The life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. is celebrated annually during the month of January. Schools usually do special units around him and the entire civil rights movement. Some schools even host special events like parades or programs.
Books are a great way to introduce your kids to difficult topics (such as the civil rights movement) and important people (like Dr. King). If you’re wanting to introduce your children to Martin Luther King Jr. this year, or possibly supplement what they are learning at school, here are some great books to get you started. All of these books are available at multiple Richland Library locations and on Amazon as well.
by Kadir Nelson
Probably the quickest read, this book features the words of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and is accompanied by the most stunning paintings. Seriously, they are absolutely dreamy! On the very last page, you can find the entire speech if your little one is interested in hearing the whole version. This would be a great one to read over and over again!
by Doreen Rappaport
This book is a good introduction into the life and death of Dr. King and is one that gets read often in schools. This book also has beautiful illustrations! The illustrator uses collages to tell the story of Dr. King and they are just so cool and not something you see in a lot of children’s books. Kids really enjoy studying this new type of art medium.
by Richard Michelson
This is one I actually own from my teaching days. It tells the story of Dr. King and his friend Abraham Joshua Heschel, a Rabbi from Poland who was forced to leave his home when Hitler took control of Europe. This book draws on parallels between their stories and describes how they came to know each other. Abraham joined Dr. King in his fight for equality here in the United States and even marched with him in Selma. I’ll add in that this book also offers up some gorgeous and unique illustrations.
by Dr. Angela Farris Watkins
I keep saying it, but there’s a reason these are my favorite books… the illustrations are stunning! This is another great introduction into the life and legacy of Dr. King, but this time the focus is much more on Dr. King as a real person. Dr. Watkins, the niece of Martin Luther King Jr., gives us an intimate insight into the person Dr. King was to those who loved him most. The book is written through the eyes of a child as she remembers her Uncle Martin. Just an incredibly sweet book honoring his life.
Early Readers & Chapter Books
by Connor Dayton
This is by far the simplest book to read. Great for beginning readers or as a fast read aloud for younger kids. I like this book a lot because it has real photographs and introduces some good vocabulary. This book is also a great way to introduce features of nonfiction texts because it has a table of contents and an index.
by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson
This is another beginning reader (level 3) that would be great for most 1st-3rd grade readers. This book specifically talks about Dr. King and the March on Washington. The book covers events leading up to the event as well as popular lines from his “I Have a Dream” speech. I especially love the kind of retro vibe the illustrator used throughout the book to really bring the story to life.
by Sarah Albee
This book is a beginning reader (level 2) that would be great for early readers or to use as a shared reading experience for you and your little one. The book covers the life and death of Dr. King and features some good illustrations ( though more cartoonish than the other books) and has a wonderful timeline and collage in the back featuring real photographs of Dr. King and his family.
by Bonnie Bader
I seriously love this entire series! This is the biggest and most difficult book I chose, great for higher level readers in elementary school (probably 3rd grade and up) and an easy read for most middle school students. You could also easily break this book up as a read aloud over the course of a few days. This book gives an in depth coverage of the entire life of Martin Luther King Jr. from childhood through death. Illustrations throughout the book help break up the text and make it more interesting for younger readers.
Do you use books to talk about special events and people in your family? What are your favorites?