Your Students Can Make a Difference in Their Communities

Read and Act

Use these great books to get your students them thinking about how they can make a difference in their communities.

These activities, paired with stories, help students use their own skills and passion to take action.

For more tips and activities to use with the books below, click on the cover images. You’ll find a free downloadable tipsheet available through the First Book Marketplace. Each is full of activities, conversation starters and ways to harness the inspiration kids feel after each story.

New Shoes Written by Susan Lynn Meyer Illustrated by Eric Velasquez

New Shoes

Ella Mae’s excitement about shopping for a new pair of back-to-school shoes disappears when
she discovers that because she is black, she’s not welcome to try on the shoes she wants to
buy. With the help of her cousin, Ella Mae counters this discrimination by opening a used shoe
store where anyone is welcome to try on all the shoes they want.

Try this activity to reinforce the issues of inclusion and exclusion:

Ella Mae and Charlotte’s shoe store is inclusive.

Get kids thinking about what it takes to be inclusive with this spin on musical chairs. Play it like traditional musical chairs except no one is out after a chair is removed. Instead, students have to figure out how to make room for everyone to have a seat as the number of chairs available gets smaller and smaller. After the music ends, ask students how they felt about making room for others.

Citizen Scientists: Be A Part of Scientific Discovery From Your Own Backyard Written by Loree Griffin Burns, Photographs by Ellen Harasimowicz

citizen scientist

This is a hands-on photographic guide for getting kids involved in real and important
scientific research. Kids learn how to become citizen scientists and how to identify wildlife,
collect data, and tag species in their own backyards and neighborhoods. It includes four
projects tied to the four seasons.

Use this activity to teach kids about environmental issues:

Talk about why it is important for citizens to stay informed about things that impact the environment. Together, scan the news for items of interest and importance that effect the environment and your community, such as land development or water restrictions.

Find out what issue or issues resonate with your students and have them study them from all perspectives. Have them look beyond how the environment is effected to the political, social, and economic consequences. What are their concerns? Discuss their ideas for staying informed about their issues and what they can do to have a voice in what happens in their community.

Seedfolks Written by Paul Fleischman


In an immigrant neighborhood in Cleveland, Ohio, creating a small garden in a vacant lot turns isolated neighbors into a true community. The transformation is narrated by 13 different voices, each of whom have their own problems, fears, and prejudices. But the garden—and being part of a community—helps the characters discover something new or forgotten about themselves.

Try this activity to help students consider how a person’s background can influence how they think about their place in the world and the place of others:

Group students in pairs and assign each of them a character from Seedfolks. Have them each research
their character’s cultural background in preparation for writing a dialogue between their two characters. In researching their characters’ backgrounds, what have they found that the characters have in common? What would they disagree on?

Before students read and perform their dialogues for the class, have the class predict what kinds of conversations characters will have. After students present their dialogues, have them discuss  whether finding out more about the backgrounds of the characters made it easier or harder to have them  communicate and learn from each other.

Developed as a joint project with Youth Service America and with generous support from Disney, each hand-picked book in the Read and Act section is paired with a FREE downloadable tip sheet.