Ages 5 to 8
Everyone at school has “those” shoes, and Jeremy wants some, too. But his family can’t afford new shoes and new winter boots at the same time. Eventually, his shoes fall apart, and he finds a pair of the cool ones at the thrift store, but they don’t fit. Rather than stuff his feet into them, he passes them on to a friend. Though reluctant to share at first, he comes to appreciate what he has, and that he was able to help someone else.
Social justice issues it addresses: Economic differences; giving; examination of wants versus needs.
Ages 4 to 8
Mindfulness expert Sara Marlowe recommends this book, co-written by the actress Jamie Lee Curtis, that rhymes its way through looking closely at the idea of winners and losers, and helping each other. “It has a really gentle way of teaching about advocacy and sticking up for people,” Marlowe says. “It could launch a conversation about how if you are in a more privileged position you are able to use your position to help others.”
Social justice issues it addresses: privilege; competitiveness.
Ages 7 to 9
Simply Read Books
Lillian, 7, is starting at a new school, and needs to bring in something for show-and-tell. But Lillian and her mother had to escape an abusive father and now live at a family shelter, and she doesn’t have anything to bring, which makes her incredibly anxious. This is the story of a girl who realizes that despite her lack of possessions, she has the power of imagination to help her.
Social justice issues it addresses: Gender-based violence; economic inequality.
Ages 4 to 7
Anna’s family are Low German-speaking Mennonites who come to Canada from Mexico each spring to work as farm labourers, since they are unable to make a living at home. This award-winning book with lovely illustrations introduces kids to the effects of migrant work on children and families.
Social justice issues it addresses: Migrant workers; working conditions.
Ages 3 to 8
Shannon Babcock, projector coordinator of Québec Reading Connection, recommends this award-winning picture book about a girl named Malaika who wants a costume for Carnival so she can dance in the parade. Her mother, who had to move away to Canada to find a good job that would support her family, was supposed to send money back for one, but the money doesn’t arrive. Malaika’s grandmother (who is raising her) has a hand-me-down costume that doesn’t quite fit the bill. With the help of her community, Malaika gets to dance in a beautiful custom-made peacock costume.
Social justice issues it addresses: Global immigration; economic differences; community building.
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