Human rights for kids
1 January 2014
‘Whether Maycomb knows it or not, we’re paying the highest tribute we can pay a man. We trust him to do right. It’s that simple.’ (Harper Lee, Nelle ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, Ch. 24)
Whether Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ (as recommended by @Kirsty_Brimelow) will impact a child so much that they want to become a human rights lawyer is not a given. Yet there are plenty of classic novels and human rights-centered literature aimed at a younger audience which give children the opportunity to learn human rights principles. The legal twittersphere responded in their droves to suggestions of such literature, and below are just a selection of what is available:
A story following two young Jewish brothers avoiding German soldiers occupying their country to escape being sent to concentration camps. Joffo presents a Jewish 10-year-old’s perspective of World War II, providing a comprehendible understanding of what children experienced during wartime.
An ABC Book that teaches the importance of activism for the protection of equality, justice and the values of community. D is for Democracy.
The diary of a young Jewish girl during World War II that has provided the world with one of the most insightful and shocking understandings of a Jewish family in hiding from the invading Nazis and the fate beheld at concentration camps.
A retelling of the Brothers Grimm’s ‘Briar Rose’ (Sleeping Beauty). Gemma had repetitively told the classic fairytale to her grandchildren. Following her death, one of her grandchildren, believing there was a hidden meaning to the fairytale, discovers that her grandmother was a Holocaust survivor. How her grandmother survived provides a perceptive story demonstrating the fortune of her survival juxtaposed with the atrocities of the concentration camps.
Comfort, the young protagonist, is faced with the decision of staying in England, or travelling to Africa to find her father following the death of her mother. The book is ideal for those trying to understand their individuality and the importance of that to Comfort as she makes her decision.
193 countries have signed the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. This book takes the 54 articles of the Convention and translates them into language and artwork that children can understand.
The inspirational story of Rosa Parks who helped change a country is recapitulated for children, providing a terrific introduction to the importance of standing up for civil rights.
A story about a teenage girl named Tara fleeing from Kurdistan to England at the time of the First Gulf War to find refuge. Following the dangerous journey to England, Tara then has to come to terms with being away from home, which provides for an enlightening perspective of those who have to adapt to new lifestyles and cultures out of necessity following traumatic experiences.
Losing Agir: A story of courage, justice and love, crossing borders and cultures, Liz Fisher-Frank (@lizfisherfrank) (recommended by @AlisonCIHBoard)
Drawing on many years’ experience as a children’s rights lawyer, the author presents the story of two children in foster care, Alice and Agir. The latter is a teenage Kurdish boy who was forced to flee to the UK and in doing so he is forced into child trafficking. Alice accordingly learns the truth of her foster home. An account of two people in care following tragedies they have suffered, mixed with the legal knowledge of the author, provides for an enthralling journey for justice and the relationship this brings between people.
A princess story that challenges the dogmatic conceptions of fairytales, encourages challenges to stereotypes, and promotes independence.
A well-researched story of a Polish family torn apart by the Nazi invasion of Poland and then reunited at the end of World War II. The survival of the family, and in particular the development of the Children’s instincts and cooperation demonstrates the difficulties of surviving war and what war risks taking away.
A self-explanatory title, providing an easy-to-understand account of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 30 rules for the world to live by.
A semi-autobiographical, fictional story demonstrating the suffering endured for one’s belief in their faith during World War II. The Nazis target Anna’s father, a famous Jewish writer. The target placed on Anna’s father and all the family sees her safety and childhood destroyed as they flee from one country to the next. The need for secrecy during their movements is vital, and even requires Anna to leave her pink rabbit at home in Berlin to ensure their survival.
And there are plenty more
Even this brief review shows that periods of cruel actions of humans sometimes inspire great literature for children. The understanding of justice and freedom, which forms the basis of human rights protections, can be instilled in children from a young age thanks in part to this literature. Ignorance of these principles and available resources is not strength: 1984, George Orwell (recommended by @_tomhorton).
Further suggestions are welcome via the comments! And for other sources of information, see:
- Letterbox Library, which lists books by themes such as gender equality and anti slavery narratives
- The Institute for Humane Education has pages of recommended books for kids
- Amnesty International book recommendations
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