Ashoka and Worldreader produce 5 illustrated children’s books featuring stories from Brazil to Indonesia

Ara Kusuma cared about the cows in her community. And when she saw that some farms weren’t treating cows as well as others in Indonesia, she decided to start a conversation.

At the time, she didn’t know many other young changemakers willing to challenge the status quo.

“At first I felt weird, like is it only me? Because I lived in a small town. At the time I was still in primary school. Even the farmers saw me as a weird girl,” Ara says.

Ara may not have had access to many changemaker stories growing up, but today she is sharing hers far and wide. Her story, titled “Project Moo,” is one in a series of five high-quality illustrated picture books that illustrate the transformational journey of a young person leading change, produced in partnership by Ashoka and Worldreader. In the first year since the books came out, they’ve been read nearly 10,000 times in full.

Each story — tailored especially to children ages 6–12, but enjoyed by everyone — has been co-created with the young person who inspired the book and illustrated by local artists in their region. Olivia Wood, a young changemaker herself, wrote the stories, which were then translated by a global team. Each story offers not just inspiration, but activities designed to cultivate empathy, socio-emotional intelligence, creative problem solving, teamwork, and leadership: abilities every changemaker needs to make a difference. Olivia explains:

“Hopefully, kids will read these books and feel inspired or empowered to help the people that they see around them that need help.”

Curious to meet the changemakers and preview their stories? Read on, and check out the full books here.

An image from the book, Rebecca, the Maasai Changemaker. It is an illustration of a group of children dressed in school uniform, facing towards a young smiling girl and a smiling woman. In the background is a white school with a red roof and a Kenyan flag.

Rebecca, The Maasai Changemaker

Alarmed when many days pass by without rain, Rebecca, a girl in Kenya, decides to learn about climate change and write a letter to the president of Kenya expressing her concern. Rebecca manages to convince everyone in her Maasai community to plant a tree outside their home. Climate change continues to impact all species around the world, and Rebecca influenced her community to promote a healthier earth, as well as Worldreaders across the globe.

Project Moo

“Project Moo” tells the story of Ara, a young girl from Indonesia who visits farms in her village to observe how cows are taken care of. She notices that two farms treat cows completely differently, so Ara organizes a meeting for farmers to share their tips and guide one another so that no cows suffer. Without Ara’s interest in the cows, the condition that the cows were in at one farm would go unnoticed, and their resources in Indonesia wouldn’t have been optimized. Ara teaches us efficient ideas should always be shared for a more progressive society.

To Clean a Creek

“To Clean a Creek” follows Rhenan, a 13 year old boy in Brazil who is deeply disappointed to see trash in and around the river near his home. He then inspires his community to come together and clean up the river to restore beauty in their community. Whether a river, beach, or town — everyone has witnessed trash in the natural habitat of aquatic creatures. Water keeps us all alive, and “To Clean a Creek” highlights how we can all do better to restore life.

An illustration from the book Art for All. It depicts a young girl dressed in purple painting an image of mountains. The painting is on an easel. A light pink wall in the background has several paintings hung on it with tape.

Art for All

In “Art for All,” Amira, a girl in Egypt, notices refugees having difficulty adjusting to their new home, so she plans an art class at the Refugee Center. The class allows refugees to share their experiences and feel less alone when assimilating to a new normal. At least 82.4 million people around the world have been forced to flee their homes. Among them are nearly 26.4 million refugees, according to the UN Refugee Agency. “Art for All” shows us how important it is to keep creating more safe places for resettled refugees.

The Happiness Project

“The Happiness Project” transports readers to India, where Apoorvi notices her older sister Riya experiencing depression. Being a support system to her sister, Apoorvi realizes there are kids without support systems, so she creates a survey for students to express how they feel at school. The World Health Organization estimates that 76–85% of people suffering from mental disorders in low- and middle-income countries lack access to necessary treatment. Apoorvi’s story shows children that anyone, anywhere can experience mental illness, and all of us can take initiative to support others wherever we are.

The power of a changemaker story

While every story in the series unfolds in different ways, together the books demonstrate that “changemaker” is an identity any person can step into — and young people don’t have to wait to “grow up” before making a positive difference in their community and beyond.

Research shows that through reading, we deepen our empathy by stepping into the shoes of a character who’s facing an experience different than our own. Stories also help us not feel alone. Often changemakers see issues in the world that they wish to change, but notice others appear unmoved by their surroundings. The goal of this collection: help readers empathize, feel understood, and be encouraged to take a risk — knowing that other bold young people have gone before.

Through the series, changemakers can find their village between the pages, and dare to step into their own stories.


About this project

Worldreader is a non-profit that provides Pre-K through 8th grade students free access to a digital library of children’s books via mobile device. Ashoka is the world’s largest community of social entrepreneurs, committed to supporting changemakers of all ages. Each of the changemakers featured in this series are part of Ashoka’s community.