I read a lot to my four-year-old son Zakir, he’s very curious and asks wonderful, insightful questions, for example why Stick Man felt he needed to leave his family in the first place.
Something that I’ve enjoyed doing recently is reading books around activism, mostly because I want him to understand the world around him, and I want him to learn that he can make a difference, if he really wants to.
Zakir’s reactions to some of these stories are very telling, I’ve tried to share some of them here!
Kindness Rules – Eunice and Sabrina Moyle
Although it’s not a book that focuses on any specific activism, in Kindness Rules a cute little elephants is telling my son how to be kind to others and he loves it! It focuses on etiquette, finding your voice and making sure others are listened to. I feel strongly that Zakir should know how to be kind to the people around him as it forms the basis of all the good that you can do in the world, and the lovely pictures in this book keep him engaged right to the end of the story, a win for both of us!
Courageous People who Changed the World – Heidi Poelman
This book is about people who have tried to make the world a better place. It’s the first time Zakir heard about Abraham Lincoln and Malcolm Luther King. It felt like a momentous occasion for me when I read it to him, even if he was not impressed!
Worm Loves Worm – JJ Austrian
This story is about two worms getting married. They choose to not label themselves as a bride or a groom and this is reflected in what they wear on the big day. Both Cricket and Beatle don’t think that both of the worms can be bride and a groom and should choose one or the other. But Worm and Worm refuse to choose. It’s a great book to show Zakir that we don’t need to conform to people’s ideas of you and that no matter how many insects are trying to get you to change who you truly are you don’t have to.
Woke Baby – Mohogany Browne
This is an inspiring speech about activism more than a story or analogy using animals or insects! The repetition of ‘Up, up, up’ in this story book makes it very easy for Zakir to repeat what is being said. But Zakir is a bit young for this, and he doesn’t engage with the pictures as well as well as an older child might. The concepts were a bit old for Zakir. He asked ‘What’s a dream’?, ‘Why is there a glass ceiling?’ and ‘What’s a revolutionary?’ He also reminded me, ‘You tell me no, Mummy,’ when I read the bit, ‘No one can tell you no’.
A is for Activist – Innosanta Nagara
This is the most commonly known book for toddlers being introduced to activism. Even though it’s a board book, for my four-year-old it might still be too advanced. I’ve found that although he relates very well to the use of the alphabet and rhyming in the book, he does not like looking at the pictures or trying to understand the concepts of all the different messages it’s putting across about values. This was a book that I haven’t succeeded in reading to him without him walking off to play with something else!
The Trouble with Dragons – Debi Gliori
This is a story about not respecting the planet and the consequences of this. The dragons are sad and want to make a change because they don’t want to lose their friends, who might become extinct if they carry on disrespecting the planet. In the story the dragons stop cutting down trees, start to walk everywhere and recycle to help make a difference. The colourful pictures and rhyming of verses as well as the subject of dragons makes it really easy for my son to pick this story up again and again, and the message about how to take care of the planet is easy for him to absorb.
Dream Big Little One – Vashti Harrison
We brought this story for a friend who’d had a girl, but they’d already been gifted it, and we thought we could read it to Zakir instead of returning it. It’s important for him to know about some of the amazing women in the world after-all, and I want some of Zakir’s role models to be women too. I like that I recognise some of the names in this story from my own childhood, and I love that he can see women of colour on every page, and that he can see how much of a difference each of them made in their lives. Zakir relates to the astronaut in this book, and I think any child would find a link to at least one of the people in it. Whenever he plays an astronaut during imaginary play, he says he’s like Mae Jemison!
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Florence is an activist living in Hull. She campaigns on ending HIV stigma and improving the quality of life for people and their families living with HIV.