World Book Day: 10 books to inspire children to be active global citizens
Here are 10 ideas for books to help younger children learn and think about our world, and inspire them to make a difference. For use on World Book Day or any day of the year!
What Is World Book Day?
World Book Day was created by UNESCO in 1995 to celebrate books and reading. It takes place each year in more than 100 countries around the world. In the UK, World Book Day is celebrated each year on the first Thursday of March. 2022 marks the 25th year since the UK’s first World Book Day took place!
The following collection of book titles draws on suggestions from Oxfam GB staff members and is by no means a definitive list — there are many other books we could have chosen and themes we could have explored!
1. The Journey by Francesca Sanna (for ages 6+)
What is it like to have to leave everything behind to travel many miles to somewhere unfamiliar and strange? Told through the eyes of a child, this moving story follows a family as they set off on such a journey.
The Refugee Week website has a useful list of suggested books and resources for exploring themes of refugees and migration.
2. Wangari’s Trees for Peace, by Jeanette Winter (for ages 5+)
Growing up in Kenya, Wangari was surrounded by trees. But when she returns home years later, she is shocked to see the forests being destroyed. So Wangari decides to do something about it. This is the true story of Nobel Peace Prize winner, Wangari Maathai who founded the Green Belt Movement. This environmental organisation works with communities, particularly women, to look after the environment and improve people's lives.
This book is included in a helpful list of recommended books for exploring gender equality with children (complied by Helen Griffin for the DECSY Gender Respect Project.
3. Whoever You Are by Mem Fox, illustrated by Leslie Staub (for ages 0+)
This picture book for all ages takes readers on a journey across cultures and generations to celebrate both our differences and our similarities.
This one inspired me not as a child but as a grown-up dad!”
Oxfam staff member.
4. The Last Bear by Hannah Gold, illustrated by Levi Pinfold (for ages 8+)
April thinks that there are no polar bears left on Bear Island when she moves to this remote Arctic outpost with her father. But then April meets one who desperately needs her help and sets off on an adventure to save him. This is a powerful story about the love between a child and an animal. It's a reminder that every one of us can make a difference, no matter how small or insignificant we think we are.
I've just read The Last Bear with my child. It has powerful messages on everyone doing a little bit to help save the planet as well as being a beautiful story.”
Oxfam staff member.
5. Don’t Touch My Hair by Sharee Miller (for ages 4+)
It seems that wherever Aria goes someone wants to touch her hair. This amusing picture book sparks discussion about the importance of personal boundaries and asking for permission first.
This book is great. My daughter was getting unwanted hair touching from a boy in her class. We discussed some of the themes in the book, which gave her confidence tackling it. Then she took it into her primary school where the teacher used it as a springboard to have a discussion on consent.”
Oxfam staff member.
6. Dare by Lorna Gutierrez, illustrated by Polly Noakes (for ages 4+)
The simple poem and bright colours in this picture book encourage children everywhere to dare to dream and try new things, to help others and to speak out. It also shares the message that all of us have the right to be who we are; to have opinions and to voice these freely.
Check out this list from Amnesty International UK of books to inspire activism — from toddlers to teens.
7. Here We Are – Notes for Living on Planet Earth by Oliver Jeffers (for ages 5+)
This book is written as a manual to life on Earth by a father for his newborn son. Through words and pictures, it describes the beauty and diversity of our world, as well as the responsibility we all have to look after it.
Both my kids (aged 6 and 4) were captured by the detailed drawings of the people, the deepness of the sea and the animals.”
Oxfam staff member.
8. Swallow’s Kiss by Sita Brahmachari, illustrated by Jane Ray (for ages 7+)
When Blessing finds a lost bag of paper birds, she follows a trail of hopes and wishes to the community who made them. This story explores our connections and the importance of kindness and friendship.
9. Ruby’s Worry by Tom Percival (for ages 5+)
Young people are growing up in an increasingly complex and challenging world. More than ever, they need space and support to talk about their issues and concerns.
This is a story about a girl called Ruby, who one day finds a worry that begins to grow and grow. This engaging picture book could be used to spark a conversation about how everyone has worries, and talking about these concerns with others can help.
10. The Colour of Home by Mary Hoffman, illustrated by Karin Littlewood (for ages 5+)
Hassan and his family have moved to England after fleeing the war in Somalia. This story explores Hassan’s feelings and emotions as he settled into life and school in a new and unfamiliar country.
Teaching ideas for World Book Day
Many interwoven stories make up the life and identities of each one of us. This Oxfam education resource includes a colourful photo pack and classroom activities to encourage young people to think critically and widen the scope of the stories they know about other people and cultures, not just on World Book Day but throughout the school year.
English and Global Citizenship
Our English and Global Citizenship guide for teachers has ideas for learning about the world whilst improving speaking and listening, reading, writing and media literacy skills. It also contains handy links to resources and a suggested book list to help capture learners’ imaginations.