Social Justice is the idea that everyone should have the same fundamental rights, regardless of their race, religion, sexuality, socioeconomic status or any other characteristic. ‘We’re all in this together’ has become a familiar pandemic catch phrase but the unfortunate reality is there are many issues that still divide us. While this may not seem like the best time to tackle weighty topics (Lord knows we have enough to deal with), the conversations don’t have to be heavy, and your kids’ existing level of awareness might surprise you. Children have an inherent understanding of difference, and this can be a good jumping off point to talk about social justice.
If you’re ready to talk about social justice in general, or about specific issues that may be relevant to your child or your family, here are a few resources to help.
Books and Guides
Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice. This book, by Marianne Celano, is a gateway to helping children understand difficult issues like discrimination and entitlement, while also teaching compassion and tolerance. It’s a New York Times Bestseller and a National Parenting Product award-winner.
Embracerace.org’s 20 Readings to Embrace Race, Provide Solace & Do Good. A wonderful round-up of children’s books designed to help parents and teachers explain racialized violence and manage the big feelings and emotions that can result from what kids’ are seeing on the news. While you’re there, check out embracerace.org’s additional resources, including webinars.
This printable, downloadable Black Lives Matter colouring book features 30+ pages of facts and illustrations on important topics like tolerance, Black families, and diversity.
The Barefoot Books World Atlas is an atlas for the twenty-first century, showing how all parts of the planet and its people are connected. It features warm illustrations and a host of additional, fun features including a pull-out map, flaps, and information on climate, weather, wildlife and natural resources.
Rebekah Gienapp is an author, educator and community organizer whose website features several resources for talking to kids about race including her list of 15 Picture Books about Social Justice and Human Rights and her free Growing Kid Activists guide.
Activities and Lesson Plans
Education World’s 10 Social Justice Activities for Students to try at home or in the classroom. What can peeling lemons, drawing portraits and dissecting advertisements teach us about social justice? Find out in these varied and fun activities aimed at highlighting the discovery of difference and reinforcing the importance of looking after each other.
Rebekah Gienapp’s 7 ideas for social justice lesson plans. Gienapp has compiled seven lesson plans to teach young students about social justice issues using music, literature, civics, history and more.
The Alberta Teacher’s Association website hosts a wide variety of videos and interactives and other teaching and informational resources on the history of Canada’s residential school system and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
The Canadian Museum of Human Rights’ education program called ‘Be an Upstander’ helps provide older kids, teenagers and adults with some of the tools, information and inspiration they need to advocate for human rights in different areas of life including education, migrant work, and anti-bullying. Use this website to learn about the role of the United Nations, read national and international case studies, and start charting the best course forward towards human rights advocacy.
What better way to jump into a discussion about social justice than by watching 22-year old Amanda Gorman’s inauguration poem “The Hill We Climb”? Gorman herself called it ‘a message of hope, unity, and healing.’ Then check out the Library of Congress’s additional resources on understanding and discussing her work.
Activist, Writer, Poet and Performer Staceyann Chin’shas a YouTube channel dedicated to sharing life, parenting and love lessons through conversations with her daughter Zuri. Staceyann and Zuri talk about everything from the amazingness of Black girls, to anti-smoking and Santa Claus.
YouTuber Ash Hardell shares the ABCs of LGBTQ in her video series aimed at demystifying some of the topics around sexuality and identity that parents and educators may be hesitant to tackle, including pronouns, gender, and being non-binary. While not age-appropriate for all children, parents themselves may benefit from watching Ash’s friendly, straightforward approach to the topic of sexuality.
What are universal human rights? Benedetta Berti’s short Ted Ed video explains the basis of modern human rights law, what these rights mean, and how, despite so many legal protections, some people’s rights are continually and egregiously violated every day around the world. Avoiding complicated legal jargon, Berti also explains why such violations matter and why they can be difficult to punish.
Podcasts and Social Media
The Great Horizons Parenting Podcast is geared to parents of children ages infant to 8 and aims to separate fact from fiction while giving parents the confidence they need to parent effectively. Episode #26 is available on YouTube and titled Important Conversations About Social Justice for Kids. This episode in particular helps parents tackle the big questions of racism and social justice with their young children in practical, developmentally appropriate ways.
@theconsciouskid – The Conscious Kid is a research, education and policy organization dedicated to promoting healthy racial identity development in youth. Visit their website, and social media feeds for information on how to talk to kids about race, age-appropriate education resources, key terms in racial literacy, support for racial trauma and other race-related issues.
@teachandtransform – Anti-racist/anti-bias educator Liz Kleinrock’s Instagram account is one-stop shop for current, informative, classroom-appropriate resources dedicated to social justice issues including Asian-American violence, the history of policing and more.
@itgetsbetter – It Gets Better is a non-profit organization determined to help uplift, empower and connect LGBTQ+ youth around the world. Check out their social media and website for education resources, inspirational quotes from famous LGBTQ+ people, and tips on safety, self-care and much more.