5 Awesome Baby Books for Raising a Socially Conscious Kid

I don’t know if these books are actually going to make your baby into a social justice warrior one day. Regardless, when I’m reading books to my baby, I do worry when they illustrate ancient gender roles, or when they are white washed. As a social justice warrior myself, it’s important to me to be able to read books to my baby that promote positive messaging about diversity, social justice, and just being a good person.

This is part 1 of a series of baby books I’m going to recommend. I figure that releasing 5 at a time makes the list easier to get through, and it also gives me a chance to hear YOUR recommendations and potentially add them to future lists.

For now, these are some of our favourites from our bookshelf. We’ve actually read them, so I can actually vouch for them. I love them, Avery loves them, and they have socially conscious messaging that support diversity and compassion for others.

Full disclosure: this post contains affiliate links.
Fuller disclosure: This is my first time trying out affiliate links, and my approval into Amazon’s affiliate program is still pending – I need to drive 3 sales in order for my website to be approved for the program. I won’t always make posts this link-heavy, but I’ve been wanting to publish this book list for a while, and I decided it was time to try my hand at bringing in a few pennies for the links I want to share anyway. I will still only post links for books/products that I really, really recommend.

Book List for Raising a Socially Conscious Kid: Part 1


5. The Story of Ferdinand, by Munro Leaf

The Story of Ferdinand

Notes: This is a cute little book about a young bull named Ferdinand. This book would have packed a more powerful social justice punch a decade ago when it was even more unacceptable for little boys to be interested in stereotypically feminine activities, but hypermasculinity is still rampant, and children and parents everywhere still need to be reminded that boys don’t have be stereotypical boys to be awesome. The reason why I like this book over others with similar messages (like My Princess Boy) is because Ferdinand is non-human, so there are no concerns about racial diversity. I also really liked the ultimate message of non-violence in this book.
Socially Conscious Message(s): boys don’t have to be masculine to be awesome; non-violence is awesome
Types of Diversity it Encompasses: gender expression (masculinity).
Board Book Available: No


4. Mama, Do You Love Me?, by Barbara M. Joosse

Mama, Do You Love Me?

Notes: This book makes the list solely because it celebrates a marginalized, vulnerable culture, Inuit culture. It’s refreshing to see representation of Inuit culture, and it helps me to keep my daughter’s book shelf full of diversity. We also love this book because it tells a beautiful story we can all relate to about the unconditional nature of a mother’s love. Here’s an excerpt to show some of the awesomeness of this book’s message. It’s dialogue between a child, who is testing the limits of their mother’s love, and the mother, who reassures the child that even if she is angry at the child (or scared), she will always love her child.

What if I turned into a polar bear and I was the meanest bear you ever saw and I had sharp , shiny teeth, and I chased you into your tent and you cried?

Then I would be very surprised and very scared. But still, inside the bear, you would be you, and I would love you.

The illustrations are also bright and colourful and really catch a baby’s eye.
Socially Conscious Message(s): teaches about an underrepresented culture, a parent’s love is the same across cultures
Types of Diversity it Encompasses: Racial/Cultural (not enough literature represents Indigenous cultures)
Board Book Available: Yes


3. What Does It Mean To Be Kind? by Rana DiOrio

What Does It Mean to Be Kind?

Notes: One of my favourite ways this book suggests to be kind is …”allowing yourself to make and learn from your mistakes”. This is such an important lesson for raising allies and social justice advocates, because being afraid of making mistakes is a huge barrier when trying to learn about others and do right by them. A note is about the illustrator’s attempt to represent diverse races: There is an attempt, but every character in the book is pretty light skinned, even the ones who I think are supposed to be Black. But the illustrator did take racial diversity into consideration.
Socially Conscious Message(s): celebrate differences, have empathy and compassion for others
Types of Diversity it Encompasses: racial (sort of…), visible disability (there is one wheelchair), gender (sort of – there are some gender-ambigious characters).
Board Book Available: No.


2. What Makes a Baby, by Cory Silverberg

What Makes a Baby

Notes: I bought this book when we first got pregnant. It is unbelievably inclusive. Like, you didn’t know a book could be so inclusive. It tells the story of how a baby is made by making reference to parts of the body that are required (i.e., egg, sperm, uterus), and does not make reference to gender (as in, there’s none of that “when a mommy and a daddy love each other very much” barf-inducing crap). I also love that all of the characters are various colours of the rainbow, from blue to green to brown. This book is effectively for everybody, from any ethnic background, from any family dynamic. Cory Silverberg also wrote a book called Sex Is a Funny word that I bought (I pre-ordered it because I love this author so much), but that’s for older kids.
Socially Conscious Message(s): families come in all forms, people come in all colours
Types of Diversity it Encompasses: race, gender, sexual orientation
Board book available: No


1. Counting on Community, by Innosanto Nagara

Counting on Community

Notes: An adorable little book with a strong social consciousness message. This book is a counting book (One stuffed piñata, Two neighbour friends, Three urban farmers, etc.), but it’s far from your everyday baby’s counting book. The images and words will expose your baby to various cultures and ethnicities, and to pro-social ideas like protesting as a community, and pro-environmental ideas like raising backyard chickens (and ducks!). The words are simple and few and have a nice ring to them, and the images are colourful and interesting (but may be a bit complex for an infant’s brain to interpret). I love that we see our family in this book as the “urban farmers” and that we can see and imagine the friends that my baby will one day make on our street. Lovely book.
Socially Conscious Message(s): growing your own food (environmental), protest to make positive social change, participate in festivities, food and music of cultures besides our own.
Types of Diversity it Encompasses: racial/cultural
Board Book Available: Yes


What social consciousness raising books do you and your littles love?

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Body shaming and little girls

Disclaimer: I don’t know if a mother’s body shaming has the same effect on sons as it does on daughters, but as always, I’m writing about my experience in this blog, so this post is about body shaming and my own impressionable little girl.

I know with certainty that research has shown negative effects of body shaming on girls. I also know personally the power of hearing your mother complain about her appearance, of watching her look at her reflection with critical, even hate-filled eyes. I’ve written a bit about my history with anorexia and bulimia as a teenager. I’m not blaming my mom – she was mostly blasé about her appearance. But she also complained about gaining weight and she went on diets. Back then I don’t think parents thought much about talking about dieting in front of their kids – it was before the wave of media campaigns for improving body image in girls. But that kind of thinking kind of gets engrained in your own inner voice as you grow up.

In university I got into feminist circles and I learned to love my body – and all bodies. I learned about fat shaming and the myths around fatness. I want my daughter to love herself no matter what body type she ends up with, and just as importantly, I don’t want her picking up prejudices about others based on body shape and size.

Which brings me to the present – swimming lessons with her Mo. My wife isn’t happy with her body right now. My wife also did not belong to the same feminist circles as I did in university. Although I constantly correct her for shaming her own body in front of our daughter, I don’t think she’s worried enough about it. As we get ready for swimming, she looks down at herself in disgust. She mutters (under her breath, but still audibly), “I’m so fat right now.” She talks about needing to lose weight every single day. When I correct her, I make sure to do it immediately and in front of Avery. I try to say things like “we’re all beautiful the way we’re made,” and “we’re kind to ourselves in this family, please don’t be mean to yourself.” I also try to compensate for my wife’s negative impressions by walking around naked and confidently when I get out of the shower, by happily letting my daughter lift up my shirt to point out my belly button, and by using positive affirmations, like “I love my body,” or just, “I like myself.” But I don’t really know what to say to correct the negative kind of thinking. Once Avery hears it, there’s nothing I can say to make her unhear it.

My wife will sometimes back pedal and say “I want to be healthy.” But I’m afraid the damage is done. I’m afraid Avery will just learn to use “being healthy” as an excuse for dieting if she one day starts to hate her body. Ugh, the thought of my daughter hating her body one day makes me so sad. It makes me angry.

Smoothies with a hint of vegetable

I bragged and bragged about my little baby-led-weaner who would eat anything under the sun from 6 months old. But then, around the 15 month mark, Avery became picky. She can smell a speck of spinach from a mile away, and will violently gag up an accidentally ingested piece of mushroom. She grimaces at tomatoes, she picks finely diced sweet bell peppers out of an omelette, and she squeezes zucchini through her fingers while glaring at us for trying to poison her with these multi-coloured harbingers of vomit.

Ok, maybe my interpretation is a bit dramatic, but she has definitely been refusing a lot of vegetables lately, and often with a dramatic flair of her own. So I decided to start hiding veggies in smoothies. So far carrot and beet were successes, cauliflower was not. I also threw one single leaf of spinach in a berry smoothie (not pictured here) and she spat it out. The fact that she’ll consume milk and yogurt when used in a smoothie is also a win, because she won’t drink cow’s milk from a cup and she’s getting less and less human milk as we slowly wean.

The vessel I use to feed her smoothies is the Squeasy (available on Amazon) and I LOVE THIS PRODUCT. I’m not an affiliate, not getting any money for clicks/purchases, but I don’t mind touting the product anyway. I find that smoothies clog up traditional sippy cups, and we’ve found the squeasy to be easy to suck smoothie from while also being spill-proof, as long as it contains a smoothie and not just water or milk. The liquid needs to have just a little viscosity to it. It’s also super easy to clean, and Avery loves holding it and squeezing it. It’s like those plastic puree pouches you can buy at the grocery store, but reusable (and more spill-proof than those). We love it.

Do you have any good smoothie recipes I should try? I’m on board with trying anything – even a little chocolate!

Carrot, peach, mango, milk, yogurt, date. 

Cauliflower, strawberry, banana, milk, yogurt

Beet (pre-boiled), blackberries, strawberries, banana, milk, yogurt

30 Days of Blogging, Day 30

My blogging challenge has come to a close. I’ve loved writing for 30 days straight, and I’ve learned a lot about what’s most important/pressing to me in life by what I’ve chosen to recount. Lots about sleep and breastfeeding, not surprisingly. That’s mostly what you get from me if you follow my blog! That, and a spattering of chicken talk and pics of homemade bread.

Tonight I’m going to write about something we haven’t been plagued with in quite a while – teething. Avery has started teething her 2-year molars. Last night she woke up at 1:30am crying (which she hasn’t been doing for the past couple of weeks – she wakes and asks calmly for me to come in and give her milk). This time she was inconsolable. I tried offering milk, I tried cuddling her, I tried bringing her back to our bed, but she wasn’t having any of it. I tried taking her downstairs to watch tv but we have a basement tenant and she was still crying downstairs, so I figured that wasn’t a sustainable option. Finally at 2:15am we put on Moana in our bedroom. She fell asleep cuddled into me watching her favourite movie. It was so adorable.

This morning she felt hot to touch, but didn’t have a fever. Her cheeks were red. She wouldn’t take her fingers out of the back of her mouth. She barely touched breakfast, snack, or lunch. Advil was a game changer – clearly she was feeling pain.

Although we can’t see swelling at the gums, it’s hard to see back there, and the teeth could be moving down but not at the edges of the gums yet. I’m 99% sure that teething is on the table. I hope they come soon, but I’ve heard that the 2-year molars can take a long time to work their way down. It’s also kind of shocking to think that my little baby is working on the last baby teeth she will ever grow…

30 Days of Blogging, Day 29

I got some kind of flu-ish bug. I woke up at 5am from the stomach cramps, and I was so thankful to have my wife around to help out. She got Avery ready in the morning, took her to daycare, picked her up from daycare, and spent the afternoon working from home as a second set of hands.

When these things happen I’m always keenly aware of how different life would be as a single parent. Hats off to those who work and parent all by themselves. I commend you. Before I met my wife, I actually anticipated that I’d become a single parent by choice. But now that I’ve been a parent for a mere 17 months, I don’t know how you do it.

30 Days of Blogging, Day 28

What am I doing with my life?

I long for autonomy, so I’m working toward a steady, 9-5 job in my field. But that only gives me financial autonomy. I’m afraid that plan might actually backfire and make me feel even less in control of my own life.

Not that I have a choice in the matter. My wife has been the breadwinner for long enough and she needs a break. The responsibility is wearing on her. I’m not the type to get stressed or feel burdened by financial responsibility, because I come from the privileged position of being able to say, “everything will always be OK. There are plenty of jobs, plenty of ways to make money.”

So if I had a choice in the matter, what would I do to make money? I think I’d love to dabble in dozens of things. Precarious employment is my jam – I’m a multipotentialite and don’t want to be tied down doing the same job day in and day out. I’d want a bigger piece of land to raise chickens and veggies and sell eggs and things at a roadside stand. I’d work as a consultant program evaluator and bring home an irregular paycheque from that. I’d pick up the odd teaching job at a local college. I’d offer workshops on chicken keeping and gardening for suburbanites who want to start on a path of self-sufficiency. I’d raise our kid(s) and cook and clean.

But only one of those things brings the stability that is required of a breadwinner. It seems I’m stuck on this path of using my PhD to do research work for The Man. The Man with benefits and a pension program.

I’m just floating along, feeling sorry for myself because I have TOO MANY options, too much privilege, and a self-entitlement that only a millennial could have.

30 Days of Blogging, Day 27

My sourdough turned out!! From the starter that was born two weeks ago, yesterday we had dough, and today we have bread.

The process was stressful because it was my first try and I didn’t want to F it up. But now that I’ve done it, I can’t wait to make another loaf. It just takes a little planning, and in my case, a babysitter… I started making the dough when Avery was in daycare in the morning, but by the time I needed to knead she was home and napping. Of course she woke up half way through the kneading process and whined, tugging at my legs, for the last 5 minutes before I could set it aside again.

It literally took an entire day, from 9am until 9pm to finish making the dough, even though its just a mix of starter, flour and water. There’s a lot of proofing, folding, waiting, flipping, kneading, and more waiting involved. Then it sat overnight in the fridge for the final proof, and took almost an hour to bake the next morning. It’s a great task for weekends, if only we weren’t away from home on so many of our weekends.

The starter was bubbly and ready to make some bread

Added flour and water to grow the starter to the amount I needed for the recipe and let double in size

Measured out 1 part starter, 2 parts water, and 3 parts bread flour and mixed gently

After 15 minutes of kneading by hand, the dough became smooth with a taut surface

After a couple of rounds of folding the dough into itself, it spent the night lightly covered with a kitchen towel in the fridge

It baked in a preheated dutch oven for almost an hour at 430°F

I’m loving the flavour of our wild yeast, captured right here in our own home. It’s mildly sour, the crust is crispy, and the crumb inside is buttery soft and airy. Wish the internet had smell-o-vision, because it smells like heaven.