12 Books that Inspire Kids to make a Difference

from Youth Service America

Young people love to volunteer. These exciting books for 6-12 year-olds make reading an adventure, AND give kids ideas on how to make their community a better place. Brought to you by YSA and First Book, these books are guaranteed to inspire kids to take action for a better world. If you are a teacher working in a low-income school, or you lead a program that serves kids in need, you can sign up for First Bookto access these books at special prices, along with free ASAP tip sheets to help young people create service projects that build their leadership skills and develop their character. Kids will understand how their unique talents, interests, and passions can make communities greener, safer, smarter, and healthier. Check out these 12 awesome books today!

1. Blizzard- by John Rocco

Blizzard- by John Rocco

Blizzard is based on John Rocco’s childhood experience during the now infamous Blizzard of 1978, which brought fifty-three inches of snow to his town in Rhode Island. Told with a brief text and dynamic illustrations, the book opens with a boy’s excitement upon seeing the first snowflake fall outside his classroom window. It ends with the neighborhood’s immense relief upon seeing the first snowplow break through on their street. In between the boy watches his familiar landscape transform into something alien, and readers watch him transform into a hero who puts the needs of others first. John uses an increasing amount of white space in his playful images, which include a gatefold spread of the boy’s expedition to the store. This book about the wonder of a winter storm is as delicious as a mug of hot cocoa by the fire on a snowy day.

2. Can We Help?: Kids Volunteering to Help Their Communities by George Ancona

Can We Help?: Kids Volunteering to Help Their Communities by George Ancona

Real kids make a real difference in their communities in this vibrantly photographed chronicle by George Ancona.

George Ancona celebrates the joy of kids giving back. In one after-school program, middle-school students mentor and tutor younger children. Via a special partnership, schoolchildren help professionals train assistance dogs for people with disabilities. At a community farm, families plant, grow, and harvest produce for soup kitchens and charities. In these and other examples of volunteering, kids of all ages work together knitting hats and scarves for those who could use warm clothes, packing hot meals to deliver to housebound people, and keeping roadways clean. Young humanitarians reading these accounts may well be inspired to find ways that they can help, too.

3. Citizen Scientists: Be a Part of Scientific Discovery from Your Own Backyard by Loree Griffin Burns

Citizen Scientists: Be a Part of Scientific Discovery from Your Own Backyard by Loree Griffin Burns

Anyone can get involved in gathering data for ongoing, actual scientific studies such as the Audubon Bird Count and FrogWatch USA. Just get out into a field, urban park, or your own backyard. You can put your nose to a monarch pupa or listen for raucous frog calls. You can tally woodpeckers or sweep the grass for ladybugs. This book, full of engaging photos and useful tips, will show you how.

4. Close to Famous by Joan Bauer

Close to Famous by Joan Bauer

When twelve-year-old Foster and her mother land in the tiny town of Culpepper, they don’t know what to expect. But folks quickly warm to the woman with the great voice and the girl who can bake like nobody’s business. Soon Foster—who dreams of having her own cooking show one day—lands herself a gig baking for the local coffee shop, and gets herself some much-needed help in overcoming her biggest challenge—learning to read…just as Foster and Mama start to feel at ease, their past catches up to them. Thanks to the folks in Culpepper, though, Foster and her mama find the strength to put their troubles behind them for good.

5. Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah by Laurie Ann Thompson

Emmanuel's Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah by Laurie Ann Thompson

Useless. A curse. That’s how Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, the hero of this inspiring true story, was labeled when he was born with a disabled leg. Abandoned by his father and shunned by society, the young Ghanaian became stronger with each obstacle. When his mother could no longer carry him to school, he hopped the whole way. When he fell learning to ride a bike, he pushed himself back up. At age thirteen, he left for the capital to work multiple jobs to support his family, and as an adult, Yeboah turned his focus to supporting a much larger group – the marginalized population of people with disabilities across his country.

This moving and brilliantly illustrated book culminates with Yeboah’s four-hundred-mile bike ride across Ghana, which was only the beginning of his mission to protect the rights of people with disabilities.

6. Judy Moody #2: Judy Moody Gets Famous! by Megan McDonald

Judy Moody #2: Judy Moody Gets Famous! by Megan McDonald

Judy Moody’s in a jealous mood. Jealous of Jessica Finch, that is, who wins the spelling bee and gets her picture on the front page of the newspaper. When Judy sets off in pursuit of her own fame and happiness, watch out! She’s so determined, she just might find it, or she might merely become more INFAMOUS than ever.

7. Lend a Hand: Poems About Giving by John Frank

Lend a Hand: Poems About Giving by John Frank

Making a difference in the world can be as simple as planting a tree, giving up your seat on a bus to a person with a disability, or training a puppy to become a guide dog. These are just a few of the simple acts of kindness featured in this collection of fourteen original poems. Each poem emphasizes the compassion and the joy of giving. Representing diverse voices – different ages and backgrounds – the collection shows the bridging of boundaries between people who are often perceived as being different from one another. The first step in bridging those boundaries is to extend a hand.

8. New Shoes by Susan Lynn Meyer

New Shoes by Susan Lynn Meyer

Set in the South during the time of segregation, this lushly illustrated picture book brings the civil rights era to life for contemporary readers as two young girls find an inventive way to foil Jim Crow laws.

When her brother’s hand-me-down shoes don’t fit, it is time for Ella Mae to get new ones. She is ecstatic, but when she and her mother arrive at Mr. Johnson’s shoe store, her happiness quickly turns to dejection. Ella Mae is unable to try on the shoes because of her skin color. Determined to fight back, Ella Mae and her friend Charlotte work tirelessly to collect and restore old shoes, wiping, washing, and polishing them to perfection. The girls then have their very own shoe sale, giving the other African American members of their community a place to buy shoes where they can be treated fairly and “try on all the shoes they want.”

9. Recycling Day by Edward Miller

Recycling Day by Edward Miller

Included here are tips on recycling electronics and making items such as fabrics, books, and toys available for reuse. Facts about how much trash Americans produce and how that can be changed are included in this zippy introduction to reducing waste.

10. Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman

Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman

A vacant lot, rat-infested and filled with garbage, looked like no place for a garden, especially to a neighborhood of strangers where no one seems to care. Until one day, a young girl clears a small space and digs into the hard-packed soil to plant her precious bean seeds. Suddenly, the soil holds promise: to Curtis, who believes he can win back Lateesha’s heart with a harvest of tomatoes; to Virgil’s dad, who sees a fortune to be made from growing lettuce; and even to Maricela, sixteen and pregnant, wishing she were dead.

11. The Lion Who Stole My Arm by Nicola Davies

The Lion Who Stole My Arm by Nicola Davies

Pedru has always wanted to be a great hunter like his father, but after a lion takes his arm, he worries that he’ll always be the crippled boy instead. Pedru longs to kill the lion that mauled him and strengthens himself to be ready for the hunt. But when the opportunity arises, will Pedru have the strength to turn his back on revenge? Zoologist Nicola Davies perfectly merges a heart-pounding adventure with an important message about conservation, and Annabel Wright’s gorgeous black-and-white illustrations bring Pedru’s story to life.

12. Wild Wings by Gill Lewis

Wild Wings by Gill Lewis

When Callum spots crazy Iona McNair on his family’s sprawling property, she’s catching a fish with her bare hands. She won’t share the fish, but does share something else: a secret.

She’s discovered a rare endangered bird, an Osprey, and it’s clear to both her and Callum that if anyone finds out about the bird, it, and its species, is likely doomed. Poachers, egg thieves, and wild weather are just some of the threats, so Iona and Callum vow to keep track of the bird and check her migratory progress using the code a preservationist tagged on her ankle, no matter what.

But when one of them can no longer keep the promise, it’s up to the other to do it for them both. No matter what. Set against the dramatic landscapes of Scotland and West Africa, this is a story of unlikely friendships, the wonders of the wild—and the everyday leaps of faith that set our souls to flight.

Thanks to generous support from Disney, each of these 12 books includes a free YSA-First Book downloadable tip sheet, available to eligible teachers and program leaders registered with First Book. The tip sheets include a before reading activity to get the students thinking, an after reading activity to spark conversation, and activities that will inspire youth to take action TODAY!

With half the world’s population under age 25, YSA’s mission is to help all young people find their voice, take action, and make an impact on vital community issues. Learn more at www.YSA.org

First Book is a non-profit social enterprise committed to elevating educational opportunities for children in need. We believe that educators should have access to all the resources they need to help these children succeed, including books, school supplies and other essentials. By making new, high-quality books and educational resources available on an ongoing basis, First Book is transforming the lives of children in need and elevating the quality of education. Learn more at firstbook.org, or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

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