Often, Labor Day is seen as the marker to end summer, a Monday off either right before or right after school starts and often overlooked in the classroom. But most of those kids getting back to school will be workers some day, and they need to know the past and present struggles of ordinary people whose work may be overlooked but is important. Here are eight picture books to share for Labor Day.
Keeping the City Going by Brian Floca
Published by Atheneum, 2021
A celebration of those workers who kept the city going when the rest of us spent the spring of 2020 inside due to Covid-19 pandemic. 40 page; ages 4-8.
Night Job by Karen Hesse, illustrated by G. Brian Karas
Published by Candlewick, 2018
Every Friday night, a boy and his father spend the night cleaning a school, finally riding home on Dad’s motorcycle at 4:00 a.m. A quiet ode to some of the invisible workers around us. 32 pages; ages 4-8.
The Only Woman in the Photo: Frances Perkins & Her New Deal for America by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Alexandra Bye
Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2020
Frances Perkins was a shy young woman who transformed from a social worker to a labor activist when she witnessed the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. Later she became Franklin Roosevelt’s Secretary of Labor, the first woman to serve in a U.S. presidential cabinet. 48 pages; grades 2-6.
Whose Hands Are These? A Community Helpers Guessing Book by Miranda Paul, illustrated by Luciana Navarro Powell
Published by Millbrook Press, 2016
Rhyming text describes what the hands pictured do; turn the page to see who those hands belong to. A great introduction to community helpers and a chance for kids to think about the kind of work they might want to do someday. 32 pages; ages 4-7.
The Paper Kingdom by Helena Ku Rhee, illustrated by Pascal Campion
Published by Random House Books for Young Readers, 2020
Another story of a boy whose parents work nights as cleaners. When Daniel’s babysitter cancels, he has to go to work with Mom and Dad. While they work, his parents tell him stories of kings, queens, and dragons, and assure him that he will be one of the rulers someday. 40 pages; ages 3-7.
Sincerely, Emerson: A Girl, Her Letters, and Helpers All Around Us by Emerson Weber, illustrated by Jaclyn Sinquett
Published by HarperCollins, 2020
Emerson Weber’s true story of how she wrote a thank-you letter to her mail carrier that ended up going viral, with postal workers everywhere appreciating the gratitude she expressed. Ends with her thoughts about the importance of thanking the workers around us whom we sometimes take for granted. 32 pages; grades K-5.
Someone Builds the Dream by Lisa Wheeler, illustrated by Loren Long
Published by Dial Books for Young Readers, 2021
The architects, engineers, and authors may have a vision, but it’s the builders, electricians, printers, and other workers who turn the dream into reality. 48 pages; ages 4-8.
Mother Jones and Her Army of Children by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter
Illustrated by Schwartz & Wade, 2020
Mother Jones tells how her 1903 Children’s Crusade from Philadelphia to New York City started the movement to end child labor. 40 pages; grades 2-5.