From the Scholastic Bookshelf: How to Talk About Civil Rights

Learning about the value of equality means understanding injustices.

Feb 16, 2022



From the Scholastic Bookshelf: How to Talk About Civil Rights

Feb 16, 2022

Teaching your child about fairness and equality means educating them about injustice as well. As they grow to learn lessons of empathy, compassion, and how to treat others, they’ll also learn that historically in America, two people could be from the same place but receive different treatment and access to basic services because of their race.

Civil rights refer to the freedoms and protections a government grants its people so that discrimination don’t happen. Civil rights aim to create equal conditions, under the law, for all citizens of a place, regardless of race, religion, or other personal characteristics. 

For its 100th anniversary, Scholastic spoke with experts to identify a set of tips, articles, and books that make starting a conversation with your child about civil rights easier. These resources are part of a broader initiative, called the Scholastic Bookshelf, created for Instagram to raise awareness around contemporary issues affecting children today.

The books and articles cited below focus on the civil rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s, which saw an outpouring of public frustration and protest in defense of the rights of Black Americans and persons of color nationwide. Let these links give context to a period in history from which you can discuss events past and present with your child concerning the rights of people around the world.

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Civil Rights Resources for Beginner Readers:

Most children would be shocked to know that before 1967, a person could not marry someone of a different race in America. The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage tells the story of the Supreme Court’s 1967 landmark decision to grant U.S. citizens this right in the case of Loving v. Virginia

Segregation is an example of the unfair treatment Black Americans received after slavery was banned across the nation in 1865. “Kids Fought for Change,” in Scholastic News magazine, takes us back to the 1950s, with then 7-year-old Ayanna Najuma, who sat down with some friends to eat at a restaurant and was never served. In response, Najuma organized a series of sit-ins with a group of kids at local “white” restaurants, which led to the restaurant owners finally agreeing to serve Black customers (an example of “integration”). 

Civil Rights Resources for Independent Readers:

Martin Luther King Jr. was a Baptist minister and activist who became the most outspoken and prominent figurehead of the American civil rights movement. Leading on the principle of nonviolence modeled by Mohandas Gandhi — who championed India’s nonviolent independence movement — King won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. He was assassinated in 1968. Martin Rising: Requiem for a King, by Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney, recounts the life of this brave leader whose dream of equality changed the course of American history. 

Sharon Robinson, daughter of baseball great Jackie Robinson, had many encounters with Dr. King, including fundraisers held at the family home in Connecticut. In her memoir, Child of the Dream, she describes what it was like to witness some of the most important events of the civil rights movement, like the March on Washington for Freedom and Jobs. She also recounts personal problems, like going through puberty, being one of the only Black children in her wealthy Connecticut neighborhood, and figuring out her own role in the fight for equality.

Blue & Black,” an article in the New York Times Upfront, a Scholastic publication, brings readers to the present day to discuss the recent police killings of Black Americans. We see similar scenes from the 1950s civil rights movement: Parents, children, and friends of Black Americans asking what can be done to bridge the divide between police and Black communities — and that officers be held accountable for their actions under the law. 

Be sure to visit the Scholastic Bookshelf for more resources on civil rights. If you’re planning to talk with your child about other complex topics and seek tips or book recommendations, visit our Tough Topics hub. You’ll find a wealth of advice from Scholastic editors to help you navigate challenging conversations thoughtfully. Recent topic additions include:

Explore books below about civil rights to share with your child. You can find all books and activities at The Scholastic Store.

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