Often, children have an innate sense of what equality, justice, and fairness means to them personally. However, it is important that every child understands how rights apply to them and their lives specifically. Not only is it important to understand how they should be treated but knowing the fundamentals of human rights defines how a child should treat others as well. With basic knowledge of human rights comes respect and tolerance of differences, which can empower our youth to tackle injustice and prejudice head on. This in turn will create a happier, healthier, and fairer culture both in the school and out in their community.
While a limited amount of time in school is used to explore and define basic human rights, the lesson plans don’t go nearly far enough in depth as they should. Teaching on this topic creates the foundations of a safe space for children to discuss, explore, form and challenge their own opinions and values.
It can often be hard to discuss heavier topics with small children, but it can be beneficial to explore and discuss by introducing new literature to them. With the help of art and smaller chunks of text, children’s books on human rights can prompt fascinating questions from our young readers. Here’s a few that we think are stellar additions to any home library:
1. I Have the Right to Be a Child by Aurelia Fronty
“I am a child with eyes, hands, a voice, a heart, and rights.” This short book highlights just a few of the many rights represented in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, including the right to an education, to play, to clean air and water, and to be protected from harm.
2. Four Feet, Two Sandals by Karen Lynn Williams and Khadra Mohammed
This book follows relief workers who are bringing donated clothing to the refugee camp in Peshawar. A young girl named Lina discovers a sandal just her size. However, another girl, Feroza, has claimed the other as her own. Eventually the girls work out a way to share the sandals, each wearing the sandals on alternate days, and their friendship grows. When Lina’s family is finally sent to America, Feroza gives her one of the sandals to keep—to always remember their friendship. It is a sentimental book about friendship and connection, yet also briefly explores harder-to-discuss topics.
3. Our Rights: How Kids are Changing the World by Janet Wilson
Offers brief profiles of children around the world who are working to help people in need. Examples include Hanwood from South Korea, who brings attention to issues of bullying; and Anita from India, who helps girls become educated and empowered. Suggestions at the end of the book offer ideas for taking action and learning more. It is an empowering book that showcases what kids are doing to change the world as we know it.
4. The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles
About a young woman at the forefront of school desegregation in 1960 after the Brown vs. Board. The book shows her fortitude in enduring harassment from angry mobs to get a quality education. It is a harder topic to discuss yet gracefully explains the trials and tribulations that occurred to successfully desegregate public education.
5. This Day in June by Gayle E. Pitman (Author), Kristyna Litten (Illustrator)
A colorful and vivacious book celebrating LGBTQ history with a glimpse into the struggles for greater equality. The handy note to parents and caregivers offers additional ways of addressing issues of sexual orientation with young children. Colorful pages and interesting characters keep children entertained while introducing them to historic moments within LGBTQ history.