For radical parents, it sometimes feels like the deck is stacked when it comes to kids’ media that represents progressive values. Children’s books often tokenize girls, depend on stereotypes, and push kids into fulfilling narrow gender roles. Diverse families are hard to find – most mainstream kids’ books feature all white kids living with two heterosexual parents. For those who want to help raise feminist, cooperative, anti-racist, and anti-authoritarian children, the challenge can be daunting.
A founding member of Design Action Collective, a worker-owned cooperative design studio in Oakland, Innosanto Nagara wanted a book to teach his son the ABCs – and the principles that drove his activism. “It was important to me that the book be one that I too would enjoy reading over and over—not something I’d want to hide after day 3, even if my son loved it,” he says.
The result? An abecedarium called A is for Activist. This ABC board book captivates, educates, and agitates the children that activists raise.
Far from the usual fare that kids read – stories of helpless (anorexic) princesses being saved by rich (white) men on horses – Nagara brings a simple book with complex underlying meaning, weaving mentions of the Occupy movement, LGBTQ rights, unionism, feminism and Malcolm X with gorgeous illustration.
Like any other ABC book, alliteration acts as an anchor, keeping little ears attuned to the story’s message. The rhyme schemes are fun, even if some of the concepts seem outside the grasp of a young audience. But the opportunity to re-read as children grow and explain the concept of, say, May Day, is exactly what Nagara was looking for. “I wanted this book for the quieter, more intimate time I spend with my child,” he says.
While this is truly a book to be celebrated in the home, it has garnered some very public praise. Author Naomi Klein called the book “full of wit, beauty, and fun!” Medea Benjamin, cofounder of Global Exchange and Code Pink, said the book gave “a message that is sure to resonate with kids, who have an innate sense of fairness.”
For progressive activists, this book provides an opportunity to foster that sense of fairness. Parents who want to raise their kids to raise their fists would do well to get them started with A is for Activist.