A Mighty Girl's favorite books and resources focused on charity, giving, and community service to inspire all kids to make a difference!
On January 17, the United States recognizes the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., the civil rights leader who famously said "Life's most persistent and urgent question is: 'What are you doing for others?'" To honor King’s memory, since 1994 this federal holiday has also been celebrated as a day of service. The website for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service encourages people to think of the holiday as “a day on, not a day off” by volunteering for local causes.
In addition to contributing time to good causes, this day also provides an excellent opportunity to talk about service, charity, and generosity with children. By providing concrete examples of ways to help and showing them that their efforts do make a difference, parents and educators can encourage children and youth to be socially minded. Then they can turn their creative minds toward finding solutions to the problems they see around them!
With that in mind, A Mighty Girl has collected a series of resources that emphasize the value of charity, community service, and giving. Whether your Mighty Girl decides to contribute time, talent, or treasure to a charitable cause, these books will help her understand the value of compassion and generosity. And, if you’d like volunteering to become a part of your family’s life, there is a selection of parenting books to help guide you on getting started.
So why not find a way that you and your Mighty Girl can volunteer together throughout the year? You and your Mighty Girl will be amazed at the rewards that giving can bring.
Why We Give: Explaining Charity To Children
Kids who are used to having what they need may find it hard to believe that anyone lacks for the basics. These books will help parents and educators show kids that there are many people out there who need our help — and that small contributions can make a big difference, both locally and globally.
In Beatrice’s Ugandan village, few families have the money to send their children to school — until the day twelve donated goats arrive. Beatrice names her goat Mugisa, which means “lucky gift”, and thanks to Beatrice’s scrupulous care, Mugisa is soon giving enough milk that Beatrice can afford the school uniform she’s been dreaming of. Based on a real story of a family helped by Heifer Project International, and with a portion of proceeds going to support the work of the charity, this book is a celebration of special relationships with animals and a great way to show your children the impact of charitable giving.
Even today, if there aren’t roads, books can still get to eager readers, young and old! Inspired by the story of real-life librarian Luis Soriano, this book tells the story of the most beautiful sight that book-loving Ana has ever seen: a traveling library, brought by a kind man on the backs of two burros. In Colombia, where Soriano works to bring literacy to isolated villages, there are thousands of children just like Ana, who sit and wait excitedly for the BiblioBurro to come. This book is also available in a bilingual English / Spanish edition.
Young Sonia's mother always asks her one question before she goes to bed: "How did you help today?" So just like Mami, Sonia always tries to find ways to contribute to her community! Today, she and her peers are assembling care packages for American soldiers, supporting recycling programs, and even learning about the struggle for voting rights — and the importance of being part of the political process. In this follow-up to Just Ask!, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor shows young readers how thinking of the world as "one very large neighborhood" can help us all work together to make the world a better place.
With Ernestine's Papa away fighting the war, and Mama expecting twins, carrying two mason jars full of milk to the neighbors falls to the her. And while Ernestine loves declaring to the Great Smoky Mountains, "I'm five years old and a big girl!"... the journey is a bit intimidating when she sets out! But every scary sound turns out to be a not-so-fearsome beast, and even when she accidentally drops one of the jars — sending it rolling down the mountain — Ernestine finds it again and discovers a treat inside: butter! This charming picture book full of can-do spirit also celebrates the joys of discovering your independence and helping others in need.
Best friends Sofia and Maddi live in the same neighborhood and attend the same school, but when Sofia looks for a snack in Maddi's fridge one day, she is shocked to discover that her friend Maddi spends many of her days hungry. Maddi makes Sofia promise not to tell, but it's hard for Sofia to enjoy all the good food on her own family's table when she knows Maddi's family has none. It turns out, sometimes the kindest thing to do is to break a promise. This book about food insecurity provides a model for empathetic and compassionate friendship with a person in need, and includes six effective ways for children to help fight hunger at the back.
Sharonda and her mother live in a room in her aunt's house, and everything is getting a bit crowded. Then, their church announces a special gift: they are going to build Sharonda's family a house of their own. As Sharonda watches in amazement, people come together to hammer, saw, measure, and lift. When they're done, there is a house — and when Sharonda moves in, it becomes a home to treasure. Full of energy and life, this book is a celebration of cooperation, generosity, and the joy of building a space that makes a difference.
There are lots of ways to give more than time and money — you can even give when you get a haircut! Sophie loves her long, twirly, fancy hair... until she realizes that her extra-long hair tangles, snarls, and gets in the way of her busy days full of active play. The day she accidentally gets gum in her hair, she decides it's time for a new style — and learns that her hair can provide lovely locks for another child who has none. The final page shows a heartwarming image of an excited child receiving a much-anticipated wig made from Sophie's hair. This charming story includes a list of three different organizations that accept hair donations.
This a great real-life story that shows that Mighty Girls can make a really big difference! Vivienne Harr was 8 years old when she saw a photograph of two enslaved Nepalese boys and decided she couldn't stand by and ignore slavery in the modern world. In her own words, Vivienne tells the story of how she turned a simple idea — run a lemonade stand and donate the profits — into Make A Stand Lemon-Aid, a for-profit social impact company that has raised over $100,000 for organizations dedicated to ending child slavery.
Olivia Bouler was a budding ornithologist who was horrified to see the 2010 Gulf Coast oil spill’s effects on birds. So at the age of 11, she wrote to Audubon and offered to help by contributing her paintings to raise donations. More than 500 paintings later, Olivia had raised over $175,000 for Audubon’s efforts to clean up the spill! This book is full of interesting facts, both about backyard and endangered birds and about Olivia’s campaign to rescue the Gulf birds.
Tweens can learn how kids just like them turned their passion into tangible change with this inspiring book! The thirty profiles included tell the stories of how girls and boys around the world did amazing things, from raising money to drill wells to fighting against segregation to warning neighbors of oncoming disaster. These stories remind kids that being a hero doesn’t have to be complicated. Heroism comes from seeing people in need and using the resources you have (and a lot of determination!) to help. It's the perfect way to prompt kids to think about what kind of hero they will be.
Money conversations can also provide a great opportunity to communicate family values about money and giving. This insightful parenting book shows how families of all income levels can talk with kids about money issues, not only to teach them about financial responsibility, but also to show them how the family's choices allow them to give to their community. Author Ron Lieber explores topics ranging from the Tooth Fairy to birthday parties to college tuition, encouraging parents to foster less materialism and more generosity; his examination of the attitudes we communicate to kids about money will help parents teach that money is a tool, not a goal, and that the reward comes from how you use it.
Taking Action: Donation, Volunteering, and Community Service
One kids understand why charity and community service is important, it's time to turn theory into practice! These books will help show girls the kinds of projects they can be involved in — or, if she has her own project idea, teach her how to make it a reality.
An exuberant little girl decides to become the catalyst that brings her community together in this charming adaptation of the classic Bob Marley song! She starts with the help of her friends, picking up trash, and eventually enlists all of the adults in the neighborhood to clean, build, fix, and plant. It takes a lot of hard work, but in the end, they all get to enjoy their new “One Love Park.” It’s the perfect way to show the youngest Mighty Girls how beautiful it is when people work together — and teach them the importance of being good stewards for green places.
Oftentimes, the best ideas for helping locally come observing the needs of those around you. When Ruthie's family takes in a deaf woman and her baby, Ruthie wonders how she'll hear the baby if he wakes up at night, and Bayla shows her the string she ties around their wrists at night. So the talented young knitter decides to improve on the idea and creates a special pair of mittens linked by a string. That string, though, makes her think of all the children from her village and their constantly lost mittens. The same concept, she realizes, can help them as well. This small gesture of kindness is a great gift to her community: as her mother says, "You make our world a bit better with every stitch." For a similar story about a young girl using her knitting to do a kind deed, check out A Hat for Mrs. Goldman for ages 4 to 8.
Naoko Stoop's beloved character Red Knit Cap Girl inspires a community project in this story when she leaves her book in a hollow tree, saying "I will keep my book in this nook so everyone can read it." Soon, other animals are adding their own books — or contributing in other ways, like when Beaver gnaws a shelf or when the sheep bring warm blankets for the readers. The final touch is a special sign for the new library, a reminder that these books are for everyone to use. Kids will love watching how this community turns the tree into a gathering place for friends and neighbors.
Encouraging kids to regularly donate to charity is a great way to establish a giving attitude! With the Money Savvy Pig, kids learn how to divide their money — whether from a regular allowance or from gifts — into four key categories: Save, Spend, Invest, and Donate. Since each compartment empties separately, kids can plan for bigger expenditures, like a coveted toy or a bigger donation at the end of the year, while still taking out spending money when they please.
Even little kids can learn basic money skills with the Moonjar Moneybox! Moonjar moneyboxes are divided into three separate compartments: Spend, Save, and Share. Kids can track their deposits and withdrawals with the passbook, and watch their contributions to each category grow. This division is a great way to teach children about the benefits of saving money for a special purpose versus spending it immediately, and also provides an easy way to make charitable giving a part of your child's life. For another divided piggy bank, check out the Smart Piggy Trio Bank for ages 4 and up, which includes three separate ledgers for tracking funds.
A little girl imagines a beautiful garden that starts with a single seed — and a stuffed bear — in this picture book inspired by the Pacific Street Brooklyn Bear’s Community Garden in Brooklyn, New York. Outside her window, there's a vacant lot that she envisions as "a place to grow, a play to play, and a place to love." She starts by planting one seed in a can, which she tends with her beloved stuffed panda. When the can topples and the seedling roots in the lot below, she carefully oversees its growth. The girl has to leave for a while, and leaves her bear to supervise... and when she returns, the community has come together to create something amazing! This charming picture book celebrates the joy of working together to create beauty in surprising places.
Malina the hedgehog is a bit shy, but she loves to tend to her raspberry bushes and make delicious raspberry jam. So much so that her shelves are full of jars and bottles of jam! But one day, one of Malina's neighbors asks for a taste... and soon she's given away every last bite. Fortunately, her neighbors, now friends, return the favor by sharing their own favorite snacks — and the next growing season they're right next to her in the raspberry patch! This charming and sweet picture book includes a recipe for your very own jam to share.
"What does it take to change the world?" In this book inspired by Hillary Clinton's bestselling book It Takes A Village, a diverse community comes together when the children of the neighborhood look at a barren hill and see a bright future: a beautiful park! They rally the adults to turn their dreams into a reality, and soon, people of all ages are digging, carrying, and building. When the construction is done, the neighborhood has a new place to gather — and a new sense of unity. This charming story reminds kids that they can be the catalyst for big change.
The girl in this book knows change is coming — and that's a good thing! She can hear its hum, but she wants to amplify its voice. So she lifts her own voice... and urges others to do the same. In this stirring picture book by the first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman, whose inspiring words captivated the nation at President Joe Biden's inauguration, a musical journey becomes a metaphor for community action, and how many people making changes, no matter how big or small, can have a huge impact on the world. With lyrical text accompanied by vibrant illustrations by bestselling illustrator Loren Long, this book is a celebration of all those who work for a better world.
Mira's community is gray, but her artwork is full of color, and she loves to give it away to the people in her neighborhood. But no matter how many pictures she hands out, the world is still mostly gray. Then, a mysterious artist encourages her to think bigger: when she asks him, "What do you see?" as he stares at a wall, he replies, "Maybe... something beautiful." With some splashes of paint — and plenty of community members pitching in — it's not long before Mira's neighborhood is full of color and life! Inspired by the Urban Art Trail in San Diego, California, and by illustrator Rafael López's work as an urban muralist, this is a celebration of the power of art and how even one person can spark beauty.
Kamala and Maya spent days staring at their empty apartment courtyard before coming up with a great idea: it would be the perfect spot for a playground! It's not long before the girls have plans for the playground of their dreams... but making it happen is a project that's too big for two kids to manage on their own. Fortunately, the pair are able to reach out to supportive family, friends, and neighbors, and soon they've built a space that everyone can enjoy! Author Meena Harris draws from a true story about the childhood of her aunt, US Senator Kamala Harris, and her mother, lawyer and policy expert Maya Harris, to create an empowering picture book about the power of cooperation and community organizing.
The most amazing thing about kindness is how it ripples out beyond the original act! Mary finds a patch of blueberries on her way home, and decides to pick some for Mrs. Bishop. Mrs. Bishop in turn makes blueberry muffins that she gives to five people — one of whom helps five more, and then one of those helps five more... Before long, a variety of kindnesses, some with a small impact and some with a huge one, are creating a change that extends worldwide. It's a lovely testament to how little acts of compassion and kindness have big potential for the entire world.
A farm doesn't have to be a giant expanse, with row upon row of plants and rolling pastures full of animals; a farm can be anywhere that a caring person — or community — plants a seed and tends the resulting crop. In this rhyming story author Phyllis Root provides factual information about how plants grow alongside plenty of inspiration for starting your own farm — in anything from a window box to an old boot! G. Brian Karas' illustrations depict a diverse and vibrant group of young people working together to make their own "anywhere farms" a reality.
Katje's Dutch town has been ravaged by World War II, and her family is struggling to get by with almost nothing. Then, one day, a box arrives from America: a little girl named Rosie has sent necessities like soap and socks, and even chocolate for a treat! Katje is so thrilled that she sends a letter of thanks, and soon both girls are sending exchanges full of surprises. What started as an act of generosity becomes an ongoing relationship that changes the lives of both girls — and the people in both their towns — for the better. Candace Fleming based this story on her mother's childhood, and the story of how simple acts of generosity can last a lifetime is sure to get kids thinking about what their own acts of kindness can do.
Elizabeth Brown was a book-loving girl; where other kids loved skating or playing with dolls, she "learned to read quite early / and at an incredible rate." As she grows, Elizabeth amasses a beautiful collection of books... until one day, as an old woman, she realizes that her books are starting to block the door and she is literally out of space! What's a book lover to do? Why, start her own public library! This funny tribute to the joy that reading can provide — not just in childhood, but through our whole lives — is accompanied by clever illustrations full of intriguing detail that ensure kids will want to read this book again and again.
Ada Rios grew up in Cateura, a small town in Paraguay built on a landfill. She dreamed of playing the violin, but with little money for anything but the bare essentials, it was never an option.. .until a music teacher named Favio Chavez arrived. He made the children of Cateura instruments out of materials found in the trash — a crazy idea, but one that would leave Ada, and her town, forever changed. Today, the Recycled Orchestra plays venues around the world, spreading their message of hope and innovation. This beautiful picture book tells the remarkable true story of the Recycled Orchestra through the eyes of one girl who dreamed of music.
In this wordless picture book, a baby girl comes home to a house in a run-down neighborhood. But as she grows, something almost magical happens: the neighbors get together to revitalize their street. As Traci grows, she, her parents, and their friends plant flowers, grass, and trees; paint over graffiti; and pick up garbage. In fact, by the time Traci's own baby is born many years later, the neighborhood is green and gleaming, the perfect safe and happy space to call home. The exquisite collage illustrations in this book speak more loudly than words ever could about the potential of a community when they work together.
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and award-winning artist Rafael López celebrate kids of different abilities and the power of inclusion in this affirming picture book! Sotomayor encourages kids to ask if they are curious about another child's differences, introducing physical conditions like her own experience with diabetes and Lopez's use of an inhaler for asthma, then broadening the conversation to include neuroatypical conditions like Tourette's and autism; learning disabilities like dyslexia; and even a nut allergy. Throughout, the children in her story work together to create a garden as a powerful visual reminder that we all have the power to make the world more beautiful.
Katherine Olivia Sessions grew up in Northern California, among tall pines and redwoods, and couldn't imagine living in a place without trees. But when she moved to the dry desert town of San Diego to work as a teacher, she discovered that there were almost no trees there. So she decided that her new city could use more than a hint of green and started a massive movement that transformed the town into the green, garden-filled oasis it is today. This beautiful story about a women who brought trees to a place where no one expected to find them is sure to inspire kids to make their own communities a little more green.
Sofia loves walking to school with her Abuelo, but when Abuelo hurts his ankle at the local landfill, Sofia has to walk alone. She spends the walk thinking about what she could do about the dangerous trash heap, and she concludes that it's time for the town to turn it into a park. When she arrives at City Hall, plans in hand, the clerk turns her away — a kid can't build a park, after all. Sofia thinks otherwise, and before long, she discovers the power of community organizing... and perhaps a future career in politics! This empowering book by the creators of Rosie Revere, Engineer and Ada Twist, Scientist stars a determined girl who knows that the key to making dreams reality can be political action.
This colorful trio bank provides three compartments for saving, spending, and sharing. Each compartment features a thoughtful quote about that money activity — so, for example, the “Share” box reads, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” Individual ledgers for each box allow kids to track their deposits and withdrawals and watch their cash flow. Add in the included Kid’s Guide that explains basic money concepts, and there’s enough here to give her a great financial start.
It's World War II, and Diana — the daughter of Harry Hopkins, President Roosevelt's chief advisor — desperately wants to help the war effort. Her initial efforts, though, aren't as helpful as she would have liked! The the President decides that Diana has a very special way she can support the country after all: by growing a Victory Garden of vegetables and encouraging the rest of the country to turn lawns and flower gardens into crops of food! Kids will be fascinated to hear how Diana's original garden inspired a movement that continues today — and even still has a White House connection thanks to Michelle Obama's healthy eating initiatives.
Viv has just moved to a new town by the sea, and she's still struggling to feel at home — "I always need help finding my way, especially in a new place," she thinks. On her first day at school, her teacher tells her that they're looking for a community action project to do. And when Viv learns about the sea turtle hatcheries nearby — and the way the hatchlings can get lost when they mistake artificial lights for the moon that normally guides their way — that the class finds the perfect project. This picture book based on the real kids who helped save the South Carolina sea turtles is sure to inspire young animal lovers!
Growing up, Henrietta Szold watched her mother and rabbi father helping escaping slaves in Civil War Baltimore, and she knew she wanted to help others too. She was inspired by the Purim story of Queen Esther saving the Jews from Haman, and decided she would devote herself to helping the Jewish people. So in 1912, she founded a social justice organization for Jewish women, Hadassah. At first, they worked to provide medical care to mothers and children in Palestine, but when World War II broke out, Hadassah's mission grew, and Szold devoted herself to rescuing Jewish children from the Holocaust and to working for education and women's rights. This captivating story of a courageous, compassionate, and service-driven woman is sure to spark kids' imaginations about how they could rescue people in need someday.
It's easier than you think to change the world! This fun and empowering guide teaches kids how they can take their passion for justice and put it into practice. The four chapters move from the individual, learning to practice self-kindness, to the community, to all of humanity, and to the planet we live on. Each chapter provides practical advice, examples of real kids who started service projects, and ideas for things you can do, from being a good friend to identifying fake news to going on a protest march. It's sure to inspire kids everywhere to take their first steps into activism!
Activism can sometimes seem overwhelming — but there are problems large and small that kids can tackle every day! In this book, Chelsea Clinton addresses five key concepts — health, hunger, climate change, endangered species, and bullying — and shows kids how to start solving them, either individually, locally, or globally. Each chapter ends with a "Start Now!" bullet list, providing suggestions for young would-be activists to take first steps towards big changes. Kids will particularly love the photographs of real kids, just like them, who have started leading the way for people around them.
The Kid's Guide to Service Projects: Over 500 Service Ideas for Young People Who Want to Make A Difference
The Kid's Guide to Service Projects: Over 500 Service Ideas for Young People Who Want to Make A Difference
If your tween is looking for a way to contribute but doesn't know where to start, this guide provides plenty of great ideas! Pick a topic that interests you, from animal welfare to the environment to supporting seniors, and flip through this book for a variety of service projects, from simple things you can do on your own to larger community projects. This revised edition includes an updated "Ten Steps to Successful Service Projects" to help kids get the most good work done for their efforts.
Anyone can make the world a better place — whether you're helping a few people in your school or tackling a global issue! If your Mighty Girl wants to make a difference, but doesn't know where to start, this book from the American Girl Library will help. Girls will identify their talents and skills, and figure out which causes matter the most to them. Then, they'll see how they can change things for the better, whether it's welcoming a lonely classmate, writing letters asking for change, or starting a fundraiser. This empowering and inspiring book will help girls recognize their power to make the world a better place.
In this struggling neighborhood, the rat-filled vacant lot is just another sign of how difficult life is — until the day one girl clears a small space and plants some beans. Soon, other people are seeing promise in the dirt: Curtis thinks he can win back Lateesha's heart with some home-grown tomatoes, while Virgil's dad imagines making a fortune growing lettuce. Even 16-year-old, pregnant Maricela begins to see the chance for a future. Thirteen different voices come together in this remarkable novel that shows the power of a garden to grow something more beautiful that vegetables or flowers: hope.
If you believe that "Small actions multiplied by lots of people equals big change" then this is the book for you! This engaging book provides kids with ideas, both big and small, for making the world a better place. Every idea in the book was contributed by a kid, ending with the most important action of all: deciding how YOU are going to change the world! These concepts range from small and simple, like teaching a grandparent how to text, to longer-term projects like growing your own food. It's a great way to show that projects don't have to be grand and ambitious to make a positive change.
Piper's life is turned upside down when her family moves into a shelter in a whole new city. She misses her house, her friends, and her privacy — and she hates being labeled the homeless girl at her new school. But the shelter also brings new friendships with other girls in the shelter's Firefly Girls troop and with a sweet street dog owned by an elderly homeless woman named Jewel, who refuses to move into the shelter because she can't bring her beloved Baby. After Jewel is hospitalized and Baby is sent to an animal shelter, Piper decides to rally her new Firefly friends and figure out a way to make sure that Jewel and Baby can stay together and move off the streets for good. Told in alternating perspectives, this heartfelt story explores the many faces of homelessness while speaking to the importance of hope, the power of story, and the true meaning of home.
Kids need to hear that this world isn't just for the adults — it's their world too! Author Chelsea Clinton breaks down some key social issues facing the world today, including poverty, climate change, gender equality, health, and endangered species. With a mix of statistics and personal stories she shows what challenges affect each of these areas, and then breaks down how kids and teens can help. Empowering and informative, this book encourages kids to take ownership of the world around them and reminds them that every person can make a difference.
When a teen has an idea for a way to change the world, she may not know what to do to make it a reality. This book will guide her through it, step by step! Individual chapters cover everything from refining your idea to fundraising to creating a business plan, and even discuss what to do when you're ready to move on, whether you're closing down your project or handing it off to another person. Changing the world may not be easy, but with this book, she'll know where to start.
Global poverty can seem like an overwhelming problem, a small contribution can do more than we think! In her eye-opening book, Betsy Teutsch looks at various paths out of poverty in eleven different sectors, including public health, finance, law, and technology, each of which can be dramatically affected even by small investments. Along with introductions to non-profits and community groups working on her 100 paths, Teutsch shares pictures and profiles of women who are doing cutting-edge work to lift themselves and their communities out of poverty. By sitting down and figuring out how your family can come up with $100 to give, you and your Mighty Girl can then make a big difference in the lives of women around the world.
Studies show that teens are 40% less empathetic today than they were thirty years ago – a trend that hurts both kids and society as a whole. In fact, self-focused behavior can hurt academic performance, lead to increases in bullying behavior, and reduce kids’ resilience when things go wrong. This thoughtful parenting book explores nine research-based habits to build kids’ empathy. From identifying and controlling their emotions to thinking about "us" not "them", these strategies can be used daily to encourage kids to see the world from the perspectives of other people around them, reducing rudeness and bullying and setting them up for a lifetime of positive relationships.
Additional Recommended Resources
- For more about the day of service, visit the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service website.
- For more books that celebrate the value of giving, visit our Generosity & Charity section.
- For books that celebrate Mighty Girls who take show initiative and make an impact on the world, visit our Initiative & Leadership section.