A Book List for Our Youngest Citizens: Future Voters & Change-makers

As we anxiously await Election Day 2020 there is no better time to begin addressing questions such as these with our “future voters”:

What does it mean to be a good citizen?

What does it mean to be American?

and most importantly…What really makes America great?

This curated list of texts cover a variety of topics around citizenship, equality, voting rights, presidents, etc., as well as countless trailblazers and changemakers who forged a path to a more equal and just country. With these books we encourage our youngest citizens to remain hopeful and believe in the possibility of improving so that they, and future generations, will live in a better country and world than we do now.

Peaceful Fights for Equal Rights

Written by Rob Sanders & Illustrated by Jared Andrew Schorr

Protesting. Standing up for what’s right. Uniting around the common good—kids have questions about all of these things they see and hear about each day. Through sparse and lyrical writing, Rob Sanders introduces abstract concepts like “fighting for what you believe in” and turns them into something actionable. Jared Schorr’s bold, bright illustrations brings the resistance to life making it clear that one person can make a difference. And together, we can accomplish anything.

V is for Voting

Written by Kate Farrell & Illustrated by Caitlin Kuhwald

V Is for Voting is an ABC book that introduces progressive families to concepts like social justice and civil rights and reminds readers that every vote counts!

A is for active participation.
B is for building a more equal nation.
C is for citizens’ rights and our duty.
is for difference, our strength and our beauty.

An engaging introduction to the tenets of democracy, V Is for Voting is a playful, poetic, and powerful primer about the importance of voting and activism. 

The Night Before Election Day

Written by Natasha Wing & Illustrated by Amy Wummer

Wave your flags! It’s time to vote! Election Day is right around the corner in the latest big moment to be celebrated in Natasha Wing’s best-selling series.

Yes! It’s almost here. And the big question is: Who will be our next president? Will our leader be a he or a she? A young citizen gives her take on politics and Election Day in this charming story (featuring a colorful sticker sheet!), told in the style of Clement C. Moore’s holiday poem.

Equality’s Call: The Story of Voting Rights in America

Written by Deborah Diesen & Illustrated by Magdalena Mora

A right isn’t right
till it’s granted to all…

The founders of the United States declared that consent of the governed was a key part of their plan for the new nation. But for many years, only white men of means were allowed to vote. This unflinching and inspiring history of voting rights looks back at the activists who answered equality’s call, working tirelessly to secure the right for all to vote, and it also looks forward to the future and the work that still needs to be done.

Vote for Our Future!

Written by Margaret McNamara & Illustrated by Micah Player

Every two years, on the first Tuesday of November, Stanton Elementary School closes for the day. For vacation? Nope! For repairs? No way! Stanton Elementary School closes so that it can transform itself into a polling station. People can come from all over to vote for the people who will make laws for the country. Sure, the Stanton Elementary School students might be too young to vote themselves, but that doesn’t mean they can’t encourage their parents, friends, and family to vote! After all, voting is how this country sees change–and by voting today, we can inspire tomorrow’s voters to change the future.

The Power Book: What is it, Who has it, and Why?

Written by Claire Saunders, Georgia Amson-Bradshaw, Minna Salami, Mik Scarlet, and Hazel Songhurst & Illustrated by Joelle Avelino, Forward by Roxanne Gay

What makes you the boss of me? What makes a king a king, or a queen a queen? Why can some people vote for their leaders, but other people can’t? Does having lots of money make you powerful? Why are there fewer female scientists, leaders, and artists than men in history books?

These are things that kids wonder about. The Power Book answers these and other questions in a relatable way for young people, including thought-provoking discussions on challenging topics, like war, bullyingracismsexism, and homophobia. You will gain an understanding of your place in your family, your school, and the world, and will discover ways in which you can use your own power to shape the future.

I Voted: Making a Choice Makes a Difference

Written by Mark Shulman & Illustrated by Serge Bloch

I Voted explains the concept of choosing, individually, and as a group, from making a simple choice: “Which do you like better, apples or oranges?”, to selecting a class pet, to even more complicated decisions, like electing community representatives.

You may not always get want you want, but there are strategies to better your odds!

Dictionary for a Better World: Poems, Quotes, and Anecdotes from A to Z

Written by Irene Latham & Charles Waters, Illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini

How can we make the world a better place? This inspiring resource for middle-grade readers is organized as a dictionary; each entry presents a word related to creating a better world, such as ally, empathy, or respect. For each word, there is a poem, a quote from an inspiring person, a personal anecdote from the authors, and a “try it” prompt for an activity.

Get Up, Stand Up

Adapted by Cedella Marley & Illustrated by John Jay Cabuay

A heartfelt and meaningful book that brings Bob Marley’s music to life in a new way: As a young girl goes on with her day in school, she comes across several instances of teasing and intimidation. But with loving action and some help from her friends, she’s able to make things right for herself and others.

Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing

Written by James Weldon Johnson & Illustrated by Jan Spivey Gilchrist

Written by civil rights leader and poet Johnson in 1899, this anthem is sung throughout America. The song is recognized as a testimonial to the struggle and achievements of African-American people – past, present, and future. Featuring stunning, emotionally charged paintings by an award-winning illustrator, this picture book is a treasure for readers of all ages and backgrounds.

When Penny Met Potus

Written by Rachel Ruiz & Illustrated Melissa Manwill

From debut author Rachel Ruiz, When Penny Met POTUS is a unique and clever picture book about a young girl whose mother works for the president of the United States. Penny has heard the term POTUS over and over but doesn’t know what it means―and her imagination runs wild! When she spends a day at the office with her mother, she asks a few questions, looks around, and tries to discover just who―or what― POTUS is.

Americans

Written by Douglas Wood & Illustrated by Elizabeth Sayles

What really makes Americans great?

Americans are different from one another in many ways. But despite these differences, Americans share certain ways of doing and being that hold us all together. From the Fourth of July to the Bill of Rights, Douglas Wood and Elizabeth Sayles share the story of what it is to be American.

Grace for President

Written by Kelly DiPucchio & Illustrated by LeUyen Pham

“Where are the girls?” When Grace’s teacher reveals that the United States has never had a female president, Grace decides she wants to be the nation’s first and immediately jumpstarts her political career by running in her school’s mock election! The race is tougher than she expected: her popular opponent declares that he’s the “best man for the job” and seems to have captured the votes of all of the class’s boys. But Grace is more determined than ever. Even if she can’t be the best man for the job, she can certainly try to be the best person!

This timely story not only gives readers a fun introduction to the American electoral system but also teaches the value of hard work, courage, independent thought — and offers an inspiring example of how to choose our leaders.

Granddaddy’s Gift

Written by Margaree King Mitchell & Illustrated by Larry Johnson

When her granddaddy becomes the first Black registered voter in their small Mississippi town, Little Joe learn about determination and courage in the face of prejudice.

The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch

Written by Chris Barton & Illustrated by Don Tate

John Roy Lynch spent most of his childhood as a slave in Mississippi, but all of that changed with the Emancipation Proclamation. Suddenly people like John Roy could have paying jobs and attend school. While many people in the South were unhappy with the social change, John Roy thrived in the new era. He was appointed to serve as justice of the peace and was eventually elected into the United States Congress.

Vote!

Written & Illustrated by Eileen Christelow

Eileen Christelow’s Vote! has everything you need to know about voting and how our democracy works—parties, voter registration, campaigns, rallies, debates, Election Day, even recounts! Topics are presented in a clear, kid-friendly graphic format as the story of a local election unfolds, with hilarious commentary by the candidates’ pets.

Rebel Voices: The Global Fight for Women’s Equality and the Right to Vote

Written by Eve Lloyd Knight & Illustrated by Louise Kay Stewart

A timely, beautiful and bold compendium of women around the world who said times up on inequality. Rule Breakers. Risk Takers. Rebel Women. Law Makers. This book is a celebration of women standing up, speaking out, and sticking together to battle inequality and win the vote. In January 2017, more than 3 million women around the world marched, demanding their voices be heard and their rights defended. Rebel Voices is a book about historical events, but truly for our times.

Granddaddy’s Turn: A Journey to the Ballot Box

Written by Michael S. Bandy & Eric Stein, Illustrated by James E. Ransome

Based on the true story of one family’s struggle for voting rights in the civil rights–era South, this moving tale shines an emotional spotlight on a dark facet of U.S. history.

Life on the farm with Granddaddy is full of hard work, but despite all the chores, Granddaddy always makes time for play, especially fishing trips. Even when there isn’t a bite to catch, he reminds young Michael that it takes patience to get what’s coming to you. One morning, when Granddaddy heads into town in his fancy suit, Michael knows that something very special must be happening—and sure enough, everyone is lined up at the town hall! For the very first time, Granddaddy is allowed to vote, and he couldn’t be more proud. But can Michael be patient when it seems that justice just can’t come soon enough? This powerful and touching true-life story shares one boy’s perspective of growing up in the segregated South, while beautiful illustrations depict the rural setting in tender detail.

This Is America: The American Spirit in Places and People

Written by Don Robb & Illustrated by Joy Pratt

What is America? It’s the special places that remind us of important events. It’s the people who have dedicated themselves to improving our country. And most of all, it’s the ideals and beliefs that we share. Informative text and bold scratchboard illustrations pay homage to our country’s past and present.

Features a diverse collection of historical figures from science, entertainment, politics, and education.

ABC What an Informed Voter You’ll Be! 

Written by Modern Kid Press & Illustrated by Jacy Corral

In this A to Z overview of American government, children will be introduced to the structures of government, influential leaders in US history, and individual freedoms afforded to all people.

With topics ranging from the Constitution to Democracy to the Electoral College, complex subjects are simplified with engaging writing and eye-catching illustrations. Even young elementary children will be excited to learn what it means to be an American!

Small and mighty, this book will help raise up the next generation of engaged, informed, VOTING Americans prepared to exercise their democratic rights.

What Do You Do with a Voice Like That?: The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman Barbara Jordan

Written by Chris Barton & Illustrated by Ekua Holmes

Even as a child growing up in the Fifth Ward of Houston, Texas, Barbara Jordan stood out for her big, bold, booming, crisp, clear, confident voice. It was a voice that made people sit up, stand up, and take notice.

So what do you do with a voice like that?

Barbara took her voice to places few African American women had been in the 1960s: first law school, then the Texas state senate, then up to the United States congress. Throughout her career, she persevered through adversity to give voice to the voiceless and to fight for civil rights, equality, and justice.

What Does It Mean to Be American?

Written by Rana DiOrio & Elad Yoran, Illustrated by Nina Mata

What does it mean to be American? Does it mean you like apple pie or fireworks? Not exactly.

This patriotic picture book is perfect for Memorial Day, Independence Day, Election Day, or any day you want to share with your child what it means to be an American. After all, Fourth of July isn’t the only time to celebrate what makes America special!

While politics seem to divide our country into the two opposing teams of red and blue, one truth remains: we are all Americans. But what does that mean?

We Are the Change: Words of Inspiration from Civil Rights Leaders

Sixteen award-winning children’s book artists illustrate the civil rights quotations that inspire them in this stirring and beautiful book. Featuring an introduction by Harry Belafonte, words from Eleanor Roosevelt, Maya Angelou, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. among others, this inspirational collection sets a powerful example for generations of young leaders to come. It includes illustrations by Selina Alko, Alina Chau, Lisa Congdon, Emily Hughes, Molly Idle, Juana Medina, Innosanto Nagara, Christopher Silas Neal, John Parra, Brian Pinkney, Greg Pizzoli, Sean Qualls, Dan Santat, Shadra Strickland, Melissa Sweet, and Raúl the Third.

The Teachers March!: How Selma’s Teachers Changed History

Written by Sandra Neil Wallace & Rich Wallace, Illustrated by Charly Palmer

Reverend F.D. Reese was a leader of the Voting Rights Movement in Selma, Alabama. As a teacher and principal, he recognized that his colleagues were viewed with great respect in the city. Could he convince them to risk their jobs–and perhaps their lives–by organizing a teachers-only march to the county courthouse to demand their right to vote? On January 22, 1965, the Black teachers left their classrooms and did just that, with Reverend Reese leading the way. Noted nonfiction authors Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace conducted the last interviews with Reverend Reese before his death in 2018 and interviewed several teachers and their family members in order to tell this story, which is especially important today.

Finish the Fight!: The Brave and Revolutionary Women Who Fought for the Right to Vote

Written by Veronica Chambers & The Staff of The New York Times

Who was at the forefront of women’s right to vote? We know a few famous names, like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, but what about so many others from diverse backgrounds—black, Asian, Latinx, Native American, and more—who helped lead the fight for suffrage? On the hundredth anniversary of the historic win for women’s rights, it’s time to celebrate the names and stories of the women whose stories have yet to be told.

How Women Won the Vote: Alice Paul, Lucy Burns, and Their Big Idea

Written by Susan Campbell Bartoletti & Illustrated by Ziyue Chen

From Newbery Honor medalist Susan Campbell Bartoletti and in time to celebrate the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in America comes the page-turning, stunningly illustrated, and tirelessly researched story of the little-known DC Women’s March of 1913.

Bartoletti spins a story like few others—deftly taking readers by the hand and introducing them to suffragists Alice Paul and Lucy Burns. Paul and Burns met in a London jail and fought their way through hunger strikes, jail time, and much more to win a long, difficult victory for America and its women.

Citizen Baby: My Vote

Written by Megan E. Bryant & Daniel Prosterman, Illustrated by Micah Player

Citizen Baby knows a thing or two about voting. It’s important to meet the candidates (they love babies!) and to call voters. Plus, you get a sticker at the polls! Children and adults alike will enjoy learning about voting in this adorable, informative board book.

Citizen Baby: My President

Written by Megan E. Bryant & Daniel Prosterman, Illustrated by Micah Player

What does the president do all day? Citizen Baby knows! Learn all about the most powerful person in the world from the most powerful person in the household. Children and adults alike will enjoy learning about the presidency in this adorable, informative board book.

We Came to America

Written & Illustrated by Faith Ringgold

From the Native Americans who first called this land their home, to the millions of people who have flocked to its shores ever since, America is a country rich in diversity. Some of our ancestors were driven by dreams and hope. Others came in chains, or were escaping poverty or persecution. No matter what brought them here, each person embodied a unique gift—their art and music, their determination and grit, their stories and their culture. And together they forever shaped the country we all call home. Vividly expressed in Faith Ringgold’s sumptuous colors and patterns, We Came to America is an ode to every American who came before us, and a tribute to each child who will carry its proud message of diversity into our nation’s future.

Lift as You Climb: The Story of Ella Baker 

Written by Patricia Hruby & Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

“What do you hope to accomplish?” asked Ella Baker’s granddaddy when she was still a child.
Her mother provided the answer: “Lift as you climb.”

Long before the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s, Ella Baker worked to lift others up by fighting racial injustice and empowering poor African Americans to stand up for their rights. Her dedication and grassroots work in many communities made her a valuable ally for leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and she has been ranked as one of the most influential women in the civil rights movement. In the 1960s she worked to register voters and organize sit-ins, and she became a teacher and mentor to many young activists.

When a Bully is President: Truth and Creativity for Oppressive Times

Written & Illustrated by Maya Gonzalez

Bullying is real, but we can change the story by changing the focus. Begin with yourself. Begin the journey of art activist. You are the artist. You are the storyteller. Change yourself. Change the world!

The Next President: The Unexpected Beginnings and Unwritten Future of America’s Presidents

Written by Kate Messner & Illustrated by Adam Rex

Who will be the NEXT president? Could it be you? When George Washington became the first president of the United States, there were nine future presidents already alive in America, doing things like practicing law or studying medicine.

When JFK became the thirty-fifth president, there were 10 future presidents already alive in America, doing things like hosting TV shows and learning the saxophone.

And right now—today!—there are at least 10 future presidents alive in America. They could be playing basketball, like Barack Obama, or helping in the garden, like Dwight D. Eisenhower. They could be solving math problems or reading books. They could be making art—or already making change.

Her Right Foot

Written by Dave Eggers & Illustrated by Shawn Harris

If you had to name a statue, any statue, odds are good you’d mention the Statue of Liberty. Have you seen her?

She’s in New York.
She’s holding a torch.
And she’s in mid-stride, moving forward.
But why?

In this fascinating and fun take on nonfiction for kids, Dave Eggers and Shawn Harris investigate a seemingly small trait of America’s most emblematic statue. What they find is about more than history, more than art. What they find in the Statue of Liberty’s right foot is the powerful message of acceptance that is essential of an entire country’s creation.

What Can A Citizen Do?

Written by Dave Eggers & Illustrated by Shawn Harris

This is a book about what citizenship—good citizenship—means to you, and to us all: Across the course of several seemingly unrelated but ultimately connected actions by different children, we watch how kids turn a lonely island into a community—and watch a journey from what the world should be to what the world could be.

Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters

Written by Barack Obama & Illustrated by Loren Long

In this tender, beautiful letter to his daughters, President Barack Obama has written a moving tribute to thirteen groundbreaking Americans and the ideals that have shaped our nation. From the artistry of Georgia O’Keeffe, to the courage of Jackie Robinson, to the patriotism of George Washington, President Obama sees the traits of these heroes within his own children, and within all of America’s children.

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