Good Citizenship is an important character trait that is vital to the success of our society. It’s our job as educators to teach students how to become better citizens so that they, in turn, become adults who care about their community and Earth. This is why it is so important to teach to kids. I use children’s books about citizenship as a gateway for opening up discussions in the learning environment. Whether you are a teacher, counselor, or parent, using books to help illustrate a topic is a great way for kids to learn. As you are reading, ask questions and engage the reader.
I often cover being a good citizen in my lessons, I use this Character Education Citizenship Curriculum that includes everything you need to teach good citizenship in your classroom. Here is a list of some of the awesome children’s books about citizenship out there that I use to help teach this topic to students.
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Title of Book and Author: I Am One: A Book of Action by Susan Verde
A short summary of the book: The main character in this book is an African-American child with short locs. The child wonders if change can really be made through just one kid. The story follows along as the main character thoughtfully considers all the ways that “just one” act can start something bigger: a garden, a song, a painting, a conversation.
Why I like the book: The characters in this book represent a diverse group of children with different skin tones, clothing, and hair colors. Readers are encouraged to think bigger than themselves as they choose to take one small step at a time towards something greater.
The moral of the story: Taking action can inspire change!
Topics covered: Activism; Good Citizenship; Power of One; Transformation; Diversity
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): I am One on Amazon
Title of Book and Author: Kamala and Maya’s Big Idea by Meena Harris
A short summary of the book: In this story, a little girl explains how different emotions make her feel inside. The little girl explains that her heart feels heavy like an elephant when she is sad and feels shiny and bright like a star when she is happy. She also discusses other emotions such as calm, brave, broken-hearted, afraid, and more. A cut-out heart is found on each page, and the reader sees how the heart changes size as the story progresses. The last page of this book asks the reader, “How does your heart feel?” which opens an opportunity for conversation about feelings.
Why I like the book: Jo Witek helps children learn that feelings can manifest in physical ways. Children can learn to identify and describe their feelings as they listen to and enjoy the colorful artwork from this book.
The moral of the story: Having a variety of feelings is totally normal!
Topics covered: Emotions; Feelings; Emotional Intelligence
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): Kamala and Maya’s Big Idea on Amazon
Title of Book and Author: Maybe Something Beautiful by F. Isabel Campoy
A short summary of the book: Mira is a little girl who lives in the middle of a gray city. Mira loves to draw, color, paint, and doodle. When she looks around, she sees opportunities to share her love of art. She does this by giving her paintings to people passing on the street and hanging happy pictures on shadowy walls. Mira meets an artist and together they begin to spread color all throughout the city by painting murals, adding color to doors, and more. Other people in the community see their works and join in to help transform their city.Maybe Something Beautiful is based on the true story of the colorful change of the East Village neighborhood in San Diego, California.
Why I like the book: This book highlights the potential of art to positively change a community. The illustrations in Maybe Something Beautiful are vibrant and happy and help students see the transformation as it occurs in Mira’s city. The book also helps students see that they can achieve more with the help of others.
The moral of the story: From one small idea, big change can occur.
Topics covered: Community; Togetherness; Transformation
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): Maybe something beautiful on Amazon
Title of Book and Author: Grace for President by Kelly DiPucchio
A short summary of the book: Grace for President is about a young African American girl named Grace. While learning that the United States has never had a female president, Grace decides that she can do it! She soon runs for president in her school’s mock election. Grace realizes that this job is more difficult than she expected as she competes against a boy who has won over all the boys’ votes. Grace perseveres through the challenge while determining that she cannot be the “best man for the job” but she can be the best person.
Why I like the book: This story highlights the capabilities of girls while introducing the American electoral system in a fun, easy to understand way. It also highlights the importance of thinking independently and working hard for what you want.
The moral of the story: Be the change you want to see. You can do big things!
Topics covered: Girl Power; Feminism; Diversity; Gender Equality; Democracy; Voting
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): Grace for President on Amazon
Title of Book and Author: What Can a Citizen Do? By Dave Eggers
A short summary of the book: This book follows the unrelated actions of several different children. As the story progresses, the reader sees that the compassion and engagement of the children changes the community from a lonely place to a vibrant one. Choosing to be responsible and caring as individuals allows them to collectively change their world into the place it has had the potential to be all along.
Why I like the book: The cut-paper illustrations by Shawn Harris are extremely detailed and colorful and provide an excellent addition to the powerful message in this story. Children are encouraged to be the change their world needs.
The moral of the story: Good citizens are not born; they are made through a person’s conscious choices to be responsible and caring of the world around them.
Topics covered: Good Citizenship; Working Together; Community; Activism; Civic Engagement
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): What can a citizen do? on Amazon
Title of Book and Author: The House that Jane Built by Tanya Lee Stone
A short summary of the book: This story is about Jane Addams. Jane was the first American woman to ever be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Since she was a small girl, Jane dreamed of helping the poor. Starting in the late 1890s, Jane began to dramatically change a poor Chicago neighborhood by creating a community center around her home. Over a span of three decades, she added playgrounds, a public bathing area, kindergartens, and more to the area. Many people visited Jane’s home weekly. Jane was an important female activist in the field of social work and the American women’s suffrage movement.
Why I like the book: Jane’s desire to help the poor and invest her life in the betterment of others is inspiring. She is a phenomenal example for girls of the greatness they can achieve when they stay determined.
The moral of the story: Investing in the lives of others is hard work but always worth it.
Topics covered: Perseverance; Good Citizenship; Helping Others; Activism
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): The house that Jane Built on Amazon
Title of Book and Author: We Live Here Too by Nancy Loewen
A short summary of the book: Frank B. Wise is the main character in this book. He has an advice column where children write to him about citizenship-related issues. Realist scenarios such as “throwing gum on the ground” are discussed. Suggestions of how to handle these different common situations are given to help students learn that good citizenship is really something that easily can (and should) be used each day.
Why I like the book: This is a great introduction for a classroom unit on citizenship. The advice-column style of writing is an unexpected one that keeps children interested. They can picture themselves in the examples as they learn in a real-life way.
The moral of the story: Choosing to be a good citizen benefits your community and the world around you.
Topics covered: Good Citizenship; Positive Choices; Community; Power of One
Title of Book and Author: The Technology Tail by Julia Cook
A short summary of the book: Written to children who are beginning their journeys using the internet, this book explains that digital footprints are permanent. Safety rules for using the internet are introduced throughout the book in a child-friendly way, and children are encouraged to be kind and respectful to others who they encounter online.
Why I like the book: Digital footprints are not an easy concept to grasp, but Julia Cook creates a great visualization of an actual tail to aid children in understanding that their steps on the internet are never private. She highlights a child’s current life as well as their future one as an adult to emphasize that a digital footprint goes with you over time.
The moral of the story: Where we choose to visit and what we choose to see on the internet is important and has a lasting impact.
Topics covered: Digital Footprint; Internet Safety; Positive Choices
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): The Technology Tail on Amazon
Title of Book and Author: The Tree Lady by H. Joseph Hopkins
A short summary of the book:
This is a non-fiction book about a lady named Katherine Olivia Sessions. Katherine became the first female to graduate with a science degree from the University of California. She accepted a teaching job in the desert town of San Diego. Katherine had grown up in northern California in the Redwood Forest, and she never imagined that she would live in a place without trees.
Katherine decided that San Diego desperately needed trees! She spearheaded a movement to change the desert town into the lush, green space that it is known to be today. By keeping her focus on her dreams of filling San Diego with trees, she used her talents to create beautiful parks and gardens all throughout the town.
Why I like the book: The Tree Lady encourages children, especially young girls, to follow their dreams and pursue hard things.
The moral of the story: You can achieve anything you set your mind to.
Topics covered: Following Dreams; Activism; Good Citizenship; Girl Power; Feminism
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): The Tree Lady on Amazon
Title of Book and Author: Earth Ninja by Mary Nhin
A short summary of the book: This book is all about a ninja who practices recycling, reducing, and reusing. Earth Ninja shows his friend Lazy Ninja that just one ninja can better the world by doing these three simple things. Throughout the book he explains different ways that the earth is impacted negatively by pollution and gives easy steps to help solve these problems.
Why I like the book: Students will learn about the human effects on the environment and ways to become a valuable member of society.
The moral of the story: One person can make a difference and help the earth!
Topics covered: Recycling; Pollution; Responsibility; Good Citizenship; Positive Choices
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): Earth Ninja on Amazon
Resources about Citizenship
Pair your favorite children’s books about citizenship with these Character Education activities to make the perfect classroom lessons.