Dec. 1, 2017

“It means a great deal to those who are oppressed to know that they are not alone. Never let anyone tell you that what you are doing is insignificant.” — Desmond Tutu. 

“Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home — so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. … Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.” — Eleanor Roosevelt

Each year on December 10, the world celebrates Human Rights Day.

This is the day that in 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The declaration contains 30 articles which outline the fundamental rights of all people in the world. 

Article 1 says: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” 

As we reflect on each of the holiday traditions of this time of year, they all embody a spirit of brotherhood in some way. Ramadan (although the time of Ramadan varies each calendar year) Diwali, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and New Year’s celebrations each call on us to reflect on our blessings and reach out to others who are struggling.

But celebrating the rights of humans should be a practice that we hold dear each and every day of the year, not only during holidays. To begin exploring the importance of human rights in our world, and how even a child can be the catalyst for great change, I’ve compiled a list of resources.

As a teacher, I see students engaged and excited about their world every day. They are eager to learn and demonstrate how they can be an agent of positive change in their local, national and global communities. I hope these resources will help you connect our children and young adults to the power for change each of them possesses.

Picture Books Exploring Human Rights

  • “We Are All Born Free: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Pictures” by Amnesty International
  • “I Have the Right to Be a Child” by Alain Serres
  • “Every Human Has Rights: A Photographic Declaration for Kids” by National Geographic
  • “For Every Child: The Rights of the Child in Words and Pictures” adapted by Caroline Castle
  • “Our Rights: How Kids Are Changing the World” by Janet Wilson
  • “It Takes a Village” by Hillary Rodham Clinton
  • “I Can Make a Difference: A Treasury to Inspire Our Children” by Marian Wright Edelman
  • “Dreams of Freedom” by Amnesty International

 Books Exploring Children Who Take Action

  • “Shannen and the Dream for a School” by Janet Wilson
  • “Ryan and Jimmy: And the Well in Africa That Brought Them Together” by Herb Shoveller
  • “One Red Bicycle: The Extraordinary Story of One Ordinary Bicycle” by Jude Isabella
  • “Mimi’s Village: And How Basic Health Care Transformed It” by Katie Smith Milway
  • “Malala’s Magic Pencil” by Malala Yousafzai (MANY other books about Malala!)
  • “Iqbal: A Novel” by Francesco D’Adamo
  • “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer (picture book and Young Readers Edition)
  • “Selavi: That is Life: A Haitian Story of Hope” by Youme Landowne

Our global history is full of examples of human rights activists working to bring change for their countries and communities. Here is a brief list of some of those important leaders. Many of the names may be familiar to you. Those that are not, I encourage you to become more familiar with their work and honors.

Winona LaDuke | Eloisa Garcia Tamez | Mohandras Karamchand Gandhi (known as Mahatma Gandhi) | Oskar Schindler | Nelson Mandela | Winnie Mandela | Jimmy Carter | Martin Luther King Jr. | Dalai Lama | Desmond Tutu | Lech Walesa | Dolores Huerta | Oscar Arias Sánchez | Cesar Chavez | Elie Wiesel | Václav Havel | Muhammad Yunus | Eleanor Roosevelt

Online Resource Links for Younger Students

Online Resource Links for Older Students