December 10 is Human Rights Day. It commemorates the signing of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), adopted by the United Nations in 1948. Thirty declarations were written to protect the rights of all people, everywhere.
This is an important topic that must be presented to students in an age-appropriate manner, with lots of time for discussion. The topic is also a timely one, with opportunities to tie in current world events. We have compiled some resources to help start the conversation.
- What Are Human Rights? This is a wonderful documentary introducing the story of human rights. Suggested for grades 3 and up.
- UDHR – a version of the Declaration simplified for kids. It also includes an illustration for the Right Up Your Street activity in which students analyze a typical neighborhood scene to find examples of human rights being enjoyed, denied, and demanded. This is a great group activity.
- K-8 Human Rights picture books. Integrate these throughout the year, making connections back to this topic.
We Are All Born Free shared reading activity.
Published in association with Amnesty International, the 30 articles of the Declaration are simplified for elementary school students. Each one is beautifully illustrated by an internationally-renowned artist (featured in the back of the book).
Before reading, ask students to share what they already know about human rights. What rights does every human being have? Record responses on chart paper. Ask students to describe what their responsibilities are when it comes to respecting the rights of others. Explain that after World War II, world leaders formed the United Nations to help build peace. One of the first things it did was write a list of rights that would belong to everyone in the world. They came up with 30, including our right to say what we believe and our right to be protected by the law. Explain that this book is an example of those rights.
During reading, discuss the human right shown and its meaning. Take time to share the details of each illustration. Decide how the picture links to the human right: does it show that everyone’s rights are respected or does it show people not being protected by their rights. *Note: The illustration for Article 5, “Nobody has any right to hurt us or to torture us” is of a red-stained doll. You could simply skip this article, or discuss it in terms you feel are appropriate.
After reading, revisit the student list of human rights from before reading. Put a star next to any that are similar to one of the 30 rights. Ask students if they think that human rights are important to help us all live together.
Students can create and share ways to bring awareness to others (posters, skits, illustrated book donated to the school library, etc.).