Every few years I revisit my list of the most important books related to youth engagement, youth voice, youth involvement, and youth empowerment. Following is the November 2010 version.
15 Points to Successfully Involving Youth in Decision-Making
In 2007 Youth On Board hired me to rewrite 14 Points to Successfully Involving Youth in Decision-Making with them. This version of the essential guide to youth involvement highlights the essential elements of successful project planning, this manual provides stories, hints, and tools to make your project successful. Order it from www.youthonboard.org
Adults as Allies in Action
The Students Commission in Canada published Adults as Allies in Action. A well-designed introduction for adults, this publication gives basic information and ideas for adults to learn how to better support young people throughout society. Download it free at http://www.tgmag.ca/aorg/pdf/alliesFINAL_e_web.pdf
Adults as Allies
Barry Checkoway is a renown sociologist at the University of Michigan. His publication for the WK Kellogg Foundation, Adults as Allies, was the only of its kind when it was originally published. It highlights the role of adults in youth involvement by posing questions, offering activities, and providing stories that highlight effective intergenerational interaction. This publication seems to have disappeared from the Internet; share a URL with me if you find one please?
At the Table: Making the case for Youth in Decision-Making
In the early 2000s The Innovation Center and National 4-H released a pivotal study called At the Table: Making the case for Youth in Decision-Making. Their publication called At the Table: Making the case for Youth in Decision-Making: Research Highlights from a Study on the impacts of Youth on Adults and Organizations is essential reading for anyone who wants to make the case. You can download in at www.theinnovationcenter.org
Beyond Resistance! Youth Activism and Community Change
Beyond Resistance! Youth Activism and Community Change was edited by Shawn Ginwright, Pedro Noguera, and Julio Cammarota. Academics study the current implementations of Youth Voice activities across the country and their effects on communities, policy, and more. Order from your local bookstore.
Building Community: A Tool Kit for Youth and Adults in Charting Assets and Creating Change
Building Community: A Tool Kit for Youth and Adults in Charting Assets and Creating Change was published by The Innovation Center. This publication makes it possible for individuals and groups everywhere to bring an inclusive, asset-based approach to youth involvement in their community. Filled with detailed information and case studies, it gives users what they need to create youth adult partnerships and lasting community development. You can order it at www.theinnovationcenter.org
Children’s Participation in Sustainable Development
Sociologist Roger Hart’s wrote the first substantive publication on youth involvement for UNESCO called Children’s Participation in Sustainable Development. A new edition of Hart’s classic, this book is a central text for anyone interested in studying youth involvement in communities. It introduces organizing principles, successful models, practical techniques and resources for involving children in a variety of social projects. You can order it at www.earthscan.co.uk
Creating Youth/Adult Partnerships
The Innovation Center and National 4-H Council worked together on a few publications, including the important Creating Youth/Adult Partnerships. For those just beginning to explore youth-adult partnerships as a strategy for community and organization building, this book offers a step-by-step tools to prepare youth and adults to work as a team. Designed with even the most novice trainer in mind, this curriculum provides activities that challenge preconceptions, explore benefits, assess readiness and build trust to strengthen their work in partnership. Order it at www.theinnovationcenter.org
The Declaration of Accountability on the Ethical Engagement of Young People and Adults in Canadian Organizations
The First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada created a vital document when they published The Declaration of Accountability on the Ethical Engagement of Young People and Adults in Canadian Organizations. It shares a wide-ranging perspective of youth involvement, calling for organizations and communities to see beyond past activities and to identify and practice powerful ethical approaches to engaging youth. Despite the reference to Canadian organizations, this document is useful communities around the world. You can download it from www.fncaringsociety.com/projects/ethicalYouthEngagement.html
The Evolving Capacities of the Child
The Evolving Capacities of the Child by Gerison Lansdown is another UN imprint that I believe is absolutely vital to understanding the present and future of young people. The principle behind recognizing the ‘evolving capacities’ of the child recognizes that as young people acquire enhanced competencies, there is a diminishing need for protection and a greater capacity to take responsibility for decisions affecting their lives. The purpose of this publication is to open the discussion and promote debate to achieve a better understanding of how children can be protected, in accordance with their evolving capacities, and also provided with opportunities to participate in the fulfillment of their rights. A necessary read for all youth involvement practitioners. You can download it at www.unicef-icdc.org/publications/pdf/evolving-eng.pdf
Future 500: Youth Organizing and Activism in the United States
The gang of Jee Kim, Mathilda de Dios, Pablo Caraballo, et al was led by William Wimsatt to write Future 500: Youth Organizing and Activism in the United States. This is the most comprehensive detailing of youth-led organizing ever published. The book details hundreds of organizations across the U.S., identifying them by location, issue-orientation, and constituency. You can order it from your local bookstore.
Youth Voice in Service Learning
The Education Commission of the States’ Initiative wrote a brief summary called Integrating Youth Voice in Service Learning. It highlights the variety of ways Youth Voice can find traction when young people combine community service with state learning goals. You can download it online from http://www.ecs.org/clearinghouse/23/67/2367.htm
Making Space/Making Change: Profiles of Youth-Led and Youth-Driven Organizations
The Young Wisdom Project of the Movement Strategy Center wrote an essential publication with Making Space/Making Change: Profiles of Youth-Led and Youth-Driven Organizations. It is a powerful tool highlighting the successes and challenges of operating authentic Youth Voice programs. There are in-depth features on six programs across the nation, providing vital details and tips. You can learn more about it at www.freechild.org/ReadingList/reviews/MSMC.htm
Maximum Youth Involvement: The Complete Gameplan for Community Change
Before their were national organizations promoting youth involvement, there was Wendy Schaetzel Lesko. Wendy, a friend of The Freechild Project’s, published Maximum Youth Involvement: The Complete Gameplan for Community Change. This manual answers nearly 100 questions on how adults and organizations can support young people as equal partners and effective advocates in changing community norms and policies plus a 40-page Appendix with reproducible checklists and interactive skill-building activities. You can order it from www.youthactivismproject.org
Meaningful Student Involvement Guide to Students as Partners in School Change
My Meaningful Student Involvement Guide to Students as Partners in School Change was written to provide the first comprehensive guide to integrating student voice throughout the education system. It provides a concise introduction for educators on how to empower student voice in schools by engaging students as decision-makers, and more. Includes useful theoretical models, practical considerations, and valuable examples from across the United States. You can download it at www.soundout.org/MSIGuide.pdf
Measuring the Magic: Evaluating and Researching Young People’s Participation in Public Decision-Making
Perpetua Kirby published a vital report for the Carnegie Trust in the UK with Measuring the Magic: Evaluating and Researching Young People’s Participation in Public Decision-Making. This report examines the different ways in which involving young people in decision – making could be measured and evaluated. It recommends a number of different ways of effectively evaluating work in a variety of settings. You can download it at www.carnegieuktrust.org.uk/files/2643_MeasuretheMagic_001.pdf
The Power of an Untapped Resource: Exploring Youth Representation on Your Board or Committee
The Youth Adult Partnerships Project in Alaska wrote The Power of an Untapped Resource: Exploring Youth Representation on Your Board or Committee. This handbook was created by youth for boards or committees interested in including young people. It lists basic criteria for creating an effective board that includes youth representation, including: how to prepare boards for youth involvement; create a position; choose representatives; address legal issues; recruit youth; and educate youth members. You can download it at www.aasb.org/PDF’s/AASBPubs/HansB_bklt.pdf
Promoting Children’s Participation in Democratic Decision-Making
Promoting Children’s Participation in Democratic Decision-Making was written by Gerison Lansdown. This publication makes the case for a commitment to respecting children’s rights to be heard and the need to consolidate and learn from existing practice. It draws on much of the already published research and thinking in the field and on a wide range of international initiatives. In so doing, it seeks to provide practical guidance on the lessons learned to date in working with children as partners. It is a contribution to the development of tools for those who see children ‘s rights to be heard as a means of promoting and protecting their other rights. You can download it at www.asylumsupport.info/publications/unicef/democratic.pdf
Re-focusing the Lens: Assessing the Challenge of Youth Involvement in Public Policy
Re-focusing the Lens: Assessing the Challenge of Youth Involvement in Public Policy was a powerfully conclusive study by Phillip Haid, Elder C. Marques and Jon Brown. This short paper explores successful models of youth participation in policy development and identifies barriers to meaningful youth involvement in the policy process, based on case studies. Download at www.iog.ca/publications/lens.pdf
SoundOut Student Voice Curriculum
My SoundOut Student Voice Curriculum was written as the first collection of lesson plans for classroom teachers focused on engaging student voice ever published. Includes a variety of hands-on, project-based activities that teach students about learning, the education system, school reform, and how students can be meaningfully involved in all three! You can order it from www.soundout.org
Taking the Initiative: Promoting Young People’s Involvement in Public Decision Making: International Reports
Taking the Initiative: Promoting Young People’s Involvement in Public Decision Making: International Reports was written by the Carnegie Young People Initiative in the UK. This report provides insights into the policy and administrative infrastructure that makes it possible for governments to conceptualize and implement program for young people. It underscores the importance of youth participation in informing policy and programming for young people. Countries featured in the report are Barbados, Uganda, Lithuania, Portugal, Denmark, South Africa and Germany. Download at
Younger Voices, Stronger Choices: Promise Project’s Guide to Forming Youth/Adult Partnerships
Younger Voices, Stronger Choices: Promise Project’s Guide to Forming Youth/Adult Partnerships by Michael McLarney and Loring Leifer was one of the first nationally available publications on youth involvement. An important primer on involving youth in meaningful ways, co-written by a youth and an adult. This is the foundational text for many other books on youth involvement. Order from your local bookstore.
Youth in Decision-Making: A Study on The Impacts of Youth on Adults and Organizations
Shepherd Zeldin, Annette Kusgen-McDaniel, and Dimitri Topitzes worked on a number of important studies together, and wrote Youth in Decision-Making: A Study on The Impacts of Youth on Adults and Organizations. This report discusses the impacts young people have on adults and organizations when they are involved in significant decision-making roles. It will be of interest to policy-makers and practitioners, and concludes by commenting on the conditions that are needed to allow organizations to include more youth in their decision-making processes. Find it online.
Youth Participation and Community Change
Youth Participation and Community Change edited by Barry Checkoway and Lorraine Gutierrez is a forum where academics, students, and organizational leaders from across the U.S. explore current research and action happening in communities around the country. It includes a number of examples and wonderful descriptions from a variety of programs, and you can order it from your local bookstore.
The Youth Voices in Community Design Handbook
The Youth Voices in Community Design Handbook was printed by the California Center for Civic Engagement and Youth Development. This is a spectacular, free how-to guide on getting youth involved in local policy making and community planning. The handbook provides a step-by-step guide to Youth Voice and is supported by an extensive online library of articles and activities. Download at http://www.participation.ro/resources/library/voices_handbook1.pdf/view
Youth Voice: A Guide for Engaging Youth in Leadership and Decision-Making in Service-Learning Programs
Jonna Justinianno and Cynthia Scherer wrote Youth Voice: A Guide for Engaging Youth in Leadership and Decision-Making in Service-Learning Programs for the Points of Light Foundation and the Corporation for National Service. The purpose of this guide is to provide service learning practitioners with basic information on Youth Voice – how to engage youth in leadership and decision-making in programs. This guide highlights what youth voice is, why it is important and models of Youth Voice that have been implemented by service learning practitioners. Download it at
The Child Rights Information Network published an issue of their newspaper focused on Children and Young People’s Participation. It reviews how far children and young people’s participation has progressed, through a series of international overviews and thematic case studies. The overviews present the state of youth involvement around the world, examine key barriers to effective participation and suggest specific recommendations, based on experience, to improve future practice. Case studies describe examples of children’s participation in a variety of contexts. You can download it at
There are hundreds more publications available on youth involvement, youth voice, youth engagement, and youth empowerment. What would you add to this list?
You Might Also Be Interested In…
- The Privilege of Youth Involvement
- Professional Development on Student Voice
- Systems of Youth Engagement
I just got done reading a POWERFUL new book called “Girls Gone Activist! How to Change the World through Education” written by youth for youth. The free eBook is posted at http://schoolgirlsunite.org/book.php – HIGHLY recommended!
There is a lot of chatter out there about listening to youth, engaging young people, and promoting meaningful youth involvement. But sometimes it is hard to find resources that value what you think and feel as someone committed to young people and social change.
Following are the Top 10 Youth Voice publications I have found through December 2006. They come from across the spectrum of youth voice, and each values diversity, transformation, and community. I have included a separate list of my own publications at the bottom for your use, and indicates free download. I’ll update this list again soon – Let me know what you think I should add!
10 Creating Better Cities With Children and Youth by David Driskell. This UNESCO publications provides examples and activities that can help young people become engaged throughout their communities. It gives youth participation a global perspective by contextualizing young peoples’ engagement within an international movement for citizen engagement. The tools within this booklet cover a variety of topics, and can be useful across the board.
5 What Works in Youth Participation? Case Studies from around the world by Sylvia Golombeck. This report asks a variety of interesting questions that contextualize youth voice in the global setting. By reaching across interest areas, this shares “what works” in many different areas, in many different ways. It is also written by authors of different ages – something most publications can’t claim.
4 Future 500: Youth Organizing and Activism in the United States by J. Kim, M. de Dios, P. Caraballo, et al. Features analysis of the modern youth movement, interviews with 25 young people changing the world, and profiles of 500 of the most important youth-led organizations across the country. It also includes statistics on youth organizations, listings of youth-friendly foundations and national networks, and amazing art from the movement.
3 Knock-Your-Socks-Off: Training Teens to be Successful Activists by Wendy Lesko. A great introduction to training for youth voice. Comprehensive, easy, and approachable in a way that a lot of manuals dream of being.
1 Youth Voice Begins With You! by Jennifer Kurkoski, Karla Markendorf And Norma Straw for the Washington Youth Voice Project. Provides a far-reaching introduction to youth voice & involvement, including useful tips and trainings. This is the original framework that a lot of organizations adapted in their own programs and publications. Unfortunately, the Washington Youth Voice Project is defunct, and this manual is now unavailable – but do not despair! The Freechild Project worked with our local partners to recreate this fine work as the Washington Youth Voice Handbook!
Spanking, slapping, smacking, pulling ears, pinching, shaking…
Hitting with rulers, belts, wooden spoons, extension cords, slippers, hairbrushes, pins, sticks, whips, rubber hoses, flyswatters, wire hangers, stones, bats, canes, or paddles…
Being forced to stand for a long period; hold an uncomfortable position; stand motionless; kneel on rice, corn, floor grates, pencils or stones; retain body wastes; perform strenuous exersize; or ingest soap, hot sauce, or lemon juice…
This is not adultism – its corporal punishment. In my experience I have heard a lot of people misuse the term adultism, applying it to any instant where children or youth have been discriminated against because of their age. It is true that because children and youth are young they are routinely subjected to physical punishment – but in this case, adultism is a root among many, and the brutal weed that grows is child abuse in the form of corporal punishment. I think its important to call a dog a dog – and that is what physically, mentally, or emotionally abusing children in the name of discipline or punishment is. Not adultism – corporal punishment.
One of the things that amazes me is the spreading awareness of my work. Despite my lackadaisical efforts at promoting myself, friends from across the U.S. and around the world continuously let me know they saw my writing, they heard my ideas or they ran into someone running a curriculum or program I wrote.
At the risk of appearing too self-promoting, here are some of the citations I’ve collected:
- Bryant, J. and Daniels, S. (2007) “Power, Voice, and Empowerment: Classroom Committees in a Middle Level Language Arts Curriculum,” ”Voices from the Middle. 16(1), September.
- Dalton, L., Churchman, R. and Tasco, A. (2008) “Getting Students Involved in Creating a Healthy School,” ASCD: Health School Communities Whole Child Initiative.
- Reed, B. (2008) “Research Brief: Student Engagement Gains Ground“. Northwest Regional Education Laboratory.
- Rudd, T., Colligan, F. and Nalk, R. (2008) Learner voice: A handbook from Futurelab. Futurelab and ESSA.
- Raynolds, N. (2008) “Learning to Change the World” in Le Panoptique. May.
- Delgado, M. and Staples, L. (2008) Youth-Led Community Organizing: Theory and Action. Oxford University Press. p 59, 66, 202.
- (2007) Student voice: A historical perspective and new directions. Paper No. 10. Victoria State Government. Department of Education Office of Learning and Teaching.
- Mahoney, K. And Zahorsky, R. (2007) “Parties falling short on tapping youths,” USA Today. December 28, 2007.
- Manefield, J., Collins, R. and Moore, J. (2007) Student Voice A historical perspective and new directions. (pdf) Victoria State Government Department of Education.
- * “Toward the Pedagogically Engaged School: Listening to Student Voice as a Positive Response to Disengagement and ‘Dropping Out’?” in In D. Thiessen & A. Cook-Sather (Eds.) (2007) International Handbook of Student Experience in Elementary and Secondary School. Springer.
- “Stressed-Out Students-SOS: Youth Perspectives on Changing School Climates“, in In D. Thiessen & A. Cook-Sather (Eds.) (2007) International Handbook of Student Experience in Elementary and Secondary School. Springer.
- Commission on the Whole Child. (2007) The Learning Compact Redefined: A Call to Action. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
- Joselowsky, F. (2007) “Youth Engagement, High School Reform, and Improved Learning Outcomes: Building Systemic Approaches for Youth Engagement”, ”NASSP Bulletin. 91”(3). pp. 257-276.
- Yost, W. (2007) “Student school board reps are being heard” in Sacramento Bee. January 25, 2007.
- Blanchard, A.P. and Harms, B. (2006) Transforming The High School Experience: The Practitioner’s Guide to Small Learning Communities. Trafford Publishing. p 36.
- Babiak, P. (2006) “Manufactured Cynicism: A Review Interview of Against the New Authoritarianism” in SubTerrain Magazine 5: 44, pp. 43-45.
- (2006) 36th Edition North Carolina Youth Legislative Assembly Final Report. North Carolina State Youth Council and State of North Carolina Youth Advocacy and Involvement Office.
- (2006) School Connectedness and Meaningful Student Participation. US Department of Education.
- Greiner, G. (2006) “Everybody Wins!” ”Wondertime Magazine.” Spring.
- Bohan, S. and Manekin, M. (2006) “Youth community activists size up a toxic threat,”] InsideBayArea.Com. 11/16/2006.
- (2006) “Hand in hand or toe to toe? Mall-teen dynamic evolves,” in St. Louis Post-Dispatch. November 20, 2006.
- Holcomb, E. (2006) Students Are Stakeholders, Too!: Including Every Voice in Authentic High School Reform. Corwin Press. p 34.
- Jenkins, E.W. and Pell, R.G. (2006) “The Relevance of Science Education Project (ROSE) in England: a summary of findings.” Centre for Studies in Science and Mathematics Education, University of Leeds.
- (2005). School Improvement Process Guide. Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.
- Neal, G. (2005) “Student reflections on the effectiveness of ICT as a learning resource,” Paper prepared for presentation at the AARE Annual Conference.
- Wheeler, B. (2005) “Getting youth on board,” National School Board Association.
- Flutter, J. and Rudduck, J. (2005) “Student voice and the architecture of change: Mapping the territory,” Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge. p 2.
- Giroux, H. and Searls Giroux, S. (2004) Take Back Higher Education: Race, Youth, and the Crisis of Democracy in the Post-Civil Rights Era. New York: Palgrave MacMillan. “
- James, G. (2004) “The Teen Ticket” in Edutopia Magazine. Spring.
- (2004) School Culture: An Introduction. (2004) Gates Foundation Small Schools Project.
- (2004) Abstracts handbook. Education and Social Action Conference. p. 104.
What particularly excites me is that this kind of usage is resultant from 5 years work in which I traveled nationwide and internationally to promote the message of youth voice and meaningful student involvement. The publications that have cited me have included my writing focused on cooperative games and volunteerism, too, which I have really liked writing.
The question for me is how I can assist others in promoting their messages, too. The Freechild Project listserve has been a fair tool for spreading international messages about youth voice; is there another avenue that can be as useful?
You Might Like…
More than 30 years ago there was a growing national effort to promote youth empowerment, youth participation and youth rights. For some reason we’ve forgot about that movement, like it never existed – or failed so miserably we don’t mention it, like an ugly stepchild. Here are several books from the 1970s that I recommend for anyone interested in gleaning some wisdom from “back in the day”…
Student Power, Participation and Revolution (1970) John and Susan Erlich – This book is a collection of essays by 1960s student activists from high schools and colleges across the U.S. These are the words that inspired youth action across the country.
Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1970) Paulo Freire – A complex examination of education by a man whose process of teaching rural Brazilians revolutionized that country forever. Freire went on to explore these concepts in a lot of different concepts, often challenging this book – but never was he as powerful, assertive and direct as he was in this book.
Conspiracy of the Young (1971) Paul Lauter and Florence Howe – Looking back on their experience working with young people throughout the 1960s, Lauter and Howe propose several powerful, logical and meaningful ways society can treat youth differently.
The Geranium on the Windowsill Just Died but the Teacher You Went Right On (1971) Albert Cullum – I have avoided adding the fiction books that continue to inspire me from back then – except this one. The author’s dedication says it all: “Dedicated to all those grownups who, as children, died in the arms of compulsory education.” Is anyone out there strong enough to say this today?
Will the Real Teacher Please Stand Up? A Primer in Humanistic Education (1972) Mary Greer and Bonnie Rubinstein – A nice collection of essays and drawings by children and youth along with activities adults can use in classes, programs and other settings. Everything in here challenges the historic relationship between youth and adults, and almost all what is in here inspires me.
Escape from Childhood (1974) John Holt – Holt’s rhetoric continues to inspire new generations of youth rights activists as he expounds on alternatives to the belittling, demeaning and degrading treatment of children and youth throughout American society. Awesome if you are looking for inspiration.
Student Power: Practice and Promise (1975) Glorianne Wittes, Joan Chesler and Dale Crawford – The authors of this book examine and compare six schools to each other. From radical private schools to public alternatives to inner-city megaschools, they offer powerful reflections and share important lessons that seem to have been lost.
I Am Not a Short Adult! Getting Good at Being a Kid (1977) Marilyn Burns – I am leery of books where adults tell young people how to act. This one is almost 100% different. In a revelatory way the author pulls the curtain back on adult society and tells the truth about childhood – to children themselves. Good call.
There are several other books, too, as well as many written before the 70s. Compulsory Mis-Education and the Community of Scholars was published in 1964, and still tells truths about the education system that are powerful. That’s just one of many. Feel free to share your favorite book from back then…