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 18, 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.
Beatrice lives in a small African village and dreams of going to school, but her family can’t afford the extra expenses of books and uniforms. A goat, provided by a donation to Heifer Project International, seems like a small gift, but soon the goat provides enough milk to feed the family plus extra to sell, and the difference to Beatrice’s family is astounding. This story, based on the real experience of one village, will give your Mighty Girl a tangible example of how even a small donation can make a big difference.
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.
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. 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 reminds readers of the importance of helping others in need.
It's also important to remind Mighty Girls in need can exist close to home as well. 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. This compassionate look at hunger in local communities also provides some great tips on how even young Mighty Girls can make a difference.
Few things can bring more pride and security than a home of your very own, but our communities are full of people struggling to find reliable, safe housing. In this book, Sharonda and her mother think their dream of a home is impossible...until many hands step in to make it real. With the bang of a hammer and the zip of a saw, the frame of a house starts rising, all thanks to the dedication of dozens of people from the community. An author's note discusses Lyon's work with Habitat for Humanity in Kentucky, which is sure to inspire your Mighty Girl with dreams of building someone else's home.
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. For another book with a similar message, check out Melissa Parkington's Beautiful, Beautiful Hair, also for ages 4 to 8.
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.
Another book starring a real-life Mighty Girl tells that story of Olivia Bouler, a budding ornithologist who was horrified to see the 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 has 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. It’s a great way to show your Mighty Girl how a simple idea can grow.
Tweens are ready to read about a wider variety of ways that other kids have turned their minds and actions to helping others! The thirty profiles in this book 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.
Kids often go through a stage where they are hyper-aware of money, but parents shy away from tackling such a delicate subject. And yet these conversations can 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. Lieber's 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; 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. Fans of the book will also want to check out the One Love plush doll based on the main character.
Naoko Stoop's beloved Red Knit Cap Girl inspires her own 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.
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.
Another great option for dividing a child's funds is this moneybox, which comes with three separate compartments for spending, saving, and sharing. Since each compartment is a different color, kids can quickly identify which one holds their growing donation fund! The box comes with a passbook that kids can use to track their deposits and withdrawals, great practice for when they have a bank account in the future, as well as a family guide that provides advice on teaching kids smart money management.
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 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.
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.
Sometimes it's not a single project that changes a community, but many kind deeds, all linked together. Mary finds a patch of blueberries on her way home, and decides to pick some for Mrs. Bishop, who 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 around the world. It's a lovely testament to how little acts of compassion and kindness have big potential for the entire globe. For a metaphorical story with a similar message, check out Plant A Kiss for age 2 to 8.
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. For two more great books about community farms and gardens, check out Wanda's Roses and City Green.
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 loves books — so much so that she ignores almost every other form of recreation. She exercises with a book, walks with a book, and even cleans house with a book! As she grows to adulthood, and then becomes an old woman, Elizabeth collects more and more precious books and delights in reading them all... until she begins to realize that her collection is preventing her from living in her own house. What's a book loving woman to do? Why, donate all the books — and the house — to the city as a library, so everyone else can love them too! This heartwarming story about a quirky book-lover celebrates how a personal passion can become the inspiration for your community contributions.
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 celebrates how one person's big idea can create a movement that changes the way we live, build, and think.
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.
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 urges Viv and her classmates to think of ideas. It's not until 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 newly released picture book based on the real kids who helped save the South Carolina sea turtles is sure to inspire young nature lovers!
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.
The local vacant lot in this community is rat-infested and full of garbage; what good could come from that? But one day, a girl clears a small space, digs in the earth, and plants a handful of lima bean seeds. As the tiny shoots start to grow, her neighbors start to see the promise the lot holds. The story follows thirteen different voices — old and young, from many races, and living through a variety of joys, challenges, and tragedies — as a vacant lot becomes a community garden full of friendship, hope, and joy.
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. Fortunately, there are easy steps parents can take to raise their kids to be thoughtful, empathetic, and kind! In this thoughtful new parenting book, Dr. Michelle Borba explores nine research-based habits to build kids’ empathy and compassion. 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.
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.