20 Uplifting & Edifying Picture Books To Read Post-Election

img_2261Last week was quite a doozy for a lot of folks. I rarely talk politics, but let’s just say I needed A LOT of comfort reading (aka Harry Potter) following the election results. Now that some time has passed, I am ready to make strong moves to work towards a better future. The best way I can do this (and that you can too) is to educate our children. Expose them to the values and ideals that you want to see reflected in our country.

As a child, I learned how to be a fundamentally good person from my family, as well as my teachers and friends. But I also learned a good deal from books: Charlotte, Horton, Anne Shirley, Frog & Toad, Madeline, George & Martha, Winnie the Pooh — the list goes on! — all taught me lessons in friendship, kindness, acceptance, dependability, honesty, justice, and much more.

I always try to read my students a diverse selection of books that teach them to be good citizens of the world. However, with an uncertain and potentially calamitous next four years, I want to be even more deliberate with the books I choose to read aloud and suggest for independent reading.

Here are 20 of my favorite picture books  that have a strong focus on empowerment, perseverance, advocacy, equality, empathy, and loads more of the qualities we want to nurture and develop in the young people of our great nation. (It wouldn’t hurt for adults to read and learn from them too!)


each-kindnessEach Kindness, by Jacqueline Woodson
When Maya starts school as a new student, Chloe and her friends notice her ragged clothes and second-hand shoes. Instead of extending hands of friendship, they reject and make fun of her. Later in the school year, Maya stops coming to class and Chloe is full of regret when she realizes that she missed out on a chance to be a kind and accepting person.


thre-bears-in-a-boatThree Bears in a Boat, by David Soman
In this lovely story, three young bears accidentally break their mother’s favorite seashell, but don’t want to ‘fess up. So, they embark on a journey to find a new one instead. They have many adventures on their way, but in the end they realize the importance of honesty and taking responsibility for their actions.
David Soman is best known for his Ladybug Girl books, but this one is hands down my favorite. Not only is the message on point, but the bears are so darn adorable!

amazing-graceAmazing Grace, by Mary Hoffman
When Grace’s teacher announces that the school play is Peter Pan, Grace sets her sights on playing the lead. Her dreams are momentarily shattered when a classmate tells her she can’t play Peter because she’s a girl and not white, but Grace turns to her wise grandmother for advice and learns that she can do whatever she sets her mind to.


rubys-wishRuby’s Wish, by Shirin Yim
Inspired by events in her grandmother’s life, Shirin Yim tells the story of Ruby, a girl growing up in China when women were expected to becomes wives and nothing else. Higher education for women was pretty much unheard of. Ruby bucks cultural norms and aspires to attend university, and with the support of a forward-thinking grandfather, she reaches her goals.


last-stop-on-market-streetLast Stop on Market Street, by Matt de la PenaThis Newbery and Caldecott winner tells the story of young CJ and his grandmother as they take a bus across town after church. Along the way, CJ’s grandmother helps him see the beauty in the world and the importance of gratitude and compassion.



my-three-best-friends-and-me-zulayMy Three Best Friends and Me, Zulay, by Cari Best
From the publisher: Zulay and her three best friends are all in the same first grade class and study the same things, even though Zulay is blind. When their teacher asks her students what activity they want to do on Field Day, Zulay surprises everyone when she says she wants to run a race. With the help of a special aide and the support of her friends, Zulay does just that.

mariama-different-but-the-sameMariama: Different but the Same, by Jeronimo Cornelles
Mariama, a young girl from West Africa, immigrates to the a Western country and encounters cultural differences left and right. The language is foreign, the other children’s skin is a different color from hers, but over time she comes to see that these differences are all on the surface. At heart, everyone is the same. I’ll admit, the message in this one is a bit heavy-handed, but give it a try. Sometimes lack of subtlety is what we need to get an idea across.

jacobs-new-dressJacob’s New Dress, by Sarah Hoffman
From the publisher: Jacob loves playing dress-up, when he can be anything he wants to be. Some kids at school say he can’t wear “girl” clothes, but Jacob wants to wear a dress to school. Can he convince his parents to let him wear what he wants? This heartwarming story speaks to the unique challenges faced by boys who don’t identify with traditional gender roles.
I really like that Jacob’s teacher tells her students that, “Not very long ago little girls couldn’t wear pants. Can you imagine that?” Although it may not seem like it at times, we have made progress, friends!



brave-girlBrave Girl: Clara Lemlich and the Shirtwaist Makers, by Michelle Markel
As a young teen, Ukrainian immigrant Clara Lemlich worked in a shirtwaist factory to help make money for her family. But when she realized that she and her fellow workers (mostly women) were being mistreated, she took action. In 1909, Clara led “the largest walkout of women workers in U.S. history.” This book will get you fired up and inspire you to make change of your own.

i-have-a-right-to-be-a-childI Have the Right To Be a Child, by Alain Serres
From the publisher: A young narrator describes what it means to be a child with rights — from the right to food, water and shelter, to the right to go to school, to the right to be free from violence, to the right to breathe clean air, and much more. The book emphasizes that these rights belong to every child on the planet, whether they are “black or white, small or big, rich or poor, born here or somewhere else.”

the-family-bookThe Family Book, by Todd Parr
This a favorite among the faculty at my school. In simple but effective text, Parr showcases myriad kinds of families — large or small; one color or many; messy or neat — and highlights the fact that even if families may seem different externally, there are many wonderful things they all have in common.


i-am-jazzI Am Jazz, by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings
From a very young age, Jazz Jennings knew that although she had the body of a boy, she was a girl. This book takes us on her real-life journey as a transgender child in a way that is accessible to young readers.


who-says-women-cant-be-doctorsWho Says Women Can’t Be Doctors?: The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell, by Tanya Lee Stone
Elizabeth Blackwell grew up in a time when the idea of a woman become a doctor was laughable, but did that stop her from kicking butt and becoming the first woman M.D.? Nope! Stone’s fresh and readable prose along with Marjorie Priceman’s bright and fun illustrations  brings this biography to life.

families-families-familiesFamilies, Families, Families, by Suzanne Long
With incredibly cute and goofy illustrations, this book does a great job showing that families can come in all shapes and sizes. It’s not whether you have two dads or one mom or 6 siblings that makes a family. It’s love.


hiawatha-and-the-peacemakerHiawatha and the Peacemaker, by Robbie Robertson
From the publisher: Hiawatha was a strong and articulate Mohawk who was chosen to translate the Peacemaker’s message of unity for the five warring Iroquois nations during the 14th century. This message not only succeeded in uniting the tribes but also forever changed how the Iroquois governed themselves–a blueprint for democracy that would later inspire the authors of the U.S. Constitution.
I just want to give a shout out to the wonderful illustrations by David Shannon. There aren’t any bare behinds like there are in his No, David! books, but these lush paintings will also put a smile on your face.

martins-big-wordsMartin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., by Doreen Rappaport
Through the combination of Doreen Rappaport’s simple but thorough text and Dr. Martin Luther King’s own words, Martin’s Big Words delivers a concise explanation of King’s peaceful fight for civil rights.
It’s a gorgeous book, and if you don’t trust me, then trust the awards it’s won (Coretta Scott King Honor, Caldecott Honor, and more).

separate-is-never-equalSeparate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation, by Duncan Tonatiuh
From the publisher: 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.


lillians-right-to-voteLilian’s Right To Vote: A Celebration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, by Jonah Winter
From the publisher: As an elderly woman, Lillian recalls that her great-great-grandparents were sold as slaves in front of a courthouse where only rich white men were allowed to vote, then the long fight that led to her right–and determination–to cast her ballot since the Voting Rights Act gave every American the right to vote.


emmanuels-dreamEmmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, by Laurie Ann Thompson
Born in Ghana with a deformed leg, Emmanuel was shunned by many of his fellow villagers and had a tough road ahead of him. His mother, however, was a beacon of hope and pushed him to follow his dreams. Through extreme sacrifice and hard work (he would hop 2 miles each way to school!), he has made a true success of himself and now works to better the lives of the differently abled.

we-came-to-americaWe Came To America, by Faith Ringgold
From the publisher: 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.

What books would you add to the list? Share them in the comments!


All book cover images from www.amazon.com.

2 responses to “20 Uplifting & Edifying Picture Books To Read Post-Election”

  1. Jenny Avatar

    I love this list and can’t wait to share these books with Ella!

  2. Linda Covella Avatar

    Thank you for these recommendations!

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