Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day!
I think it can be easy for many of us to just see it as a day off of school or work, without recognizing the significance of this holiday.
If you want to open up a discussion with your children about why they have the day off or just want a quick refresher yourself about why we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr, these picture books are a great place to start.
5 Fantastic Martin Luther King Jr Books
- I am Martin Luther King, Jr. by Brad Meltzer. I LOVE this series (I’ve read many of them and haven’t found a dud yet. They pretty much all make me weepy too) and it’s such an accessible way to get a good overview of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life from his early childhood on.
- I Have a Dream By Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., illustrated by Kadir Nelson. I first was introduced to Kadir Nelson’s illustrations when I was a grad student and I’ve been a mega-fan ever since. He perfectly brings to life the famous words of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech (the book comes with a CD that plays clips from the actual speech!).
- March On!: The Day My Brother Martin Changed the World by Christine King Farris, illustrated by London Ladd. Written by his sister, this book does a fantastic job of bringing to life the March on Washington and why it matters.
- Martin’s Big Words: The life of Martin Luther King, Jr. by Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by Bryan Collier. I’m a huge fan of Doreen Rappaport’s series that feature famous historical figures and this one is no exception. This one doesn’t shy away from the violence that was such a big part of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life, so if your child is young, you may way to pre-read this one.
- A Place to Land: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Speech That Inspired a Nation by Barry Wittenstein, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. This book is getting serious Caldecott buzz and rightly so (it’s spectacular AND Jerry Pinkney is no stranger to the Caldecott – he’s won medal back in 2010 and he’s garnered another 5 Caldecott Honors). This one focuses on how Dr. King’s famous speech came about and how it almost never was!
Any other Martin Luther King Jr. books you’d recommend? I’d love more suggestions!
If you’re looking for other great books to read today, my friend Charnaie, from Here Wee Read, has a great list on Brightly (Penguin Random House’s site all about books and reading that we both contribute to).
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I sometimes feel that I am the only parent that hesitates sharing too much detail about MLK day with my young children (7 and 5). As of now, they don’t see racial discrimination in their lives but a few weeks ago at the library I started to read an MLK picture book to my kids and then just made up the story as I went because it was introducing them to the notion that there are people out there that discriminate based on the color of your skin or beliefs. I really struggle with this idea of teaching my kids about how there is racial segregation in this country when I know that once I do (or the schools do), they will start to see things differently. Once something is pointed out to kids, it’s then they start to see it. I do believe there is a place to learn about the history of this country but maybe I just see 7 as too young yet. Please tell me I’m not the only parent that struggles with this.
Janssen Bradshaw says
This is a really great article about talking with your children about race: https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2019/11/22/childrens-books-can-help-start-conversation-about-race-parents-have-continue-it/
And I haven’t listened to this podcast episode yet that aired a few days ago, but I’m planning to listen to it today: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/ep014-goodancestor-conscious-kid-on-parenting-through/id1451091236?i=1000462782097
We found a great book about him a couple months ago at the library:
Martin & Anne: The Kindred Spirits of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Anne Frank, by Nancy Churnin https://www.amazon.com/Martin-Anne-Kindred-Spirits-Luther/dp/1939547539
It shows the similarities between the lives of Martin Luther King Jr and Anne Frank, and it made me cry a little at the end while I read it to my kids. It’s a good one!