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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Simplicity Parenting, a review 

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I started drafting this review back in March. Then I fell off the book club bandwagon. I missed the meeting where we discussed this book, and the next book… But I’m back on track for July. And I did read Simplicity Parenting, so I thought I’d make a brief review post about it now. Better late than never. 
In a tiny nutshell, this book is about reading your child’s bad behaviour – or acting out – as a sign that they are emotionally unwell, attributing that to being overstimulated, overburdened, overworked, and treating the root of the problem by simplifying their life. The author has a background in education and psychology, and seems to have a lot of experience backing his ideas. But to me, this is just one more parent with big ideas about the right versus the wrong way to raise your kids. 

That doesn’t mean I didn’t like the book, or that the message didn’t speak to me. I happen to agree with the author on a lot of things. But I have added this book and it’s ideas to a shelf in my mind that I draw from occasionally when I want to try something new with my parenting. I don’t believe that this approach to parenting will solve all of every child’s problems. But it’s worth a try if you’re interested. 

So what’s this guy pushing, anyway? He’s pushing a simplified lifestyle so your kids have the mental space to work out some heavy developmental stuff. The obvious area to simplify is tangible clutter, like toys. While the book also goes into detail on how you can simplify the rhythm of daily life and your child’s involvement in extracurriculars, it seems easiest to start with the toys. I liked the advice on simplifying toys because we already keep things simple in the toy department (I always love reading things that affirm my beliefs). The authors suggest cutting your child’s toys in half, and then in half again. You should be left with no more than a dozen that are accessible at any given time (the rest that aren’t complete junk can go in a toy library). 

When I read the section on toys, it inspired me to find some images of “good” toys, which the book defines as toys that inspire imaginative play and don’t overwhelm the senses. Here are some ideas:

Where the book goes too far: Simplifying sensory stimulation from light and taste

There are two suggestions in the book that I found a little absurd. One was to cut back on excess artificial light. I’m aware of the science of sleep and it’s suggestion to cut out TV and other blue lights before bed and during sleep, but the author went as far as to suggest using candles after dusk and before dawn, sharing that he eats breakfast with his daughter in the dark winter mornings by nothing but candle light. Too extreme for me. I did get inspiration, though, from the idea of letting your kid have a candle lit bath (exercise safety, please!) I think my 9 month old would love this experience before bed.

Another section that didn’t convince me was the section on simplifying food. Yes, the examples given of cheese Doritos and sugary sodas are unhealthy and may make whole foods like carrots seem bland and uninteresting in comparison, but the point made in the book went further than that. The author argued that “food is meant to nourish, not entertain and excite”. I don’t believe these are mutually exclusive experiences. While I agree with not letting your kids consume too much additives/artificial flavours/over-processed foods for health reasons, I don’t buy into the idea that eating Doritos will overwhelm their senses or make them never want to eat a carrot again. I believe that cooking with and for kids can be exciting. In my opinion, the author was just looking for a way to include as many daily practices as possible into his list of things that can be fixed with his theory of simplicity parenting.

Overall, I’d recommend giving the book a read if a) you can score a copy for free from the library, and b) you think your child might be suffering from overstimulation. Otherwise, the concepts are obvious enough to try out without following the book’s outline to a T. You can test out simplifying life by purging some toys, cutting down on extra curriculars, and working less / doing less so you can spend quality down time together as a family.

The good thing about the book is that it allows for parents to pick and choose the changes they want to make in their families. Although I’m not the expert here, it really doesn’t seem like Simplicity Parenting has to be an all-or-nothing life overhaul in order to show some effect on your kid’s stress levels.

So whether you read the book or not, and whether you’re trying to solve behaviour problems or not, it might be worth testing out some simplifications in your child’s life. The book is a sufficient but uneccesary guide to do so.