November 06


Ten Books to Support Young Activists by Rochelle Melander

When I started a writing program for young people in Milwaukee, I had one goal: to create a space for children and teens to tell their stories. The students I’ve worked with over the years dream of changing the world. They’ve written about how they would do it, from buying back guns to mandating recycling programs to encouraging kindness.

Because these young people need to know that writing can make a difference, I told them the stories of people who used their words to educate people about the solar system, advocate for women’s rights, end slavery, save the environment, protest injustice, and more. Those stores became part of my new book, Mightier Than the Sword: Rebels, Reformers, and Revolutionaries Who Changed the World through Writing, a middle grade social justice book pairing life changing writing exercises with the stories of a diverse group of people who changed lives and communities throughout history.

To support young people in using their words and actions, I’ve gathered a list of books to help them. These books include picture books, middle grade, and young adult nonfiction texts—because sometimes young people need a short, inspirational call to action and sometimes they need a how-to manual. These resources invite reflection and action, teach core activism concepts and tools, and show young people how they can make a difference.

Art in Action: Make a Statement, Change Your World by Matthew “Levee” Chavez. The author created the book to help young people discover their mission and use their art to change the world. The book is a how-to guide for creating family, school, and public projects. It guides young people through the art-making process, from goals to finished product.

Peaceful Fights for Equal Rights by Rob Sanders, illustrated by Jared Andrew Schorr. Through simple sentences and vivid illustrations, this picture book presents myriad ways to peacefully protest. In the backmatter, Sanders includes a primer on peaceful protests and a glossary to help readers understand complex words.

Resilient Black Girl: 52 Weeks of Anti-Racist Activities for Black Joy and Resilience by M.J. Fievre. This young adult guidebook takes young Black women through a year of writing exercises. The strategies, writing prompts, and reflection questions will empower young women to deal with racism in their lives, cope with the effects of racism, and achieve their goals.

Say Something by Peter Reynolds. In this picture book, the author encourages young people to use their words and actions to make a difference. From speaking up in personal and public conversations to changing the world by painting pictures and planting gardens, this book celebrates the many ways our words and actions matter.

This Book is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do the Work by Tiffany Jewell, illustrated by Aurélia Durand. Black biracial writer and educator Jewell uses historical anecdotes to educate young readers on the history and fundamental concepts of racism. Each chapter includes activities to engage readers in exploring their own thoughts and feelings. Readers begin by defining their own identity and move through multiple steps to discover how they might use their power to change the world.

This Book is Feminist: An Intersectional Primer for Next-Gen Changemakers by Jamia Wilson, illustrated by Aurélia Durand. In this colorful, interactive primer on feminism, activist and writer Jamia Wilson uses her story and experience to educate readers on core concepts like identity, justice, power, health, and activism. Throughout the book, Wilson shares quotes and stories from changemakers. Through “Call to Action” sidebars, she invites readers to reflect on their own experiences.

The Little Book of Little Activists by Penguin Young Readers. This picture book features the photos and quotes of young people at the 2017 Women’s March on Washington. With an Introduction by Bob Bland, who was the co-chair of the March, and an afterward by Lynda Blackmon Lowery, who wrote Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom, the book provides an inspiring picture of a world where young people stand up and speak out for what’s right.

You Are Mighty: A Guide to Changing the World by Caroline Paul, illustrated by Lauren Tamaki. Every young activist needs handbook for changing the world, and this is it! Each chapter covers a tactic for changing the world, including volunteering, marching, and using social media. The book also profiles influential activists and educates readers on concepts like intersectionality.

Your Voice is Your Superpower: A Beginner’s Guide to Freedom of Speech and the First Amendment) by Jessica and Sandy Bohrer. This picture book asks readers to picture superheroes and their superpowers and then consider that they have their own superpower: their voice! Each page highlights a way that young people are free to use their voice to speak up, including reading books, signing letters, and speaking their truth.

We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices Edited by Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson. Fifty writers and artists pass on their wisdom to the next generation by telling their stories and sharing their poems, letters, and art. The authors encourage young activists to find their voices, share their stories, and persist in the face of difficulty.

Rochelle Melander wrote her first book at seven and has published 11 books for adults. Mightier Than the Sword: Rebels, Reformers, and Revolutionaries Who Changed the World through Writing is her debut book for children. She’s a professional certified coach, an artist educator and the founder of Dream Keepers, a writing workshop for young people. She lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with her husband, children, and two dogs. Visit her online at or