (Chicago Review Press, 2003). A comprehensive guide to volunteer vacationing. Most of the 275 opportunities McMillon discusses are not suitable for younger children, but he has scores of possibilities for families with teenagers.
Action Without Borders: Organizations Promoting Volunteering
This site lists dozens of organizations that sponsor volunteer vacations abroad with links to their Web sites. Take a tour and see what opportunities exist. You’ll need to be selective, because these are not specifically for families.
You’ll find all you need to know about volunteering, working or studying abroad. You can search for volunteer opportunities by country.
International Volunteer Programs Association
This site provides comprehensive information for anyone interested in volunteering abroad.
This organization generally arranges volunteer trips for pre-established groups, but it also has openings for individual volunteers or families within these groups.
Service Leader: Guide to Volunteering Outdoors in Parks and Wilderness Areas
This site provides links to volunteer opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts. If this is your family’s passion, you’ll want to discover the possibilities.
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The Giving Box: Create a Tradition of Giving with Your Children by Fred Rogers (Running Press, 2000). Ages 7 and up. The folktales and fables in this small volume encourage children in the spirit of giving. A “giving box” is also included — a simple way to make donating to charity a family ritual.
A Kid’s Guide to Giving by Freddi Zeiler (Innovative Kids, 2006.) Young Adult.
A Kid’s Guide to Giving challenges young people to give to charitable causes, whether through monetary donations, donations of items, or volunteering.
Robin Hood Was Right: A Guide to Giving Your Money for Social Change by Chuck Collins, Pam Rogers and Joan P. Garner (W.W. Norton & Co., 2000). Supports the dictum “Change, not charity!” Explains how to give your money to get at the roots of social problems, rather than supporting short-term “band-aid” solutions. Provides guidance for choosing worthwhile causes and strategies for social change.
Preschool and Early Elementary
A Charlie Brown Christmas (United Features Syndicate, Inc., 1965). Video. Watch Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang discover the real meaning of Christmas.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss (New York: Random House, 1957). A timeless tale about what Christmas is really about. There’s also a video.
Imani’s Gift at Kwanzaa by Denise Burden-Patmon (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992). Learn about Kwanzaa through Imani, a little girl who reaches out with a special gift to a child with few friends.
Moishe’s Miracle: A Hanukkah Story by Laura Krauss Melmed, illustrated by David Slonim (New York: HarperCollins, 2000). A magical Jewish folktale that teaches the lessons of generosity and sharing.
One Yellow Daffodil: A Hanukkah Story by David A. Adler (Voyager Books, 1999). Ages 4-8. A Holocaust survivor who owns a flower shop meets two children who share with him a very special Hanukkah tradition.
While the Candles Burn: Eight Stories for Hanukkah by Barbara Diamond Goldin, illustrated by Elaine Greenstein (New York: Viking, 1996). “The Different Story,” one of the eight Hanukkah tales in this collection, is particularly illustrative of the Jewish concepts of tzedakah (charity) and gemilut hasadim (loving kindness)
Children of Christmas: Stories for the Season by Cynthia Rylant, drawings by S.D. Schindler (New York: Orchard Books, 1987). Six stories that convey how people are able to find joy and comfort in the holidays even under the most difficult circumstances. These poignant tales are likely to spark discussion.
Horrible Harry and the Holidaze by Suzy Kline (Puffin, 2004). Ages 9-12. Harry’s class learns about five different holidays that students in the class celebrate: Three King’s Day, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Korean New Year’s, and Christmas.
Thanks & Giving: All Year Long edited by Marlo Thomas and Christopher Cerf (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2004). A collection of stories, poems and songs by famous authors and celebrities that celebrate gratitude, love, sharing, family and friendship. Royalties from the book benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Alternative Gift Registry
Create a different kind of holiday wish list this year. Created by New American Dream (http://www.newdream.org/), the Alternative Gift Registry de-emphasizes store-bought gifts and focuses on more immaterial gifts, such as time spent with family.
Changing the Present
Give meaningful gifts in honor of loved ones, such as books for children in low income neighborhoods or a roof for a family in need. The website also offers personal fundraising drives and gift registries.
Salvation Army Holiday Angel Tree Program
Consider sponsoring an angel tree in your community this year. In the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program, a Christmas tree is placed in a high-traffic area with tags attached that list the first name, age and gender of a child in need. Individuals can remove a tag and purchase a holiday gift for the child.
You can find more ideas in the book, The Busy Family’s Guide to Volunteering, available at bookstores or by clicking here. If you have ideas to include, we’d love to hear from you. E-mail us at email@example.com.We don’t vouch for any organizations mentioned. We simply provide the information for you to check out.