Literature and human rights | Amnesty International UK

What do novels, poems and picture books have to do with our human rights? We’ll let Archbishop Desmond Tutu answer that one.

'They are all bound up with this wonderful talent we humans have: to empathise with others.

If, by reading...we are enabled to step, for one moment, into another person's shoes, to get right under their skin, then that is already a great achievement.

Through empathy we overcome prejudice, develop tolerance and ultimately understand love. Stories can bring understanding, healing, reconciliation and unity.’
Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Reading fiction develops our empathy and social understanding. Empathy helps us stand up to prejudice and discrimination.

Amnesty endorsed books

That is why we take literature seriously. As a tool for empathy, for education and for awareness-raising it is almost unrivalled.
For years we have worked with the best authors, illustrators, playwrights and poets to publish, co-publish or endorse books aimed at a wide range of ages and interests.

To celebrate the 60th anniversary of Universal Declaration of Human Rights we published the magnificently illustrated in We Are All Born Free, a picture book outlining all of the articles in the UDHR aimed at children from six years old.

Know your rights: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in cartoons

More recently, we collaborated with Waterstones to produce an illustrated booklet Know your Rights for adults celebrating the 60th anniversary of the European Convention of Human Rights featuring drawings by David Shrigley, Merrily Harpur, Steven Appleby, Royston, Marf and Liza Donnelly.

The books we endorse and publish cover a great variety of topics. Activists, teachers, children, and book-lovers alike will find the perfect read to learn about, understand, teach and take action for human rights.

Buy  Amnesty books in our online shop

Join us for an event

As well as published and endorse books, we host a range of literature-related events across the year. Our imprisoned writers’ series has become a fixture at the Edinburgh Literature Festival, and we regularly hold book launches and author talks at venues around the UK.

Find an event near you

Using fiction to teach human rights

Cover image of Oliver by Birgitta Sif

Fiction has real power to further human rights education. Stories, memoirs and picture books are great resources to help personalise human rights that may otherwise seem abstract. They can awaken students to new worlds and challenging situations and provoke discussions under the school curriculum.

It is for these reasons that we have developed a series of teachers’ notes on novels and picture books to help explore the values at the heart of human rights through fiction.

Find out more about using fiction to teach human rights