I cannot imagine my life without the richness brought to it by friends and family who happen to be of a different ethnicity. I also cannot imagine the tragedy of being defined and limited by something like the color of my skin.
It is so important to Mike and I that our boys possess an understanding of the intrinsic value of every person created in God’s image, and we are so excited to teach them about the heroes and pioneers who fought for rights and equality in the Civil Rights movement.
Help your kids celebrate diversity and honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King by taking a look at one of the following books on this Martin Luther King Day children’s book list.
Paintings by Kadir Nelson
Kadir Nelson illustrates beautiful bold paintings to correspond to excerpts of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s most famous speech in I Have a Dream. This book is a perfect way to introduce children to one of Dr. Martin Luther King’s most inspirational messages, and includes a recording of the original speech for older listeners.
Suggested Age: Book suitable for children ages 3-7 years old, CD suitable for older children as capable to sit for longer periods of time.
Written by Doreen Rappaport, Illustrated by Bryan Collier
In church Martin sang hymns. He read from the Bible.
He listened to his father preach. These words made him feel good.
“When I grow up, I’m going to get big words, too.”
– Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. quoted in Martin’s Big Words
Doreen Rappaport tells the story of Martin Luther King Jr. through his own “big words.” Actual quotes from Dr. King are spread throughout the book, complimented by Collier’s metaphorical collages. Martin’s Big Words has earned both a Caldecott Medal and a Jane Addams Children’s Book Award, as well as a nomination for the Coretta Scott King Award for Illustrators.
By Andrea Davis Pinkney & Brian Pinkney
In Martin & Mahalia, the Pinkney’s share the story of the friendship and influence of Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahalia Jackson. Both the preacher and the songstress lent their incredible gifts to the Civil Rights movement, and played an integral role in the March on Washington. With a poetic and illustrative voice, Andrea almost sings the narrative to Brian’s whimsical and allegorical paintings.
Suggested Age: 5-8 years old
Written by Margaret McNamara, Illustrated by Mike Gordon
If you’ve ever tried to help your child work their way through a reader, you know that content is sadly, often lacking. I love that McNamara introduces Martin Luther King Jr. to early readers, emphasizing the bigness of his dreams to change the world, and encouraging them to dream big dreams of their own.
Suggested Age: Content suitable for children 2-6 years old, Child readability suitable for early readers.
by Karen Katz
The life of Dr. King and the story of the Civil Rights movement is understandably beyond most little ones, but it’s message can still be celebrated at an early age. In The Colors of Us, Karen Katz does a wonderful job celebrating the individuality and beauty of every skin color for the youngest book lovers.
Suggested Age: 1-1/2 – 3 years old
Part of the Ordinary People Change the World Series by Brad Meltzer
Illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos
Brad Meltzer’s Ordinary People Change the World Series is one of my favorite lines of children’s books. In I am Rosa Parks Meltzer recounts Rosa’s story as told by Rosa the child, detailing observations of her childhood, her civil rights work, and her famous refusal to give up her bus seat to a white man, sparking the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
I am Rosa Parks contains fun colorful illustrations reminiscent of a young reader’s graphic novel, but it’s not just a pretty picture book on Civil Rights. It is an inspiration to stand tall for who you are and for what’s right, no matter what form of inequality you may be facing.
Suggested Age: 4-8 years old due to length
Written by Jo S. Kittinger, Illustrated by Steven Walker
Kittinger brilliantly educates children about Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott through the story of Bus #2857 in Rosa’s Bus: The Ride to Civil Rights. Following the bus from it’s assembly at a General Motors factory in Michigan, to it’s historic place in the Civil Rights movement, to it’s eventual discovery, restoration and placement in the Henry Ford Museum, Rosa’s Bus is an incredibly creative telling of one of the most inspirational movements of our time.
Suggested Age: 4-7 years old
Written by Carole Boston Weatherford, Paintings by Jerome Lagarrigue
“Do they know they’re in the wrong place?” I whispered.
“Some rules have to be broken,” Mama whispered back.
In Freedom on the Menu, Carole Boston Weatherford highlights the bravery of high school and college students during the Greensboro sit-ins through the story of a fictionalized African American family.
Connie would love to have a banana split at the counter of the local five-and-dime, but as a little black girl living in the segregated south that could never happen. Not until brave students like her older brother and sister were willing to stand up by sitting down, refusing to back down until they were treated equally.
Suggested Age: 4-7 years old
Written by Deborah Wiles, Illustrated by Jerome Lagarrigue
In Freedom Summer, Deborah Wiles shares a fictionalized story of two young best friends, one white and one black, and their shared experience of the historic events that swept the South when the Civil Rights Act became law during the summer of 1964. A beautiful tale of friendship beyond the lines society draws for us, Freedom Summer is a sensitive and inspirational look at a child’s understanding of the Civil Rights movement.
Suggested Age: 4-7 years old
Written by Calvin Alexander Ramsey & Bettye Stroud
Illustrated by John Holyfield
In Belle, the Last Mule at Gee’s Bend, Ramsey and Stroud tell the beautifully moving story of the people of Gee’s Bend, their interactions with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the courage that placed them in the pages of Civil Rights history through the story of one of the town’s most cherished animals – a mule named Belle.
Belle and Ada were the two mules who pulled the casket in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s funeral procession and became a symbol for the people of their community of the sacrifice, perseverance, and hard work it took to make progress in the Civil Rights movement.
Suggested Age: 5-7 years old
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