Social Justice in Education

Class is in session! A new school year brings new opportunities for students. As we settle into new school routines, it’s important to remember that some students fought against oppression just to be able to go to school. Many children and families have fought hard for the right to have an education. Sometimes, those fights have turned into court battles and have gone all the way to the Supreme Court. There are books on this list for both picture book readers, and chapter book readers. 

To better understand why our schools are the way they are today, we can look at the past to see what hardships other children faced. Some children weren’t allowed to go to school because of the color of their skin, others were not allowed to attend school because of their gender. This booklist is based on real people who have overcome hardships on their paths for a better education. What struggles are different than yours? What struggles are the same? We hope these books will help you learn from others and inspire you to excel!

Social Justice in School

List created by mzmeadows

Kids can make a difference! Read more about how kids have fought for change in the following books.

Malala's first picture book will inspire young readers everywhere to find the magic all around them. As a child in Pakistan, Malala made a wish for a magic pencil. She would use it to make everyone happy, to erase the smell of garbage from her city, to sleep an extra hour in the morning. But as she grew older, Malala saw that there were more important things to wish for. She saw a world that needed fixing. And even if she never found a magic pencil, Malala realized that she could still work hard every day to make her wishes come true.

Ruby Bridges recounts the story of her involvement, as a six-year-old, in the integration of her school in New Orleans in 1960.

Years before the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling Brown v. Board of Education, Sylvia Mendez, an eight-year-old girl of Mexican and Puerto Rican heritage, played an instrumental role in Mendez v. Westminster, the landmark desegregation case of 1946 in California.

Young Ovella rejoices as her community comes together to raise money and build a much-needed school in the 1920s, with matching funds from the president of Sears, Roebuck, and Company and support from Professor James of the Normal School.

A fictionalized friendship between two boys, one white and one black during a landmark civil rights event.

Paula Young Shelton shares her memories of the civil rights movement and her involvement in the historic march from Selma to Montgomery.

Japanese children who are ripped away from their lives and placed in internment camps correspond with their librarian who sends them books and speaks out against the internment camps.

A young girl recalls being torn away from her family and her home to be reeducated in a culture much different than her own.

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