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World Book Day: The best books for kids to read during a teachers' strike

World Book Day 2023 coincides with teachers' strikes and these books will help kids understand the power and importance of collective action

protest sign in Nuremberg that reads 'fight today for a better tomorrow'

There is growing recognition of how we need to support future generations with climate change. (Image: Markus Spiske/Unsplash)

World Book Day is much more than a day for dressing children up in elaborate literary costumes before packing them off to school or nursery – it’s a celebration of ideas. A celebration of education. And a celebration of the joys of storytelling.

This year’s World Book Day coincides with teachers’ strikes across the country. Teachers across the South East and South West regions of England, in London, and also in Wales are taking collective action over pay and conditions during the cost of living crisis.

So while school’s out, here is a World Book Day reading list full of ideas for young people. From Greta Thunberg to Elmer the Elephant, these are some inspirational stories to help young people learn about the purpose of collective action and unions and how to stand up for your rights.

Click Clack Moo: Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin

Click Clack Moo: Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin

A classic from 2000 as the cows seize the means of production of letters – an old typewriter – and campaign for better working conditions. When Farmer Brown receives a note asking for electric blankets, he point blank refuses. But before long, the hens come out in solidarity with the striking cows who are refusing to supply milk until they are made more comfortable. And what will happen when the ducks get involved? A classic tale of solidarity and realising your worth for pre-schoolers and beyond. There’s even an audio book read by Rik Mayall.

Belonging by Jeannie Baker

Pictures paint thousands of words in Jeannie Baker’s classic picture book. Belonging shows a community coming together to reclaim their streets. As baby Tracy grows, she and her neighbours take collective action to benefit their community. Cars are stopped and the urban environment re-greened. They paint murals over vandalised walls. And this union of neighbours creates a safe place of nature and wonder for children. The message is inspirational for toddlers and primary school pupils alike. We can shape our futures and our environments when we join forces. What better ideas could there be on World Book Day?

The Day The Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers

The Day The Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers

What happens when tools down tools? In this funny, charming book, a young boy called Duncan is stumped when his crayons go on strike. They are not satisfied with how they are being used. Red is exhausted from working overtime on Santa suits around Christmas and hearts on Valentine’s Day. Can the management (Duncan) and worker crayons find a solution to this colourful industrial dispute?

Saving Mr Hoot by Helen Stephens

Another powerful picture book, showing even the smallest child with the quietest voice can effect change. Ben is a boy with an owl friend. No one else notices Mr Hoot – but when developers plan to knock down Mr Hoot’s tree, he must make himself heard. Beautiful pictures and a wonderfully empowering message for children (2-6).

Little People, Big Dreams: Greta Thunberg, Rosa Parks, Emmeline Pankhurst

The Little People, Big Dreams book series tells remarkable life stories in easy to digest words and pictures. No one has done more to show school children the power of withdrawing their labour than Greta Thunberg. Her Friday School Strikes for Climate grew from a solitary protest into a global climate activism movement of millions of children. Her story is as inspiring as it gets. The story of Rosa Parks’ world-changing civil rights activism and Emmeline Pankhurst’s courageous fight for voting rights for women are similarly incredible.

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers Strike of 1909 by Michelle Markel

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers Strike of 1909 by Michelle Markel

The true story of Clara Lemlich. She arrived in America as a child, unable to speak the language, but made herself heard, refusing to accept poverty wages, poor conditions and the mistreatment of her fellow garment workers. As Clara leads the largest walkout of women workers in US history, young readers (4-8) will be punching the air in support of her courage and clear-mindedness.

Everybody’s Welcome by Patricia Hegarty and Greg Abbott

A straight up story of solidarity, working together and inclusivity for World Book Day and beyond. Animals build a new home, provide shelter, and welcome their fellow forest folk to join them in a joyful story for pre-schoolers. Everyone’s talents are pooled for the collective good – hooray!

Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World by Kate Pankhurst

This book about inspirational women, written by a descendent of British suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst, is full of empowering, exciting and nicely illustrated stories. The tales of Marie Curie, Anne Frank, Jane Austen, Agent Fifi and Mary Seacole show there are many ways to change the world. Just wait until eager young readers realise all these stories are true…

How the Ladies Stopped the Wind by Bruce McMillan

A brilliant picture book for children. The women of one Icelandic village decide to take collective action to stop the wind, which makes going for walks difficult. But they must negotiate with cows, chickens and sheep to build a team to grow and nurture the trees that will provide shelter and calm. Collective action of humans and animals. Friendly negotiations. Creating a kinder environment. Such great ideas for World Book Day!  

The Squirrels who Squabbled by Rachel Bright

Sharing is caring is the lesson of Rachel Bright’s funny, imaginative picture book for pre-schoolers. Greedy squirrels Cyril and Bruce scrap over the last nut of the season. But when their fight leads them into danger, they must learn that teamwork makes the dream work in a book that is beautifully illustrated by Jim Field.

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore

Older children (and grown ups) will marvel at the courage and tenacity of these US factory workers who were exposed to radium in the early 20th century. The way they banded together to fight for better research and more protective equipment is beautifully told. And their battle to strengthen workers’ rights everywhere, while fighting for their own lives, is an inspirational true story.

Elmer and the Big Bird by David McKee

It doesn’t need to be World Book Day to read David McKee’s classic Elmer series. They are all about solidarity and standing together. While the original Elmer story celebrates difference, this book shows there is power in a union. Small birds stand (and fly) together to take on a big bully bird – bravo.

A is for Activist

A Is For Activist by Innosanto Nagara

Learn the alphabet, learn to read, and learn about activism all in one handy picture book. Great illustrations (all featuring a black cat), smart rhymes, and big ideas for World Book Day.

You can order these titles from The Big Issue shop on Bookshop.org, which helps to support The Big Issue and independent bookshops.

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