Our students (and probably us too) seem to think that unless we can do some major task or undertaking, we won't make a difference or change. We think we need to be famous to have people listen to us, or lots of money to buy what we want. However, small everyday actions can spread and inspire change... change that should be acknowledged and shared. One of my goals this school year is to motivate my students to be agents of change and the way we do that is by building our character, educating ourselves, and implementing acts to make our school, community and world a better place.
I began searching for books to read and found some common themes that I'm going to bring up with my students. Check out the 4 themes below with possible books to check out as well!
Check out these two read alouds that show how small acts can have major impacts.
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I've read both of these in years past. Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson leaves the kids in a bit of an awe... the ending isn't what you typically expect. We do an activity with stones and water after we read it... you'll see what I'm talking about if you pick it up and read! Ordinary Mary's Extraordinary Deed by Emily Pearson has a great message and shows the chain reaction of how doing something good can spread happiness and kindness. It's very repetitious, so get ready!
It's important to find something that we are truly passionate about because this is going to take time and effort. If we find and follow something that matters, we are more likely to invest the time and energy necessary to make a difference and our passion is seen and heard more easily to others. When we follow something that matters, we are able to see a problem, but more importantly, start imagining solutions.
Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman is one of those classics that can be used in so many ways! I've used this book in the past when talking about gender stereotypes, but it's also great about showing the importance of holding your ground and going after something that is meaningful to you. The second book from Kobi Yamada after What Do You Do With an Idea? is What Do You Do With a Problem? I would highly recommend reading the second book first, which talks about how problems can fog our brains, follow us around, and sometimes feel like they can overtake our lives, yet when you address it, it can teach you something. How great then to go back to the first book and talk about when you have that idea... that solution... what do you do with it? Great discussions are to be had!
In our diverse world, we often hear things that seem like, "DUH!" such as, "Everyone deserves to be treated with respect." However, we're naive to think that this actually happens (sad truth). But we still need to stand up when we see injustice and work towards fixing it.
Separate is Never Equal by Duncan Tonatiuh uses a real life story on how a family fought against segregated schools in California. I like showing my students that progress takes time sometimes and persistence. Real world examples remind them of this concept and are great tools to have them connect to.
One of the greatest resources to show how anyone can make a change is through biographies. There are so many amazing stories of people fighting against injustice in a peaceful way. Many of these people are against the odds- they aren't the famous or wealthy individuals we sometimes picture in our minds. Instead they are people who see a problem, have solutions, and have the tenacity to push forward in times of difficulty. I love stories that show young kids as the leaders of change or other minorities that my students can connect to.
These are some of the biographies I really love. Side by Side by Monica Brown reinforces finding others who believe in your dream and working together peacefully for a cause through Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta. The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles is another classic but speaks to students. Empathy questions go great with this read aloud. I just discovered these other two stories that students might not know much about. They also are a bit more advanced so I'd recommend them for upper elementary. Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaste Makers' Strike of 1909 by Michelle Markel highlights a story I had never heard of myself. It's about a young immigrant girl who came to America only to realize she'd need to work in a garment factory to help her family. Low wages and unfair treatment made her realize this was not the America she dreamed of. Even though Clara was a young girl, she made great waves! You'll need to teach into some of the history, but it's a great story! The last book is called For the Right to Learn: Malala Yousafzai's Story written by Rebecca Langston-George. This is a longer picture book, but I love the illustrations and how the author addresses her story. I like this also because the events are pretty recent to show students that change is happening now still. Not to mention, I love a leader who focuses on the power of education.
To help your own students imagine a better world around them and the steps they could do today to make it happen, you may be interested in my Agents of Change Flipbook and Brainstorming Pages.
Check it out in my store below!