Chapter Books to Fuel a Movement

A growing list of fiction and nonfiction for older kids interested in promoting social justice.

A growing list of fiction and nonfiction for older kids interested in promoting social justice.

Explore history and get motivated to champion equality.

The fiction and nonfiction books below will raise awareness about the history of the United States and the movements that are pushing us closer to equality. Scroll through our extensive list to find books on Civil Rights, Disability Rights, the LGBTQ Movement, Women's Rights, and the Native People's Movement.

Fascinating new research demonstrates that commitment to social justice is a skill that must be practiced and reinforced. By reading these books together, your family can launch a conversation to inspire you to champion equality.

There is significant overlap and interplay between the various movements. Whether you read deeply about a single issue or choose intriguing titles from each section, you'll be learning a great deal about the courage, hope, and compassion behind the legends of American history.

Conversation Starters

  • What does justice mean? What about injustice?

  • Discuss the injustices you learned about in the book. What surprises you?

  • Imagine how you would have felt as the main character.

  • Imagine how you would you have reacted if you had witnessed one of the scenarios or events in the book.

  • What can be learned from considering various points of view?

  • Can you relate this story to anything happening in our community – or our country – today?

  • What would social justice look like in our community? Our state? Our country?

  • What responsibility do each of us have to create a more just and peaceful world?

  • What is difficult about discussing social justice? What can we do better?

  • Let's brainstorm actions we can take, inspired by this book, to make our community more just.

  • How can we be more inclusive at home, school, and around the world?

Choose a category or scroll the extensive list below.

Activism in General

Books for Elementary Students

Generation Fix: Young Ideas for a Better World by Elizabeth Rusch
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. Ages 8 and up.

Stand Up, Speak Out: A Book About Children’s Rights
An examination of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child through the drawings and writings of young people around the world. Ages 9-12.

Young Adult Books

Celebrate People’s History!: The Poster Book of Resistance and Revolution  edited by Josh MacPhee 
A visual history of revolutions in America. Each poster is paired with the historical background of the event. Ages 8 and up.

Peace Jam: A Billion Simple Acts of Peace by Ivan Suvanjieff
This inspiring book profiles Nobel Peace Laureates (such as the Dalai Lama and the Archbishop Desmond Tutu) and their work with teens in the Peace Jam movement, and provides tips on how the reader can get involved. Ages 12 and up.

I Will Make a Difference: Students Aspire to Inspire by Gary Martin Hayes and Adam Christopher Wear
In this inspiring collection, 35 students tell of how they plan to make a difference in the world, and how the steps that they take now and in the future will allow them to reach their full potential.

It’s Your World  If You Don’t Like It, Change It: Activism For Teenagers by Mikki Halpin
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. Ages 12 and up.

Photography as Activism: Images for Social Change by Michelle Bogre
Images can be used to bring attention to much-needed subjects.  An alternative to writing letters and protesting, photography and the pictures taken can have just as much of an impact on its audience.

Take Action: A Guide to Active Citizenship by Marc Kielburger and Craig Kielburger
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.

Civil Rights Movement

Books for Elementary Students

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Amos Fortune, Free Man by Elizabeth Yates
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. Ages 10 and up.

Belle Teal by Ann M. Martin
The story of a little girl who stands up for her beliefs when her community is shaken by the controversy resulting from desegregation. Ages 9-12.

Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
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 stand-up bass player is his father. Ages 9-12.

Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis
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. Ages 9-12.

Frederick Douglass: Rising Up From Slavery by Frances E. Ruffin
Biography of the former slave who became one of the central figures of the abolitionist movement. Ages 9-12.

Freedom's Children: Young Civil Rights Activists Tell Their Own Stories by Ellen S. Levine
This series of compelling eye-witness accounts of key events in the civil rights movement share the perspective of children. Ages 10 and up.

The Friendship by Mildred D. Taylor
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. Ages 9-12.

Harriet Tubman: Conductor on the Underground Railroad by Ann Petry
Biography of the courageous woman who led over 300 slaves to freedom through the Underground Railroad. Ages 9-12.

Iggie’s House by Judy Blume
When an African-American family movies into Winnie’s neighborhood, she must confront prejudice in her community. Ages 9-12.

The Jacket by Andrew Clements
A young boy learns about prejudice after wrongfully accusing an African-American boy of stealing his brother’s jacket. Ages 9-12.

Just Like Martin by Ossie Davis
Written by a famous Civil Rights activist, Ossie Davis’ story tells the tale of fourteen year-old Martin, who is a proud supporter of the Civil Rights Movement until his faith and dedication are shaken following the death of his friends. Ages 10 and up.

Little Rock Nine by Marshall Poe
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. Ages 9-12.

Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary D. Schmidt
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. Ages 9-12.

Mississippi Bridge by Midred D. Taylor
Mississippi Bridge is a powerful and haunting story about the effects of racism and segregation on a town in Mississippi in the 1930s. Ages 9-12.

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
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. Ages 9-12.

Rosa Parks by Rosa Parks and Jim Haskins
Rosa Parks’ first-hand account of her involvement in the Civil Rights Movement. Ages 9-12.

The Slave Dancer by Paula Fox
The story of Jesse Boller, a teenager who is kidnapped and forced to work on a slave ship and the horrors he witnesses there. Ages 9-12.

Sounder by William H. Armstrong
The classic story an African-American family affected by poverty and racism in the South, and their loyal dog, Sounder. Ages 9-12.

Students on Strike: Jim Crow, Civil Rights, Brown, and Me by John A. Stokes
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. Ages 9-12.

Through My Eyes by Ruby Bridges
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. Ages 9-12.

The Watsons Go To Birmingham – 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
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. Ages 9-12.

Witness by Karen Hesse
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. Ages 9-12.

Young Adult Books

A Good Time for Truth: Race in Minnesota by Sun Yung Shin.
Various Minnesota authors share their moving, impassioned perspectives about what life is like as a person of color in one of the whitest states in the nation. Ages 12 and up.

A Wreath for Emmet Till by Maryln Nelson
This collection of sonnets pays tribute to the fourteen-year-old lyched for whistling at a white woman. Ages 12 and up.

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds
An act of violence with an officer causes a basketball team, a school, and a town to take sides, forcing two boys, one black and one white, two grapple with modern racism. Ages 12 and up.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Written as a letter to his fifteen-year-old son, Coates' critically acclaimed, award-winning book beautifully advises “This is your country, this is your world, this is your body, and you must find some way to live within the all of it.” Ages 14 and up.

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose
Nine months before Rosa Parks famously refused to give up her seat, a fifteen-year-old girl fed up with the indignity of Jim Crow kept to her own bus seat. Unlike Parks, Colvin was shunned by her community for her actions. Undaunted, Colvin went on, just a year later, to be plaintiff in the landmark case that took down Jim Crow. This wonderful biography is a celebration of her determination.  Ages 12 and up.

How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon
This timely, critically-acclaimed novel confronts the issues of uncertainty when a community wants to know exactly what happens when a young white man shoots a young black man. Ages 14 and up.

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs
From her teen years to her young life, Linda Brent struggled to survive at the height of slavery prior to the Civil War, even living in an attic for seven years to hide from her master. Based on Jacobs’ own personal experience. Ages 14 and up.

The Glory Field by Walter Dean Myers
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. Ages 14 and up.

March: Books One, Two, and Three by John Lewis
This series of graphic novels by an icon of the civil rights movement details his personal experiences for a young, modern audience. Ages 14 and up.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
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. Ages 14 and up.

Warriors Don’t Cry by Melba Pattillo Beals
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. Ages 12 and up.

We Troubled the Waters by Ntozake Shange
The inspiring collection of poems celebrates a wide range of famous and forgotten milestones in the civil rights movement. Ages 12 and up.

Disability Rights Movement

Books for Elementary Students

Deaf Child Crossing by Marlee Matlin
The earnest story of a growing friendship between a deaf child and a hearing child. Ages 8-12.

The Disability Rights Movement by Deborah Kent
A narrative history of the struggle for people with disabilities to be heard. Ages 9 and up

Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick
Two boys, a tough guy with a learning disability and genius in leg braces, forge a friendship and overcome a bully. (Ages 8-12).

Helen Keller by Margaret Davidson
The story of Helen Keller and her friendship with Annie Sullivan, the woman who taught Helen to read and speak. Ages 7-10.

Louis Braille: The Boy Who Invented Books for the Blind by Margaret Davidson
Biography of Louis Braille, a man who was born blind and went on to develop the Braille system of printing for the blind. Ages 7-10.

Looking After Louis by Lesly Ely
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. Ages 7-10.

Petey by Ben Mikalesen
This story of friendship between an older man with cerebral palsy and an awkward teenager, this story illustrates how far we've come in the movement for equal rights. And it shows us just how strong the human spirit can be. Ages 9-12.

Wonder and Auggie & Me: Three Wonder Stories  by R. J. Palacio
The story of Auggie Pullman captured the attention of the world when it was first published in 2012. Auggie's unusual face and charming personality inspires an entire community to discuss what compassion, empathy, and kindness means in practice. Ages 8 and up.

Young Adult Books

Extraordinary People with Disabilities by Deborah Kent and Kathryn A. Quinlan
Brief stories of 48 famous people who dealt with disabilities, including Thomas Edison, Theodore Roosevelt and Tom Cruise. Ages 11 and up.

The Story of My Life by Helen Keller
Helen Keller's remarkable personal account of her early life. Ages 11 and up.

Owning It: Stories about Teens with Disabilities by Donald R. Gallo
A collection of stories about individuals coping with disabilities and trying to lead normal teenage lives. Ages 12 and up.

LGBTQ Movement

Books for Elementary Students

The Boy in the Dress by David Walliams
This delightful, laugh-out-loud story elegantly teaches older readers lessons in kindness and tolerance. Twelve-year-old Dennis is learning to cope with a stressful home life by finding his own passions and making his own choices, however unorthodox they may be.

Gay & Lesbian History for Kids: The Century-Long Struggle for LGBT Rights, with 21 Activities by Jerome Pohlen
Broaden your understanding of the fight for LGBT rights with this engaging history stretching from Sappho to modern days. Ages 9 and up.

George by Alex Gino
George has grown used to keeping her secret. She goes along with everyone that assumes she's a boy. But more than anything she wants to play Charlotte in Charlotte's Web, so badly that she and a friend make a plan to unveil her secret and be who she really is. Ages 8 to 12.

Young Adult Books

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
This though-provoking story follow two loners, each with challenging home lives and both reacting differently to their homosexuality. Ages 12 and up.

It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living by Dan Savage and Terry Miller
This collection of essays of testimonials from a wide variety of authors illustrates the challenges of growing up LGBT and reminds us all that we can build the life we wish to have. Ages 14 and up.

Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen by Jazz Jennings
Named one of Time Magazine's "25 Most Influential Teens of the Year," Jazz shares her transgender experience and her search for acceptance. Ages 12 and up.

Stonewall: Breaking Out in the Fight for Gay Rightsby Ann Bausum
This outstanding historical account of the movement is written with teens in mind. Ages 12 and up.

Native People's Movement

Books for Elementary Students

The Birchbark House and The Game of Silence by Louise Erdrich
Follow Omakayas and her family through traditional lives and changing seasons, in this award-winning series. As the family faces the challenges of life in the 1860s, readers get a culturally accurate historical account along with a bewitching and nuanced story.  Ages 8-12.

Children of Native America Today by Yvonne Wakim Dennis and Arlene Hirschfelder
A gorgeously-photographed journey through childhood contemporary Indian Country visits children from 26 Nations, including Native Hawaiians and urban Indians. Ages 8-12.

Counting Coup: Becoming a Crow Chief on the Reservation and Beyond by Joseph Medicine Crow
History comes to life in this remarkable autobiography, detailing the life of Crow tribal historian Joseph Medicine Crow.  Ages 5-9.

Navajo Long Walk: Tragic Story of a Proud Peoples Forced March From Homeland by Joseph Bruchac
Beautiful paintings add emotional depth to this detailed exploration of the shameful treatment of the Navajo people, and the ways in which this history continues to impact their communities.
Ages 8-12.

The Unbreakable Code by Sarah Hoagland Hunter
This is the inspiring story of how the Navajo language was used as a military code to save thousands of lives during WWII. Ages 6-8.

Young Adult

Moccasin Thunder: American Indian Stories for Today by Lori Marie Carlson
The ten short stories from contemporary American Indian writers connect past, present, and future hopes of Native young people. Ages 12 and up.

The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
This semi-autobiographical tale of a teen growing up on a reservation tells the story of Indian identity, both tribal and personal. It's also a laugh-out-loud account of a richly drawn, resilient young man coming of age. Ages 12 and up.

The North American Indians Today Series by various authors from Mason Crest Publishers
The fifteen books in this young adult series provide a broad and detailed portrait of modern Native American life. Ages 12 and up. 

Like a Hurricane: The Indian Movement from Alcatraz to Wounded Knee by Paul Chaat Smith and Robert Allen Warrior
This historical account offers a nuanced introduction to the challenges, setbacks, and successes of the Indian movement in the last half of the twentieth century. Though it has the heft of a textbook, it is a compelling and engaging read. Ages 14 and up.

Women's Rights Movement

Books for Elementary Students

Let Me Play: The Story of Title IX - The Law that Changed the Future of Girls in America by Karen Blumenthal
This powerful account of persistence and bravery will be an eye-opener for any young athlete that can't imagine a time when girls weren't allowed to participate. Ages 8-12.

Riding Freedom by Pam Munoz Ryan
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. Ages 9-12.

Rad American Women A-Z: Rebels, Trailblazers, and Visionaries who Shaped Our History... and Our Future by Kate Schatz
Discover some amazing, inspiring stories you may not have heard about before. Even better, this book reminds us all that even though working toward equality isn't easy and isn't always personally successful, every effort pushes us closer to justice as a society. Ages 8 and up.

Secrets on 26th Street by Elizabeth McDavid Jones
This charming fictional account of the suffragette movement gives a sense of what it might have been like to be come of age at that time. Ages 9-12.

You Want Women to Vote, Lizzie Stanton? by Jean Fritz
Introduce young readers to the suffrage movement with this entertaining look at the life and passions of Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Ages 8-12.

Young Adult Books

The Feminist Revolution: The Most Inspiring and Empowering Women in American History - Susan B. Anthony, Margaret Sanger, and Betty Friedan by Jules Archer
This fascinating biography of three women too often overlooked in classroom history books will inspire and motivate a new generation. Ages 12 and up.

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterley
Now a major motion picture, this book reveals the inspiring true story of some of the brightest minds of a generation and the barriers they faced. Ages 12 and up.

With Courage and Cloth: Winning the Fight for a Woman's Right to Vote by Ann Bausum
This book offers an engaging chronicle – including exceptional photographs – of the suffrage movement. Ages 12 and up.

Uprising by Margaret Peterson Haddix
This historical novel brings to life the tragic Triangle Waist Company disaster, weaving together the captivating stories of three immigrant girls. Ages 12 and up.


We at Doing Good Together are committed to expanding this list over time, and look forward to hearing your recommendations in the comments.

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