I don’t know if these books are actually going to make your baby into a social justice warrior one day. Regardless, when I’m reading books to my baby, I do worry when they illustrate ancient gender roles, or when they are white washed. As a social justice warrior myself, it’s important to me to be able to read books to my baby that promote positive messaging about diversity, social justice, and just being a good person.
This is part 1 of a series of baby books I’m going to recommend. I figure that releasing 5 at a time makes the list easier to get through, and it also gives me a chance to hear YOUR recommendations and potentially add them to future lists.
For now, these are some of our favourites from our bookshelf. We’ve actually read them, so I can actually vouch for them. I love them, Avery loves them, and they have socially conscious messaging that support diversity and compassion for others.
Full disclosure: this post contains affiliate links.
Fuller disclosure: This is my first time trying out affiliate links, and my approval into Amazon’s affiliate program is still pending – I need to drive 3 sales in order for my website to be approved for the program. I won’t always make posts this link-heavy, but I’ve been wanting to publish this book list for a while, and I decided it was time to try my hand at bringing in a few pennies for the links I want to share anyway. I will still only post links for books/products that I really, really recommend.
Book List for Raising a Socially Conscious Kid: Part 1
5. The Story of Ferdinand, by Munro Leaf
Notes: This is a cute little book about a young bull named Ferdinand. This book would have packed a more powerful social justice punch a decade ago when it was even more unacceptable for little boys to be interested in stereotypically feminine activities, but hypermasculinity is still rampant, and children and parents everywhere still need to be reminded that boys don’t have be stereotypical boys to be awesome. The reason why I like this book over others with similar messages (like My Princess Boy) is because Ferdinand is non-human, so there are no concerns about racial diversity. I also really liked the ultimate message of non-violence in this book.
Socially Conscious Message(s): boys don’t have to be masculine to be awesome; non-violence is awesome
Types of Diversity it Encompasses: gender expression (masculinity).
Board Book Available: No
4. Mama, Do You Love Me?, by Barbara M. Joosse
Notes: This book makes the list solely because it celebrates a marginalized, vulnerable culture, Inuit culture. It’s refreshing to see representation of Inuit culture, and it helps me to keep my daughter’s book shelf full of diversity. We also love this book because it tells a beautiful story we can all relate to about the unconditional nature of a mother’s love. Here’s an excerpt to show some of the awesomeness of this book’s message. It’s dialogue between a child, who is testing the limits of their mother’s love, and the mother, who reassures the child that even if she is angry at the child (or scared), she will always love her child.
What if I turned into a polar bear and I was the meanest bear you ever saw and I had sharp , shiny teeth, and I chased you into your tent and you cried?
Then I would be very surprised and very scared. But still, inside the bear, you would be you, and I would love you.
The illustrations are also bright and colourful and really catch a baby’s eye.
Socially Conscious Message(s): teaches about an underrepresented culture, a parent’s love is the same across cultures
Types of Diversity it Encompasses: Racial/Cultural (not enough literature represents Indigenous cultures)
Board Book Available: Yes
3. What Does It Mean To Be Kind? by Rana DiOrio
Notes: One of my favourite ways this book suggests to be kind is …”allowing yourself to make and learn from your mistakes”. This is such an important lesson for raising allies and social justice advocates, because being afraid of making mistakes is a huge barrier when trying to learn about others and do right by them. A note is about the illustrator’s attempt to represent diverse races: There is an attempt, but every character in the book is pretty light skinned, even the ones who I think are supposed to be Black. But the illustrator did take racial diversity into consideration.
Socially Conscious Message(s): celebrate differences, have empathy and compassion for others
Types of Diversity it Encompasses: racial (sort of…), visible disability (there is one wheelchair), gender (sort of – there are some gender-ambigious characters).
Board Book Available: No.
2. What Makes a Baby, by Cory Silverberg
Notes: I bought this book when we first got pregnant. It is unbelievably inclusive. Like, you didn’t know a book could be so inclusive. It tells the story of how a baby is made by making reference to parts of the body that are required (i.e., egg, sperm, uterus), and does not make reference to gender (as in, there’s none of that “when a mommy and a daddy love each other very much” barf-inducing crap). I also love that all of the characters are various colours of the rainbow, from blue to green to brown. This book is effectively for everybody, from any ethnic background, from any family dynamic. Cory Silverberg also wrote a book called Sex Is a Funny word that I bought (I pre-ordered it because I love this author so much), but that’s for older kids.
Socially Conscious Message(s): families come in all forms, people come in all colours
Types of Diversity it Encompasses: race, gender, sexual orientation
Board book available: No
1. Counting on Community, by Innosanto Nagara
Notes: An adorable little book with a strong social consciousness message. This book is a counting book (One stuffed piñata, Two neighbour friends, Three urban farmers, etc.), but it’s far from your everyday baby’s counting book. The images and words will expose your baby to various cultures and ethnicities, and to pro-social ideas like protesting as a community, and pro-environmental ideas like raising backyard chickens (and ducks!). The words are simple and few and have a nice ring to them, and the images are colourful and interesting (but may be a bit complex for an infant’s brain to interpret). I love that we see our family in this book as the “urban farmers” and that we can see and imagine the friends that my baby will one day make on our street. Lovely book.
Socially Conscious Message(s): growing your own food (environmental), protest to make positive social change, participate in festivities, food and music of cultures besides our own.
Types of Diversity it Encompasses: racial/cultural
Board Book Available: Yes
What social consciousness raising books do you and your littles love?