10 Children’s Books that support learning during the Youth Uplift Challenge

Posted by Leonetta Elaiho on
Wed, 01/25/2017

Throughout the Youth Uplift Challenge, many educators, parents, and students alike are looking for ways to deepen their learning. We’ve pulled together a short list of books that tell diverse stories focusing on resilience, youth empowerment, and overcoming the obstacles of poverty. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but a good place to start! What books, resources, or tools have YOU used to promote learning during the Youth Uplift Challenge? Share with us at info@studentsrebuild.org


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“The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer (2016)

Grade Level: 4-7 

When a terrible drought struck William Kamkwamba's tiny village in Malawi, his family lost all of the season's crops, leaving them with nothing to eat and nothing to sell. William began to explore science books in his village library, looking for a solution. There, he came up with the idea that would change his family's life forever: he could build a windmill. Made out of scrap metal and old bicycle parts, William's windmill brought electricity to his home and helped his family pump the water they needed to farm the land.



“Four Feet, Two Sandals” by Karen Lynn Williams and Khadra Mohammed (2007)

Grades: 1 - 5  

When relief workers bring donated clothing to the refugee camp in Peshawar, Lina discovers a sandal just her size. But another girl, Feroza, has claimed the other. Eventually the girls work out a way to share the sandals, each wearing the sandals on alternate days, and their friendship grows. When Lina’s family is finally sent to America, Feroza gives her one of the sandals to keep—to always remember their friendship.



“Brothers in Hope: The Story of the Lost Boys of Sudan” by Mary Williams (2005)

Grades: 3-6
Garang is 8 when his parents are killed and his village is destroyed. He bands together with other “lost boys” who travel nearly 1,000 miles, with only each other to rely on, to try to find their way to a new home. Based on a true story.



“A Long Walk to Water” by Linda Sue Park (2009)
Grades: 5-9

When Salva’s school is attacked, he must flee, seeking refuge in another country. His long trek is harrowing, but ultimately he makes it to Kenya and is eventually adopted by a family in the U.S. After many years, Salva returns home to help his people, including a young girl named Nya, whose story alternates with Salva’s. Based on a true story.


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“The Red Pencil” by Andrea Davis Pinkney (2014)
Grades: 4-8 
Amira Bright is a young girl living in South Darfur with her family. One day the Janjaweed arrive in their village. Amira witnesses her father’s murder, their village is destroyed, and the survivors must gather what’s left of their things and head for a refugee camp with thousands of other displaced people. Since the attack, Amira has been unable to speak, her words stuck in her throat. When an aid worker gives Amira a yellow pad and a red pencil, a whole new world opens up to her. Her voice eventually returns and so does her desire to learn to read and write. Will she get the education she craves?


“Esperanza Rising” by Pam Munoz Ryan (2008)

Grade Level: 6 – 8 

Esperanza thought she'd always live with her family on their ranch in Mexico—she'd always have fancy dresses, a beautiful home, and servants. But a sudden tragedy forces Esperanza and Mama to flee to California during the Great Depression, and to settle in a camp for Mexican farm workers. Esperanza isn't ready for the hard labor, financial struggles, or lack of acceptance she now faces. When their new life is threatened, Esperanza must find a way to rise above her difficult circumstances—Mama's life, and her own, depend on it.



“The Streets are Free” by Kurusa (1995)

Grade Level: 1 – 4

This inspiring book is based on the true story of the children of the barrio of San Jose de la Urbina in Caracas, Venezuela. There are no parks where they live, and the children must play in the streets. They ask the mayor for an empty lot to build a playground, but all they get are campaign promises. They know that they are the only ones who will make something happen, so they get their friends and family involved until the whole barrio unites to create a space of their own.


“Last Stop on Market Street” by Matt de la Pena (2015)

Grade Level: K-2

Every Sunday after church, CJ and his grandma ride the bus across town. But today, CJ wonders why they don't own a car like his friend Colby. Why doesn’t he have an iPod like the boys on the bus? How come they always have to get off in the dirty part of town? Each question is met with an encouraging answer from grandma, who helps him see the beauty—and fun—in their routine and the world around them.



“Crenshaw” by Katherine Applegate (2015)

Grade Level: 4-6 

Jackson and his family have fallen on hard times. There's no more money for rent. And not much for food, either. His parents, his little sister, and their dog may have to live in their minivan. Crenshaw is a cat. He's large, he's outspoken, and he's imaginary. He’s come back into Jackson's life to help him. But is an imaginary friend enough to save this family from losing everything?


“Emmanuel’s Dream” by Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah (2015)

Grade Level: K-2

Born in Ghana, West Africa, with one deformed leg, he was dismissed by most people—but not by his mother, who taught him to reach for his dreams. As a boy, Emmanuel hopped to school more than two miles each way, learned to play soccer, left home at age thirteen to provide for his family, and, eventually, became a cyclist. He rode an astonishing four hundred miles across Ghana in 2001, spreading his powerful message: disability is not inability. Today, Emmanuel continues to work on behalf of the disabled.