Special thanks to digital intern Katharine Seggerman for the following post!
Next Monday, January 16th marks our annual observance of the reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. Since schools (along with federal government branches) tend to be closed for the holiday, it’s the perfect time for kids to sit down with a good book and learn about Martin Luther King Jr.
To introduce young readers aged 5-8 to Martin Luther King Jr.—and the holiday named after him—we recommend Martin Luther King Jr. Day by Robin Nelson. Available from Lerner in paperback and as an eBook PDF, this title pairs large color photographs with single sentences in easy-to-read type. It answers the question “What does this holiday stand for?” in a straightforward way that appeals to young readers’ sense of fairness both via its description of King’s goals and via its narration of how we strive to continue his work today. A list of interesting facts at the end of the book might just inspire kids to seek out more information on this extraordinary person.
For a slightly older audience (grades 1-4), you could pick up Let’s Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day by Barbara deRupertis. Including detailed text describing King’s life story and work, as well as key background information on slavery in America and its legacy. This title has an interesting artistic bent. It uses a mixture of photographs and drawings to illustrate biographical details, and it incorporates an evolving chant-like poem celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.’s strong moral principles. After a passage in which the young M.L.K.’s white friend’s parents forbid the children from playing together—based on the difference in their skin color—the following poem appears:
In his heart he knew that
the color of a person’s skin
should not matter to real friends.
Later, we hear about Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, delivered at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, and the accompanying poem summarizes the sentiment:
In his heart he knew
that his dream of a better America
would come true—someday.
Dreams were important
to Martin Luther King.
Friendship, equal rights, nonviolence, dreams, and peace: it seems like the values celebrated in the poems throughout this book are values that would resonate with young readers. Part of Lerner’s “Holidays & Heroes” collection, Let’s Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day is available in print, as an eBook PDF, and as a digital eBook suitable for your preferred electronic reading device.